Wine chemistry explains the flavor, balance, color, stability that was once only possible through subjective description. Understanding the principles of wine chemistry will open your eyes to a new level of wine appreciation.
The Chemical Components of Wine
Wine chemistry can be as simple or complex as you want. There is always another level of depth, from the chemical components of wine in taste perception, to the balance of various phenols, acids and sugars. This balance is:
> Sweet Taste (sugars + alcohols) <= => Acid Taste (acids) + Bitter Taste (phenols)
Phenols are a class of molecules that account for the taste, smell, medical benefits and diversity of wine. Because wine is 95% water and alcohol, the differences found in wine are derived from that 5%. Phenols give wines their distinguishing characteristics; and are broken down into flavanoids and nonflavanoids.
Flavanoids and non-flavanoids are wine chemicals that have a profound impact on quality, color and flavor. These molecules are largely influenced by acidity, and interact with acids to form complicated, yet important molecules. Acidity may be the most important aspect of wine chemistry.
Alcohol & Sugar
The majority of these acids are produced naturally by the vines, but their relative levels are adjusted based on a multitude of factors. One of them is the alcohol content, which is an indication of the sugar in wine. Sugar is converted to alcohol by fermentation; thus the sugars present and their relative concentrations in the grapes are important for the overall character of the wine’s chemistry.
Balance in wine allows the fruit flavors of the varietal to show through. The chemical nature of varietal aromas gives insight into why are certain wines taste the way they do. The wine chemistry explains why you love a certain varietal, and don’t care for others.
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