Chemistry of Wine Flavor
The French celebrate Bastille Day -- La Fete Nationale -- in commemoration of the 1789 storming of the Bastille, one of the main events in the French Revolution. Wine is strategically paired with many of the foods typically eaten at picnics commemorating this national holiday.
The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) wine cellar is lined with rows of wooden barrels and old-fashioned wine bottles—some dating back to the end of Prohibition, when America’s wine industry had to start from scratch. Look inside the newest bottles, however, and you’ll see and taste the results of four decades’ worth of modern research on what makes a great wine. Continuing a century-old tradition, researchers at the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis are investigating the complex dance between science, art, and nature that creates flavor and aroma in wine.
Since the molecules that account for specific flavors are elusive, much research on wine and flavor has focused on the role of acids, tannins, and sugars. Experts have long advised diners to consider tannin levels when pairing wine with food. At Pure Food and Wine, a raw-foods restaurant in New York City, sommelier Joey Repice seeks organic, handcrafted wines with a well-balanced tannin structure to accompany the delicate flavors of the fresh vegetarian entrees. “There are too many subtleties with our cuisine, and wines with lots of muscle and tannin structure go better with meat meals,” says Repice. For meat dishes he recommends Italian wines known for having a good tannin structure—perhaps a Barbaresco.
Visit Chemical Heritage Magazine to learn more about the chemistry of wine flavor.
Excerpted with permission, Chemical Heritage Foundation