Chemistry of wine

One of my favorite red wines

Merry Christmas, everybody!

This period of the year is really good for wine lovers.

But which molecules are the ones responsible for wine aroma and flavor? It is estimated that more than 800 compounds are present in wine and partecipate in creating the texture that we love so much.

Let’s start with basic composition: in average 86% of wine is composed by water! 12-14% of the volume is ethanol. The rest is glicerol, organic acid, tannins, phenolic and other compounds.

Some of the most important molecules for aroma and flavor are:

The skin of grapes contains a lot of anthocyanins. These compounds are responsible for the color of wine. The coloration depends greatly from the pH. Am acid ambient leads to red color, an alkaline (or basic) one is turn the color towards blue, or even yellowish shades.

Tannins play a role in wine astringency and bitterness. The dryness sensation is due to the reaction between tannins and proteins in our saliva.

Moreover, tannins can have a role in the regulation of serotonin level, leading to headaches that some people experience when drinking red wine.

Flavonols have a role in the definition of bitterness. Among this group, we can also find cathechin and epicathecin. Wine shares these molecules with tea and dark chocolate. Being antioxidant, they are associated with anti-aging health benefits.

I just gave you some excellent scientific justifications for drinking red wine and eating chocolate. You are welcome!

References:

He et al., “Anthocyanins and Their Variation in Red Wines I. Monomeric Anthocyanins and Their Color Expression”, (2012), https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules17021571

Ebeler et al., “Analytical chemistry: unlocking the sectrets of wine flavor”, (2007), https://doi.org/10.1081/FRI-100000517

Published by Martina Bodner

Biotechnologist, PhD Candidate in Food Chemistry, Science Teacher, STEM and autism advocate, mother.

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