Deceived Wisdom about wine

red wineIn my book, one of the myths I debunk is that surrounding the etiquette of removing the cork from a bottle of red wine to allow the wine to “breathe”. It’s clearly nonsense as the air-liquid interface is too small to have any significant effect. There are some claims that aeration either through decanting or whizzing the wine through an aerator device might have some effect on the aroma and taste by inducing oxidation. Again, that’s a myth as the rate of oxidation even when bubbling air through wine would require two to three days to have any effect.

However (part 1).

I have just written a feature article for a chemistry magazine reporting on research into the synergistic effects of compounds present in wine that apparently enhance fruity or jam-like aromas even though the individual compounds themselves are present at levels below the detection limit of even the most sensitive nose. Analytical chemists have shown that these volatile compounds are certainly present and that the wine will taste different, usually worse (not so fruity nor aromatic), if they are not present in the mix. So, it could be that aeration or decanting leads to the evaporation of some of these compounds and thus negates the synergistic effects and so reduces the bouquet of the wine after it has been decanted. So, I stand by my debunking.

However (part 2).

I asked the researchers about this point and this is what they had to say:

“Evaporation of wines’ volatiles (at sub-thresholds levels for some compounds and also at levels higher than thresholds for others) during decanting and also when the wine stays in the glass for more than 10 minutes have a clear impact on the global aroma. Nevertheless, the most volatile volatiles are not necessary the most impacting from an organoleptic point of view. A lot of work must actually be done to confirm, but what is sure is that wine’s aroma is clearly modified by these facts. Is this aroma better or worst? That is the question… and it’s highly probable that, according to the wines, there is not a unique answer.”

I will update you on the details of the feature article once it’s been decanted by my editor.

2 thoughts on “Deceived Wisdom about wine”

  1. Hmmm…yes, but it’s a placebo effect. Meanwhile, you could say “go home” about almost any human endeavour, really. But, actually, such studies are not simply about proving anyone’s superiority, they are linked directly to the whole art of vinology and how best to store, present and imbibe red wine. The point is that the findings are simply a side-effect of much greater studies not unrelated to the studies science makes of artistic pigments and paints in the conservation and restoration effort, for instance.

  2. RED wine tastes better if it is opened a bit before drinking – this is the subjective evidence, which is, in fact, all that counts in this case. Claiming to show otherwise through science is not just daft because to do so will save no resource whatsoever, nor reduce any harm, but is also driven only by desire to prove superiority. If nothing better to do, go home.

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