If you’ve ever heard a wine expert say the wine needs time to breathe to bring out the best taste and aroma, then the next thing I say is going to make you believe I’m nuts!
The truth is: Oxygen and wine don’t mix.
They are enemies…or maybe I should say “Frienemies”
What do I mean that oxygen and wine don’t mix?
Well, first I’m not a wine guru. I don’t even play one on TV. But I do love to research things I love. And I love wine…
I’m the kinda gal who just enjoys a wine that tastes good. And music. And if you put the two together I’m in heaven…
But as far as what’s “good” well, what tastes good to me might not taste good to you. That’s okay…we can still be friends! 🙂
No, what I’m talking about here is the wine making process. And there are various different points of the wine making process where exposure to oxygen can affect the taste of the grapes – and not in a good way.
I found this very interesting. It really made me realize how much science is involved in the winemaking process. I’m no expert, but let me just share a little bit of what I’ve learned. You may come to appreciate your next sip of vino just a little bit more:
Did you know that research is finding many illnesses such as arthritis, heart disease, and some cancers may be connected to inflammation in your body. And, natural foods such as fish oil, olive oil, and red wine may have properties that help reduce your body’s inflammation.
Yes! Another great reason to have a glass of red wine with dinner every night.
- Grapes are broken down into two parts – a) The pulp where the sugar is stored, through fermentation, determines the alcohol level of the wine. b) The skin which contains phenolic compounds which determine the color, taste, and “mouthfeed” (I think that’s how it feels on your tongue). It’s the skin that gives the reds their color and where all those wonderful antioxidants are stored.
- Modern winemaking techniques believe that the grapes should be exposed to as little oxygen as possible (except during fermentation) so the phenolic compounds do not oxidize. This oxidation is like rust on a car – it will turn the juice brown and cause it to lose flavor.
- Heat is not a friend to the process. This is why when the grapes are ready to be picked it’s done carefully in the coolness of the morning and the clusters are put into crates and stacked. Originally, the process was more primitive with grapes being stacked high in the back of trucks during the heat of the day. This caused oxidation to occur early, especially when the weight of the stack crushed the grapes at the bottom.
- Cool temperatures slow oxidation. Without excess oxygen, the phenolic compounds can do their thing without making the wine “rusty”. After fermentation, oxygen can cause problems; however, when the wine is aged, bottled and stored in a cool, oxygen free environment it’s safe.
Resources (and highly recommended book for folks that love wine and love history):
The Vineyard at the End of the World: Maverick Winemakers and the Rebirth of Malbec By Ian Mount
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