Demystifying additives in winemaking and viticulture

Growing awareness of the impact of food on wellbeing is a good step forward in terms of public health. However, there is growing concern over whether it is problematic to consider all preservatives and additives in general as harmful. An unfortunate byproduct of growing public concern has been that unscrupulous charlatans are more able to sensationalise objectively harmless additives and capitalise upon unsuspecting consumers. Admittedly there has in the past been genuine scandals creating cause for concern, the 1985 diethylene glycol scandal an example of one. With that being said, robust regulatory systems, regular review of the science, and a large amount of data now required pre-approval, should give consumers confidence that they are buying wine free of harmful additives. Winemakers are well aware of the stringent regulations they are subject to and have a good track record of compliance. Modern consumers expect to purchase quality products (albeit this is a somewhat subjective measure) which are free of spoilage and have a long shelf-life. In order to achieve a consistent quality product in a commercially viable manner, winemakers have available to them a number of harmless additives. Whilst there may be over 60 additives available to winemakers, the reality is that only a handful are used in often small, measured quantities. In this article, I hope to demystify common additives in winemaking and provide a more nuanced exploration of what these 'additives' are, how, why, and in what quantities they are used, and to discuss their harmless nature.

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Grape ripeness: pursuing the optimum with Ruinart’s Frédéric Panaïotis

Selecting a date upon which to begin harvest is arguably the most pressing, influential and troublesome decision required of any vigneron during the annual growing cycle. There is the romantic notion that growers arrive at this decision as a result of intuitive tasting of selected grapes picked randomly from a particular plot or row. Whilst intuition often proves invaluable, particularly in tough vintages, times are changing and the role of technology in tracking optimum grape ripeness is proving increasingly valuable. In no region are they pursuing optimum ripeness quite as comprehensively than in Champagne. I got to grips with just how this pursuit is evolving with Frédéric Panaïotis, Chef de Cave at Ruinart.

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Bodies of water and their effect on viticulture

Where beautiful wine is produced it is often remarked that one will also find beautiful places. Rivers, lake, oceans and seas feature almost synonymously amongst many of the worlds best wine regions. The river Moselle, the Saône, the Rhône, the Douro, the Gironde, Margaret River, the Loire, Lake Garda and the North Pacific to name a few. These bodies of water are located at the very heart of the worlds most illustrious wine regions. However, they offer much more to our favourite wine than just a picturesque backdrop, they play a fundamental, and oft-overlooked role.

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Rotundone: putting the pepper in shiraz

The aromas and flavours associated with particular grape varieties and regional specific wines are more often than not a result of large numbers of compounds, of varying origin, interacting with one another and forming various olfactory and gustatory qualities. There are however a number of compounds (in this case sesquiterpenes) which have an individual aromatic quality associated to them. The distinct aroma of pepper so often associated with cool climate Shiraz/Syrah is the result of one of these sesquiterpenes ...

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Read more about the article Growing wine at altitude: what’s the deal?
Organic vineyards near Mendoza in Argentina with Andes in the background

Growing wine at altitude: what’s the deal?

It is commonplace to flaunt a vineyards altitude in plain sight on a bottle of Argentinian Malbec with producers competing to show that they work with the highest-altitude vineyards. So why exactly is Argentinian Malbec grown at such high-altitude?

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Yeast in winemaking: the unsung heroes of aroma

As a 16 year old I remember working in the cold, damp warehouse of a recycled clothing store. Frequently I would find myself muttering frustratedly under my breath that I was certain the store's customers would never give me any credit for my work and that the more glamorous store assistants would be the recipients of their gratitude. I think that if our beloved yeast could speak they would vent similar frustrations. So often we wax poetic about the beauty of soil, terroir, vineyard management and climate but less often do we give yeast their fare share of our appreciation. This article will explore in a little more detail the role of yeast in winemaking.

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Petrol aroma in riesling: what the TDN?!

Exactly what it is which forms the final flavour profile of a wine is complex, multi-faceted and in the most part unknown. Despite this particular dominating aroma or flavour have come to define particular varieties. The petrol aroma in Riesling is one of them. I don’t know why, but I just can’t get enough of it, I’m a petrolhead. But what exactly is it? A fault? A varietal characteristic? Whatever it is, it‘s aroma that divides wine lovers and mystifies the casual wine drinker. This post will explore its origins and discuss in more detail viticultural and climatic factors affecting its presence and concentration.

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