• Analytical Reporter September/October 2021

    There’s lots of good news around. It might be somewhat challenging to unearth it right now, but I’m determined to find positivity and delight in the world. For me, my little piece of joy was in being invited back as Editor of Analytical Reporter once again.
    It has been in the very capable hands of Louise Coetzee for the past 18 months, and I am so grateful it has been nurtured and cared for so well. Thank you, Louise!
    So, as I re-embark on my journey as editor, I have been reflecting on how important it is going to be to remain steadfast, and upbeat. Perhaps the life lesson we are all learning is about taking baby steps instead of quantum leaps. Maybe what this global pandemic has taught us is that we all need to slow down a tad and enjoy the simple things, such as family, good health and… wine. Try to be more leisurely in life!
    So, I stumbled across this article from the American Chemical Society and thought it was pertinent to share.

    Slowing down grape ripening can improve berry quality for winemaking
    Wine grapes are particularly finicky when it comes to their environment. For instance, heatwaves and droughts lead to earlier berry ripening and ‘lackluster’ wine. And these types of episodes are expected to intensify as Earth’s climate changes. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry have tweaked growing conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to slow down their ripening, which increased the levels of compounds associated with wine’s characteristic floral and fruity notes.
    As grapes ripen and change colour from light green to deep red, sugars and aroma compounds accumulate in the berries. But, when they ripen quickly because of heat or water stress, the resulting fruits produce a less desirable wine with more alcohol, a duller colour, and a lingering taste of cooked fruit. To counteract these negative effects of climate change on wine quality, scientists have been testing different ways to grow the plants. Previous researchers have shown that reducing the crop on the vines can speed up grape ripening, while more intense irrigation later in the growing season can delay the process. Christopher Ford and colleagues wanted to examine the impacts of these techniques on the chemical components that contribute to the berries’ quality.
    The researchers grew Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes at a commercial vineyard in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Then, they either removed a portion of the clusters on the vines, irrigated the plants more during the later growing season, did both or did neither, and collected grapes throughout the ripening period. The plants with the fewest berry clusters had the fastest increase in sugar content and were ripe the earliest for all of the tested conditions. However, the plants that were both thinned and watered more had the slowest rate of sugar accumulation. The researchers found that slowing down grape ripening decreased six-carbon aldehydes and alcohols and 2-isobutyl-3-methoxypyrazine — associated with green and vegetal wine notes — and increased norisoprenoids and terpenes — associated with pleasant floral and fruity wine notes.
    The longer growing time improved the quality of grapes for winemaking, the researchers explained, but these adaptation strategies should be monitored over several years before changes are made to current practices.
    So, this is berry good news indeed, I think. Take some time out, be kind to yourself and relax in whatever way fits best!

    Until next time,

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