Sommelier: What Do You Really Know About Wine “Aromas” ?…
I’m no wine expert by any means but I surely appreciate a good glass of wine, anytime…
What’s better than a good glass of wine? A bottle for sure …but I think you all know what I mean, wine has been produced and appreciated throughout history and still it is such a mysterious and complex drink if you take a closer look…
A complex beast for sure with so many factors involved , since a few decades it has evolved into quite ‘posh’ wine tasting events where ‘sommeliers’ swish the glass in a certain ritual, focussed face ,eyes closed, nose into the glass and come out with descriptions of flavour, appearance,body and so on.
“A wonderfully rich and complex nose of truffles, plums, tobacco and minerals with a touch of classic pencil-lead and leather. Stunning.” (A well-aged top end Bordeaux)
“Rich flavors of plums and other stone fruits in balance with fresh acidity and toasty oak are present in this full-bodied wine.” (A high-end, but still young Cabernet)
When I read all these descriptions I struggle with it as I can’t relate it to anything what wine is made of…be it grapes!
And still somewhere it’s right as each wine is different in so many ways…it made me curious and of course mother nature never cease to surprise me …a recent study by Dr Goddard from Auckland University in 2014 shows some interesting facts where all these aromas come from.
Early in the wine making process, naturally occurring yeast in the vineyard begins fermenting grapes, which gradually turns them into alcohol. Yeast relies on fermentation for growth and energy, but without legs and wings to carry it from grape to grape, yeast developed a technique for hitching a ride from fruit flies: producing lovely fruity smells. The wine yeast tries to construct an environment that suits it. It likes ripe fruit as a food source, but so do many other organisms. Wine yeast uses alcoholic fermentation, which is a really inefficient way of using the sugar up, but which creates heat and alcohol that makes it a much less inviting environment for others. In particular, bacteria don’t tolerate alcohol the way that this yeast is able to.
‘Making aroma compounds’ – or producing nice smells – takes up a lot of energy for yeast, but the incentive lies in attracting fruit flies. Yeast isn’t attracting flies with nectar ,but it is attracting them with nice fruity odors like strawberry and cherry,plums etc.These are the flavors that make it into the wine.
And the flies? They benefit too, because fermenting fruit is a fertile environment for them to lay their eggs in. The most attractive smelling yeasts lure more fruit flies, and both dispersal and egg fertility are enhanced.
This is known in biology as a mutualistic symbiosis. The studies found that when fruit flies had a choice of yeasts, they carried the aromatic wine yeast 100 times more – showing that the smell did have an effect.
So it might well be that we have to thank fruit flies for many of the pleasing aromas of the wines we drink and that somehow we taste in the same way as insects do…the professional wine-taster seem to actually describe the smells the fruit flies were attracted and helped creating!
Next time we pour ourselves a nice Pinot noir or a Bordeaux let’s raise the glass to honour the fruit flies.