A BIT OF WINE CHEMISTRY: Lessons from Champagne
Day one of the Champagne study trip initiated a discussion which continued throughout the week of factors impacting aromas and flavors in champagne. Broadly, aromas can be categorized into the impacts of grape variety, terroir, vinification, and post-production events (influencing individual bottles versus entire “batches”).
This article will focus upon the biochemistry of sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, and sugars in an acidic environment (esters arising from acidification of alcohol); the intent is not intended to be comprehensive. For purposes of this essay, the use of the word aroma will include the complex notes of aging characterized as “bouquet.”
“Although many efforts have been made to characterize the quality and flavor of the compounds in wine… tasting remains the single universal test used… This is because the taste of a molecule, or blend of molecules, is constructed within the brain of a taster.” F. Brochet and D. Dubourdieu, 2001
The grape varieties of Veneto
Veneto’s grape varieties are almost equally divided between white and red. More than 60% of the cultivated varieties are native or Italian grapes. Among them, the indigenous Glera, Garganega and Corvina Veronese account for almost half of Veneto’s total plantings.
Chardonnay is a blank canvas, yet consumers and professionals like tend to think of it in one form: a still-dry, oaked wine.
From bubbles to still wines to blended wines to late harvest and even ice wines, Chardonnay is incredibly malleable. Winemakers can make dozens of choices along the road in order to determine the final style of the wine.
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Christy Canterbury is a Master of Wine, wine buyer, writer and educator who lives in Manhattan. Christy has bought wine as the National Wine Director for Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group and as the Corporate Beverage Director for Culinary Concepts by Jean-Georges, where she opened and managed restaurants from Istanbul and Doha to Vancouver and Bora Bora. She was also the Wine Acquisitions Director for Italian Wine Merchants, a high-end retail concept catering to wine collectors.
Christy currently divides her time between many activities. She is a judge for the Ultimate Wine Challenge and the Dallas Morning News/TEXSOM Wine Competition; a contributing taster at vitis.com; an educator at Astor Center and San Francisco Wine Center; a panellist for Wine Enthusiast, TASTED and Wine & Spirits magazines; the Wine Editor for the Garrubbo Guide and the Italy Wine Editor for the Professional Wine Reference.