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Researchers finally found what makes old wine smell


Other than deciding what to serve, there are three important considerations when serving wine; serving order, serving temperature and serving quantity.

Serving Order

It is not uncommon at dinner parties to serve a reception wine, followed by a wine with the salad course, a wine with the main course, and a dessert wine. This is not as big a deal as it sounds. You buy roughly the same amount of wine, just different kinds, and I guarantee your guests will love it. Try it at your next dinner party.

When we are going to drink more than one kind of wine, the order in which the wines are served is important. The first wine will influence the taste of the second; the second will influence the taste of the third, and so on. The object of the serving order is to minimize this effect. If we drink sweet wine followed immediately by an acidic wine, the acidic wine will taste sour rather than crisp. If we drink a white wine immediately after a big red wine, the white will taste thin, if we can taste it at all. Therefore, serve light white wines before heavier whites, rose and light red wines before big reds, and always serve the sweet wines last. This a bit of an oversimplification, but it works most of the time.

Serving Temperature

The right temperature is very important to the full enjoyment of wine. In general, the correct serving temperature is warm enough to allow the aromas to develop, yet cold enough to be refreshing. Too cold, diminished aromas and therefore diminished taste. Too warm, the wine is not refreshing. The most common mistake is to serve both red and white wines too warm. The concept of drinking red wines at room temperature is misleading. Unless you live in an unheated chateau in northern France, the room temperature of your home is too warm for serving red wine.

Here are some temperature guidelines. Drink light white wines at between 40 and 45 degrees, heavier white wines from 50 to 55 degrees. Drink light red wines between 50 and 55 degrees, heavier reds from 60 to 65 degrees. These are round numbers. A few degrees one way or the other won’t matter. Remember that these are serving temperatures and not storage temperatures. Wine should be stored somewhat below the serving temperature to compensate for warming during service.

Serving Quantity

The use of properly sized and shaped wine glasses is very important, so we’ll assume you’ve got yourself a few good wine stems, the issue here is not to over-fill them. A full glass of wine is about 1/3 of a typical tulip-shaped wine glass. Filling the glass to the point where the bowl begins to curve inward will typically give you just the right amount. Over filling the glass reduces the area in which the aromas concentrate, reduces the surface area of the wine exposed to the air and hinders the ability to swirl the wine to further oxygenate it. Over filling also makes the glass top heavy and increases the likelihood of a spill. A full glass also requires you to sip at the wine, rather than tilting the head back to drink which directs the wine to the proper areas of the mouth to maximize the taste.


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  • A single enzyme is primarily responsible for making aged wines have that oh-so-enticing old wine smell, according to researchers from the University of Strasbourg in France. The name of the enzyme, however, isn’t nearly as romantic as the idea of aging like a fine wine. Prepare for your eyes to glaze over, because it’s a mouth full: CYP76F14.
  • CYP76F14 is part of the cytochrome P450 family of enzymes, which make and break certain molecules and chemicals. It’s not simply a messy jumble of letters and numbers, though, it’s essentially the ultimate creator of fine wine.
  • CYP76F14 gets to work before the juice ever leaves the grape. It takes a plant compound called monoterpenol linalool and turns it into (E)-8-carboxylinalool. Then, as the wine matures, (E)-8-carboxylinalool slowly turns into wine lactone, which is a good smelling compound that can be found in everything from apples, to oranges, to wine grapes. Wine lactone, which only made it into the wine thanks to CYP76F14, helps give old wine that glorious old wine smell.
  • To find CYP76F14, researchers took a sample of red and white French wine and ran each through something called a liquid chromatograph mass spectrometry. That’s the last bit of scientific jargon here, we promise.
  • Of course, aging is just one factor that goes into the smell and taste of a wine. For many winemakers, especially natural biodynamic winemakers,  a finished wine is the culmination of good soil and good vines. But it takes more than terroir and a winemaker’s passion to make a good wine. It takes enzymes with unsexy, scientific names. Scientifically analyzing a large sample of grapes will help researchers “learn more about how common plant molecules are transformed into specific wine aroma,” Nicolas Navrot, lead researcher and professor at the University of Strasbourg, said in a press release.
  • Sure, science can take some of the romanticism out of wine making and drinking. Yet without serious science on wine we wouldn’t know important facts like how red wine is essentially liquid viagra, or that wine actually does improve creativity.
  • The study that found CYP76F14, which was published in the plant science journal New Phytologist, could help guide grapevine breeding and impact scents in the food and beverage industry in general.
  • Luckily for the everyday consumer, you don’t have to commit the name “CYP76F14” to memory to enjoy its effects.


Produced by VinePair Staff.

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