A Guide to Wine, Food & the Good Life


John Tilson • 6/29/16        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

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In an article by James Duren entitled “Bye Bye Oak Barrel: Spanish Sleuths Discover Aroma Yeast” yet another case was made by researchers to put more additives in wine. Take a look:

It may be the smallest of elements which have the biggest impact on flavor. 

A team of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Madrid and Spain’s Forest Research Center have proposed that certain wine flavors can be imparted by a special yeast, potentially saving winemakers barrels of money in savings. 

“The new methodology will allow us to make wine more quickly with less cost and having similar sensorial profiles to the wine obtained by the traditional aging method,” the university said in a release earlier this month. 

In the current market, the study noted, French and American oak barrels are synonymous with quality wines. 

“The traditional aging in French or American oak barrels constitutes the only resource to elaborate quality aged wines,” the university said. 

This aging process, though beloved by winemakers and wine drinkers alike, is a tedious and costly method. 

“It is a long and expensive process,” the release said. “A large volume of wine must be immobilized for varying periods before coming out on the market.” 

Also, the university stated, these oak barrels have a limited range of flavors which they can impart. 

“In this context, the research group … has developed a methodology that aims to exploit the high adsorption potential of volatile compounds that shows the years cell-walls used in early stages of its development,” the release said.

In simple terms, researchers discovered they can infuse yeast with certain flavors knowing that, when the yeast is applied to the wine, its cell walls will allow the flavors to venture beyond the cell itself and into the wine. 

“This innovative technique provides various interesting alternatives such as lower cost and shorter periods for wine making processes showing similar sensorial profiles to other traditional wines aged in barrels,” the release said. 

Using yeast to influence the flavor of wines opens up the possibility for winemakers to store their precious product in barrels made from “chestnut, cherry and acacia,” the article said. 

Until now, barrel aging has been the method of choice because the process flavor-enhancing properties have long been embraced by winemakers who initially used wood barrels because of their sturdiness and ease of transport, the article said. 

“Wood used to be a tough, affordable and abundant material, and its geometry allowed them a rolling motion,” the article said. “Later, the positive influence of the container over the content was perceived and recognized.”

So there you have it. After hundreds of years, this is progress? Is this brought to you by the same folks who advocate all kinds of modifications and additives to food?  Now I am not about to get bogged down in this. And, I want to warn you that it is very complicated.  However, what I am going to say is what I have been saying all along – The addition of additives in food and in wine need to be disclosed to consumers. Consumers should demand it (to read my article Caution: What’s In Your Wine? click here). This “aroma yeast” is yet another thing that adds an element of uncertainty into what we are ingesting. You can make up your own mind. But for me, count me out! I’ll stick with traditionally made wines. These include many great wines including Spanish red wines such as Vega Sicilia and López de Heredia that respect natural ingredients and traditional wine making!!

In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson






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  • Mike Casey says:


    This reminds me of the controversy over GMO labeling. I’m not necessarily “for” or “against” GMOs. I just like to know what I’m buying and ingesting so I can make my own choice.

    • John Tilson says:

      Yes. Spot on. As consumers we have the right to know what is in the products we are buying and this is especially true for any products that we consume. But whether it is ingredient labeling for food or GMO labeling, wine is no different. If consumers demand to know what is in wine then ingredient labeling will happen. But, to expect producers to embrace this when many have a lot to lose is probably not realistic. Nonetheless, stick with the Underground. We will be on this subject until it happens!
      In Vino Veritas,

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