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Tinker, Tinker Aussie Star-How I wonder what You are

Posted: Wednesday, 10 July 2013 11:25

Tinker, Tinker Aussie Star-How I wonder what You are

July 10: As a bewildered wine world perplexed over the falling sales of wines has been devising ways to catch the wine drinkers young with the recent introduction of concoctions of wine and coke for the Gen Next ready to taste alcohol, it comes as no surprise that someone in the New World would craft new ways to add flavours to cheap wines to make them more ‘complex,’ writes Subhash Arora

I remember an old friend who has been fond of wine for years telling me once that in the first class of the airlines he travelled, they served wines with added flavours of strawberries, plums, blackberries, passion fruits and all kinds of other fruits we didn’t even have in India. Neither envying him nor accustomed to travelling by first class but with an enviable first class wine tasting experience, I told him that was impossible-no fruits are allowed to be added to grapes.

Nothing is impossible in the world of wine so I asked him to bring the wine Menu next time he travelled. Soon he brought me one as he sheepishly apologised for the misunderstanding-all those chateaux wines he had been enjoying in flight were complex and tasted of various fruit flavours- the menus described the flavours as only professionals would.  For the uninitiated, the wine aging process results in formation of several ethers that have flavours and aromas created by several factors, depending upon the grapes in the wine and several other factors which make wine an enjoyable and vast subject.

It should perhaps not come as a surprise that in the quest for making a drinkable wine out of a cheap and bland wine from a poor vintage, a doctoral student in Australia is working to enhance the flavours of low-ended wines with natural flavours like honey, passionfruit and vanilla.

Yaelle Saltman, a winemaker working towards a Ph.D thesis at the University of Adelaide, is working on that subject. According to a report, she says, "For quite a while I've been thinking about what we can do to wines to improve their quality, and yet have consumers still accept them. This is how I thought about adding something that's normally practised in the food industry and trying it on wine."

She claims to have polled 1300 people, asking them how they felt about the presence of a range of natural and artificial additives in wine. She divided the group according to their level of knowledge about wine, and then asked them about their acceptance of the approximately 50 existing additives to wine, like tartaric acid. These people were then asked about how they felt about other wine additives, both natural and artificial.

"The results were really surprising," Ms Saltman says. "Things that were already added to wine at the moment, like tartaric acid or preservatives - most consumers did not accept them in wines, regardless of their wine knowledge, whereas natural flavourings were accepted."

To further gauge consumers' perceptions of natural flavourings in wine, Ms Saltman conducted a blind taste testing of two each of Chardonnay and Shiraz wines in some of which she had added minute amounts of vanilla, honey and passionfruit flavours.

Ms Saltman concedes that the aim of tinkering with the juice wasn't to make a flavoured wine per se, but to add depth and complexity to wines that had suffered from a bad vintage. She justifies her process by the results of the blind tasting as evidence that consumers would accept natural flavourings in wine.

"When I'm adding honey or vanilla, it's not so far-fetched, because a wine that's been oaked would have those notes anyway, so I'm in a way enhancing the flavours that already exist," she says reportedly.

Current regulations in any part of the world for wines made from grapes do not allow the use of any flavour additives so her work perhaps won’t move beyond the research phase except that it might earn her a doctorate for ingenuity and initiative. But in India where there are no wine laws one can perhaps already taste these elements in many non- varietal wines-especially the fortified wines. One hopes that the law makers, going by the recommendations of the Indian Grape Processing Board, do not wonder if this is the beginning of a Nouveau World and allow the tinkering and addition of any flavour element in any wine-cheap, expensive, natural or fortified.

Tags: Aussie, Australia, Yaelle Saltman, Indian Grape Processing Board


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