Scientists found a way to slow down the ripening process of the grapes

Scientists found a way to slow down the ripening process of the grapes


If you read the history of Western civilization, you will be surprised how important wine is to us. It is actually unbelievable how many times this alcoholic beverage of fermented grape juice is mentioned in historic documents of so many nations. However, as the climate of the Earth is changing, we are facing a new problem – how do we preserve grapes?

Scientists from University of Adelaide found a new way to slow down the ripening process of the grapes.

Grapes are ripening faster due to the climate becoming warmer and that is not a good thing. Image credit: Galaxyz27 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Winemaking is as much science as it is art. It obviously takes a lot of knowledge to make a quality wine, but you also need a lot of good will from mother nature. Sadly, we made nature very mad and it is heating up in many places in the world – particularly those that are famous for their grape plantations. While grapes love heat, an increasing temperature makes them ripen too quickly. And, as you may imagine, it is not great for wine.

In fact, as grapes ripen too fast they accumulate too much sugar. Sugar is needed for fermentation. However, grapes now reach their targeted sugar levels when their colour and aroma are suboptimal. This basically results in a lower quality wine, which doesn’t look, smell or taste as good as it should. But scientists in Australia, a country which is heavily affected by the changing climate, found that it is possible to increase the flavour potential of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes by manipulating crop loads and employing clever irrigation management techniques which could slow down the ripening process.

Previous studies have shown that  thinning vines and intense irrigation late in the growing season can change wine composition. Now scientists explored how these techniques affect grapes themselves. They found that it is possible to slow down sugar accumulation, which decreases accumulation of green aroma compounds. Researchers tried to achieve the longest delay possible to study the relationship between sugar accumulation and flavour development. They could achieve a delay of three weeks by reducing the crop load by 35 % and increasing watering late in the season by 50 %.

Christopher Ford, co-author of the study, said: “While representing a valuable experimental tool, this approach however may not be practical due to availability and high cost of irrigation, particularly as water becomes a scarcer resourceTailoring the management of these strategies seems to be the way to achieve the targeted levels of aroma compounds, colour and mouthfeel in wines.”

Reducing crop load seems scary. Why would you cut out your own grapes? But it is actually what good winemakers have been doing for ages. Good quality wine is more profitable than higher quantities of poor quality wine. And as the climate is changing, grape farmers will have to improve their management techniques.

Source: University of Adelaide


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