Dry, fruity, bold, or sweet, are just a few of the different descriptors that wine lovers pair with their libation of choice. If you were given a fruity Pinot and a dry Cabernet Sauvignon, you could probably easily differentiate between the two because a dry red wine has such a distinct mouthfeel.
In a new study, researchers from the University of California, Davis have identified the characteristics of the chemical compounds that make some wines taste dry, and it all comes down to the tannins.
While past researchers and wine experts have long attributed dryness to the tannins in a wine, the molecular makeup of tannins and how they interact with proteins in the saliva has not been well understood.
Dryness or astringency is the rough, puckering sensation you experience when you drink certain wines. The tannins interact proteins in the saliva which makes the mouth drier.
For this study, the researchers extracted tannins from a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Pinot Noir.
After analyzing the chemical compounds, the researchers found that the drier Cabernet had larger tannins and when these tannins interacted with saliva, it grouped together more salivary proteins.
The researchers attempted to make the Pinot drier by adding Cabernet tannins to the fruity wine, but it didn’t impact the dryness sensation when trained panelists tasted the Pinot.
When the Cabernet tannins were added to model wine consisting of just ethanol and tartaric acid, the panelists did report more dryness, which suggests the aromas and flavors of the Pinot may have overpowered the new tannins.
The researchers say that the results could help winemakers produce better wines and manage dryness.
The full results of the study were published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.
By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer