Taming tannins

Wine science and the quest for texture

Kate Thomas
Dec 14, 2006
America has become a nation of viniculturists: wine is now produced in every state in the union. But can New World wines seriously rival revered Old World vintages? Chemist James Kennedy, a Professor of Food Science and Technology at Oregon State University, is certain they can, "so long as we make wines well, and making wines well means realizing there's lots of room for scientists in the wine industry." Kennedy delivered the second lecture in the New York Academy of Sciences' "Science of Food" lecture series in New York City on Monday evening (Dec. 11). His topic was the compounds that have taken on the mystery of the alchemical amongst red wine producers: tannins.Tannins are the astringent plant polyphenols that bind and precipitate proteins. Botanists describe them as defensive compounds that protect plants from bacteria and fungi and deter herbivores through their astringency and their interference with digestion. For...

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