Episode 52: Wine
The illustration is a detail of white wine grapes from Jean Antoine-Claude Chaptal’s Traité théorique et pratique sur la culture de la vigne (Paris, 1801). Courtsey of the Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library, Chemical Heritage Foundation/Douglas A. Lockard.
Americans are still relatively new to consuming wine—but they do so with gusto during the holiday season. On today’s show we take a look at the chemistry of this intoxicating substance: its aroma, its flavor, and its sometimes unwanted side effects. We start off with a look at why it’s never a good idea to leave an open bottle of wine uncorked. Next, we turn to the controversial topic of sulfites. Do they help preserve wine’s flavor, or are they the leading cause of hangovers? Finally, producer Eric Mack takes us to New Mexico for a visit with David Rigsby, a vintner who’s experimenting with organic techniques. Element of the Week: Oxygen.
00:00 Opening Credits
00:52 Element of the Week: Oxygen
02:54 Mystery Solved! Sulfites and Hangovers
05:35 Feature: Organic Wines
10:11 Closing Credits
Resources and References
The Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis is a terrific gateway to learn more about wine and winemaking.
You can find out more about the flavor of wine in Amy Coombs, “Scientia Vitis: Decanting the Chemistry of Wine Flavor,” Chemical Heritage 26 (Winter 2008/9): 18–23.
This admittedly opinionated piece, also from UC Davis, debunks sulfite myths.
You can find a helpful list of all the wineries in the United States here.
Special thanks go to Hilary Domush for researching the show.
Our theme music is composed by Dave Kaufman. Additional music from the PodSafe Music Network. Additional music is “Toms Lullaby,” by Lee Maddeford, “Bottle It Up and Go,” by Steve Gardner, “Hangover (German Beat),” by Bosom Divine, and “New Mexico,” by The Ukulele Hipster Kings.