Wine flavour chemistry

Wine flavour chemistry
Ronald J Clarke and Jokie Bakker
Oxford: Blackwell Publishing 2004 | Pp ix + 324 | ?85.00 (HB) | ISBN 1405105305
Reviewed by Ian Hornsey

If, like me, you are astounded, and often confused by the endless stream of adjectives invoked by wine connoisseurs, then you should take more than a glance at this book, for it explains, concisely, the salient reasons behind the differences in the major categories of wine.

Flavour, being a combination of smell and taste, is very much a personal peculiarity, and it should be remembered that a wine ’tasting’ is usually a formal event, whilst most wine is consumed in far more convivial circumstances. Thus, there has to be a serious background to the pleasurable act of drinking, and appreciating, wine. In this respect, the authors have adroitly taken on the onerous task of providing a relationship between the perceived flavour of wines and their chemical composition. The task inevitably involved dealing with some serious chemistry, certainly enough to deter the bacchanalian non-chemist, but the book is an absolute must for anyone involved professionally in the wine industry, scientist or otherwise.

There are enthusiastic treatments of the relevance of grape variety and growing area, and a more than adequate discourse on the parameters influencing taste. The general layout of the topics covered has been well thought out, and each chapter is satisfactorily referenced. Non-chemists should persevere with the two appendices, because they contain much important background information. If I have a gripe, then it would be that a little more attention could have been paid to the structure of the yeast and the grape; but, then, this is a book on flavour chemistry.

Overall, the book is extremely well written, and, in my view, successfully enlightens the reader as to how the wide range of wine styles is possible in the 21st century. In addition to fulfilling their stated aims, the authors have gathered together a vast amount of general information about wine science, and they are to be congratulated on completing a difficult task. I hope that the book will be read by Oz Clarke [wine critic], and his ilk.