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Fermentation 2018, 4(3), 62;

Recent Developments on the Origin and Nature of Reductive Sulfurous Off-Odours in Wine

Silvanerweg 9, 55595 Wallhausen, Germany
Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry, Hochschule Geisenheim University, Von-Lade-Straße 1, 65366 Geisenheim, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 July 2018 / Revised: 2 August 2018 / Accepted: 3 August 2018 / Published: 8 August 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Wine Fermentation)
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Reductive sulfurous off-odors are still one of the main reasons for rejecting wines by consumers. In 2008 at the International Wine Challenge in London, approximately 6% of the more than 10,000 wines presented were described as faulty. Twenty-eight percent were described as faulty because they presented “reduced characters” similar to those presented by “cork taint” and in nearly the same portion. Reductive off-odors are caused by low volatile sulfurous compounds. Their origin may be traced back to the metabolism of the microorganisms (yeasts and lactic acid bacteria) involved in the fermentation steps during wine making, often followed by chemical conversions. The main source of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) are precursors from the sulfate assimilation pathway (SAP, sometimes named as the “sulfate reduction pathway” SRP), used by yeast to assimilate sulfur from the environment and incorporate it into the essential sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine. Reductive off-odors became of increasing interest within the last few years, and the method to remove them by treatment with copper (II) salts (sulfate or citrate) is more and more questioned: The effectiveness is doubted, and after prolonged bottle storage, they reappear quite often. Numerous reports within the last few years and an ongoing flood of publications dealing with this matter reflect the importance of this problem. In a recent detailed review, almost all relevant aspects were discussed on a scientific data basis, and a “decision tree” was formulated to support winemakers handling this problem. Since we are dealing with a very complicated matter with a multitude of black spots still remaining, these advices can only be realized using specific equipment and special chemicals, not necessarily found in small wineries. The main problem in dealing with sulfurous compounds arises from the high variability of their reactivities. Sulfur is a metalloid with a large valence span across eight electron transformations from S (−II) up to S (+VI). This allows it to participate in an array of oxidation, reduction and disproportionation reactions, both abiotic and linked to microbial metabolism. In addition, sulfur is the element with the most allotropes and a high tendency to form chains and rings, with different stabilities of defined species and a high interconvertibility among each other. We suppose, there is simply a lack of knowledge of what is transferred during filling into bottles after fermentation and fining procedures. The treatment with copper (II) salts to remove sulfurous off-odors before filling rather increases instead of solving the problem. This paper picks up the abundant knowledge from recent literature and tries to add some aspects and observations, based on the assumption that the formation of polythionates, hitherto not taken into consideration, may explain some of the mystery of the re-appearance of reductive off-odors. View Full-Text
Keywords: reductive off-odors; reappearance; wine; volatile sulfur compounds; polythionates as precursors; elemental sulfur reductive off-odors; reappearance; wine; volatile sulfur compounds; polythionates as precursors; elemental sulfur

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Müller, N.; Rauhut, D. Recent Developments on the Origin and Nature of Reductive Sulfurous Off-Odours in Wine. Fermentation 2018, 4, 62.

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