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Chemical and biochemical mechanisms of preservatives used in wine: a review

Published in Scientific Papers. Series B. Horticulture, Vol. LVI
Written by George A. COJOCARU, Arina Oana ANTOCE

Wine stability is a very important step when it comes to marketing. Antioxidant and antiseptic protection of wines can be achieved by using preservatives, a procedure that is regulated by the European laws. Wines are biochemically complex systems and because of this winemakers have to take informed decisions to manage with precision the preservation of their wines. Wine laboratories can ease the work of the winemaker offering at least the minimum routine analyses, such as pH, alcohol concentration and free sulphur dioxide. The results of these analyses can be used in some mathematical calculus to obtain more useful and precise results, such as the content of molecular sulphur dioxide. Molecular sulphur dioxide is the part of the free sulphur dioxide that confers microbiological stability to wines. Also, based on pH and alcohol concentration determinations, the dosage of potassium sorbate can be precisely calculated to preserve wines with residual sugar and prevent a second fermentation in the bottle. In addition, the usage of the combination ascorbic acid and sulphur dioxide in white dry wines can be risky if it is not properly managed. In the presence of sulphur dioxide the ascorbic acid is a strong reductive agent, therefore it can react faster than sulphur dioxide with oxygen. On the other hand, in the absence of sulphur dioxide, the addition of ascorbic acid it can be very unsafe for wines, because it reacts with dissolved oxygen and releases hydrogen peroxide, a more powerful oxidizing agent. Therefore, only proper management of dissolved oxygen and reductive state preservation can lead to quality wines. This paper reviews the main preservation methods and presents a new perspective in the use of preservatives in wine.

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