ANALYZING THE ROLE OF ELEMENTAL SULFUR IN GRAPE JUICE ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF POLYFUNCTIONAL MERCAPTANS IN SAUVIGNON BLANC WINES
Sauvignon blanc is characterized by distinctive aromas, both fruity and herbaceous. The “green” cha- racter has been attributed to the methoxypyrazines, while the “fruity” character is associated with polyfunctional mercaptans . Polyfunctional mercaptans are of great significance due to their high impact on wines and associated low perception thresholds.
Elemental sulfur (S⁰) is widely used to protect grapevines from powdery mildew. Machine harvesting can enhance the formation of C6-compounds from grape lipids, leading to desirable polyfunctional mer- captan formation in wines.
A missing piece of information in most past studies on the formation of polyfunctional thiols has been the concentration of elemental sulfur in grapes. In this research, we aimed first to develop an easy and applicable method for a winery setting to analyse elemental sulfur concentration in grape juice samples. With this method in place, trials were then established to examine the link between elemental sulfur in the juice and 3MH/3MHA formation in wines. The trials were undertaken during three consecutive harvests in New Zealand in 2020, 2021, and 2022.
The study developed a sulfide sensor to measure elemental sulfur levels in grape juice samples and in- vestigated the correlation between S⁰ and polyfunctional mercaptan concentration in resulting wines. We reduced S⁰ to sulfide using dithiothreitol in acidic conditions and used an ion-selective electrode to measure sulfide concentrations. GC-MS was used to compare thiol concentration in wine with juice S⁰ levels from 2020 and 2021 samples. The investigation was expanded in 2022 by manually applying S⁰ to grapes at various intervals prior to harvesting and analyzing the relationship between residual S⁰ levels in juice and polyfunctional mercaptans in resulting wines.
The study established a dependable method based on ion-selective analysis and produced accurate ca- libration curves. The reduction process was found to be effective and the apparatus performed well with both standard and juice samples. Additionally, the results from the 2020 and 2021 trials revealed a cor- relation between increased juice elemental sulfur and a higher formation of 3MH/3MHA, supporting the theory that S⁰ contributes to the formation of 3MH in wine. This correlation was further confirmed in the 2022 trial, which saw a substantial increase in 3MH/3MHA in wines resulting from the manual application of S⁰ to the grapes through late spraying in the field.
Issue: OENO Macrowine 2023
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Sauvignon blanc, polyfunctional mercaptans, elemental sulfur, varietal thiols