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Can chitosan save a good bottle of red wine?

Now, just before Christmas holidays, the question arises, what to cook and what kind of wine to serve for a few cozy hours with the loved ones? Suitable for the peaceful time, we present some interesting literature about chitosan. Every now and then, wine and chitosan are mentioned together in various publications. How do they fit together? What can chitosan be used for in wine and can it possible save my corked wine?

Researchers from Portugal investigated in a study whether chitosan can rescue contaminated and therefore inedible red wine.

Reducing the negative sensory impact of volatile phenols in red wine with different chitosans: Effect of structure on efficiency

Filipe-Ribeiro L., Cosme F., Nunes F. M. Food Chemistry. 2018 Mar 1, 242: 591-600. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.09.099. Epub September 2017

Dekkera/Brettanomyces yeasts can pretty much spoil the enjoyment of a good glass of red wine. These “little troublemakers” create the so called “Brett character” with negative sensory attributes like horse, wet dog or tar[1], caused by concentrations of volatile phenols like 4-Ethylphenol (4-EP) and 4-Ethylguaiacol (4-EG) above their sensory threshold. The lower acidity and ageing in wooden barrels are the reasons why red wines are more susceptible to contamination with Dekkera/Brettanomyces bruxellensis.

Chitosan with a high degree of deacetylation (DDA) could be used to save red wines of high quality and make them enjoyable again. Researchers from Portugal investigated the effect of different chitins and chitosans from crustacean and fungi when added to contaminated wines. The authors characterized the chitins and chitosans (molecular weight, DDA, dry matter content) and measured headspace aroma composition by solid phase microextraction. An expert panel analyzed the effect of crustacean (DDA=85%) and fungal chitosan (DDA=91%) on sensory perception and quality of wines.

Results: Adding of Chitosan

  • reduced the sensory perception of the “Brett-character”
  • reduced headspace abundance of negatively volatile phenols and increased fruity and floral attributes
  • with higher DDA was more effective
  • at low doses did not influence color and phenolic composition of the red wine
  • from crustacean was more effective than chitosan from fungi

Conclusion: The application of chitosan with high deacetylation degree might be an efficient way to reduce the negative sensory attributes of volatile phenol in “Brett”-contaminated red wines. Unfortunately, we cannot conclude that you can save your bottle of wine at home. The researchers from Portugal added the chitosan for 6 days and removed it by filtration – too long for satisfying the need for red wine in time for Christmas! Therefore chitosan is more of a companion here, in the form of interesting reading material. We wish you all a merry Christmas!



chitosan, red wine, phenols, higher DDA

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