mrS.- The Threads of Haute Couture: About a year ago I meet with Keith to discuss Saarloos and Sons 2010 releases. As he told me the concepts, stories, and those little ‘secrets’ that went into each wine, I could tell there was a 4th dimension he wanted to add to those stories. He then proceeded to tell me how he wanted to go beyond tradition, attempt what no other winery had done before with the 2010 releases and tell the science behind each wine. So we came up with a concept that day to tell the molecular story of the 2010 releases. It is tempting to present the results of this concept here in their entirety but that would be pointless given its depth. So I thought I would start with mrS., the wine Keith likes to describe as Haute Couture. I found this metaphor intriguing because it implies that special techniques and high quality materials were used to make this Pinot Noir. Often from a distance, with the naked eye, it can be difficult to distinguish which of two identical garments was made according to the laws of Haute Couture. The difference only becomes obvious upon finer inspection of the thread quality and stitching techniques. Likewise with wine, our senses can interrogate and distinguish the quality of varietal aromas and flavors but they alone are unable to tell us the nature of those molecular ‘threads’. Traditional wine science attempts to fill that void by giving us information about acidity (measured by pH and titratable acidity, TA), alcohol, and if you’re really luckily some rudimentary chemical analysis bases on the absorbance of light by the molecules in wine (called spectral analysis). We’ve done all this (see the table 1) and we still were not satisfied this information told us the molecular story we wanted to know about the quality of those ‘threads’. So we’ve gone as far as modern science can take us and analyzed each of the 2010 releases at the atomic level. Every organic molecule in nature is primarily composed of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus. Each of these elements has a defined atomic mass (remember your periodic table of elements) that can be determined using special highly sensitive equipment. These elements are absorbed by the roots of the vine as nutrients and incorporated into higher order organic molecules during berry development by its cellular molecular machinery. This produces the primary metabolites or ‘threads’ of a wine. These metabolites are passed on to the molecular machinery of specific strains of yeast and lactobacillus bacteria where they undergo fermentation reactions that carry out additional molecular modifications. Finally, those metabolites undergo a final slow oxidative touching and gain complexity in an oak barrel. The summation of these molecular processes is wine. Over
Table 1: Acid and spectral properties of mrS. pH: 3.78 TA: 0.533g/100ml as H2T Red pigments: 2.74 AU
Brown pigments: 3.7 AU Total monomeric anthocyanins: 19.6 mg/mL Total phenols: 46 AU
the past year, using ~3.5 million dollars worth of mass spectroscopy equipment (three different methods), 100+ hours of experimental time to generate 1TB of data (and we’re still adding), 200+ hours of computational time (and still analyzing as this is being written), that concept has become a reality. The picture shown here is one result from our initial analysis. It is a heat map that displays the molecular formulas of the 100 most abundant molecules in mrS. listed from top to bottom (red to green) in order of abundance. Although its not obvious by the molecular formulas, the molecules in red at the top of the heat map are primarily flavon-3-ol glycosides and chalcones. These aromatic molecules and their conjugates contribute to the color, aroma, and flavor of the wine. As exciting as the characterization of these 100 molecules are, they represent only 0.3% of the total number of molecules characterized (~2700) and 0.07% of the unique masses identified (~14000) in the raw data. Needless to say, these data have a lot more to say about the metabolite ‘threads’ of mrS. and its status as Haute Couture in the court of Pinot Noir. And as you have guessed, we fully intend to revolutionize viticulture and enology using these novel wine science techniques. How so? Here’s one example. The grapes for the mrS. were sourced from the Santa Rita Hills AVA while those for Extended Family were sourced from the Santa Maria AVA. We’ve recently begun to compare the results from our mrS. and Extended family experiments to identify the molecular differences of Pinot Noir grapes grown in these regions. The application of such knowledge would be limited only by the winemaker’s imagination. So to our Saarloos and Sons family, consider yourselves the avant-garde of enophiles.
Here’s to the revolution!
Dr. Paul Tarr.