Science in Champagne

EcoSynth chemist speaks on « goût de lumière » at the Journée technique des Œnologues in Reims, France.

Light exposure adversely affects quality of foods and beverages, a phenomenon generally referred to as the lightstruck problem. Beer and wine are typically very sensitive to off-flavour formations induced by light, causing unpleasant aromas like onion and cooked cabbage, burnt feather, rotten egg, and skunky.

Lightstruck flavour is a quality defect that also affects Champagne wines. The time between harvest (vendange) and the savouring of a wonderful tête de cuvee or an unrivalled millésime, is plenty and destructive photons are always ready to pounce. From inappropriate lighting during ageing in the caves to the excessive illumination in a retailer’s display cabinet, exposure may almost inevitably ruin quality.

To assess the state of the art on lightstruck flavour and new measures for prevention, the Technical Committee of the Union of Œnologists brought together a series of experts for a symposium dedicated to this topic. Kevin Huvaere from EcoSynth, holder of a PhD on the photochemistry of beer, was invited to explain the detailed mechanisms and the underlying chemistry of the development of light-induced quality changes in beer. About 250 attendees, including delegations from the most prestigious Champagne brands, and several press associates joined the symposium.

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