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How the management of pH during winemaking affects acetaldehyde evolution and the formation of polymeric phenolics over the red wine aging

Angelita GAMBUTI1, Luigi PICARIELLO1, Martino  FORINO1, Alessandra RINALDI1,2, Luigi MOIO,
1 Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Napoli "Federico II"- Enology Sciences Section, Viale Italia, 83100, Avellino, Italy.
2 Biolaffort, 126 Quai de la Souys, 33100 Bordeaux, France.

Email contact: angelita.gambuti[@]


AIM: The aim of this study is to evaluate the role of pH on both the acetaldehyde chemistry and wine phenolics evolution over the aging period. In addition, the effect of both an early (on musts) and late (on wines soon after the end of the fermentation) acidification was evaluated.

METHODS: The experimental design consisted in the preparation of 7 wines from the same batch of grapes fermented in a first tank at the original pH of 3.2 (3.2W) and two other tanks in which the pH was adjusted to 3.5 (3.5W) and 3.9 (3.9W). On the third day of fermentation, and one week after the end of the fermentation-maceration process some aliquots of both 3.5W and 3.9W were treated to reach a 3.2 pH to afford four more wines. Polymeric pigments and phenolics were evaluated by spectrophotometry, MS and NMR techniques, acetaldehyde and anthocyanins by HPLC-DAD and reactivity of tannins towards saliva by electrophoresis. Wines were analyzed soon after the end of the fermentation and after one-year aging.

RESULTS: By increasing the pH level from 3.2 to 3.9, the amount of low polymerized flavans, individual anthocyanins and tannins reactive to BSA and saliva decreased. Conversely, an increase of acetaldehyde, of pigments resistant to the bleaching, and of ethylene-linked polymeric pigments was detected. After one year of aging, wines treated to reach a 3.2 pH significantly differ from 3.2W in acetaldehyde, tannins reactive towards proteins and polymeric pigments. This behavior was more evident when the acidification was carried out soon after the end of the fermentation-maceration process.

CONCLUSIONS: High pH values favor the polymerization of phenolics over the wine aging and results suggested that the effect is predominant when pH was increased during the fermentation, hence successive pH modulations have little (if any) effect on some typical reactions occurring during wine aging.



Forino, M.; Gambuti, A.; Luciano, P.; Moio, L. Malvidin-3-O-glucoside chemical behavior in the wine pH range. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2019, 67, 1222-1229.

Kontoudakis, N., González, E., Gil, M., Esteruelas, M., Fort, F., Canals, J. M., & Zamora, F. (2011). Influence of wine pH on changes in color and polyphenol composition induced by micro-oxygenation. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry59(5), 1974-1984.

Setford, P. C., Jeffery, D. W., Grbin, P. R., & Muhlack, R. A. (2017). Factors affecting extraction and evolution of phenolic compounds during red wine maceration and the role of process modelling. Trends in Food Science & Technology69, 106-117.

Published on 06/18/2018
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