Wine tannins undergo modifications during fermentation and storage that can decrease their perceived astringency and increase color stability. Acetaldehyde acts as a bridging compound to form modified tannins and polymeric pigments that are less likely to form tannin-protein complexes than unmodified tannins. Red wines are often treated with oxygen in order to yield acetaldehyde, however this approach can lead to unintended consequences due to the generation of reactive oxygen species. The present study employs exogenous acetaldehyde at relatively low and high treatment concentrations during fermentation to encourage tannin modification without promoting potentially deleterious oxidation reactions. The high acetaldehyde treatment significantly increased polymeric pigments in the wine without increasing concentrations of free and sulfite-bound acetaldehyde. Protein-tannin precipitation was also significantly decreased with the addition of exogenous acetaldehyde. These results indicate a possible treatment of wines early in their production to increase color stability and lower astringency of finished wines.
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