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WINquiry

26/05/2006
Gum arabic in the wine: the winemakers answered back!
ingrandisci gommaantiscivolo.jpgAs promised, here are the answers to our questions.
But first things first: the numbers. We sent our questionnaire on gum arabic to 29 winemakers: only 10 sent back their answers, which is roughly the 35% of the total. We would then like to thank this 10 winemakers which are Vincenzo Pepe, Niccolò d’Afflitto, Andrea Paoletti, Gianni Testa, Maurizio Alongi, Graziana Grassini, Rodolfo Rizzi, Claudio Gori, Giancarlo Soverchia,  Riccardo Periccioli. They are named in the same order in which we received their answers. Their complete answers can be found in the section “Vintervista” (only in Italian), but her we would like to briefly summarize their views.
The first question was “Do you know what the gum arabic is?”, clearly a question to introduce the subject, and all 10 winemakers answered affirmatively.
The second question was “How and in which cases it is used in winemaking?”. Also in answering this question the winemakers had very similar views: the gum arabic is seen as a natural stabilizer which can help in avoiding undesired precipitations, like the tartaric one. Normally, it is used in the pre-bottling phase.
With the third question which was “What characteristics does it add to a wine?” we entered the interesting part of the talk. All winemakers say (some of them explaining with technical details) that gum arabic adds softness and roundness to the wine, diminishes the perception of bitterness and astringency. From this we can deduct that, given the high consideration that the market has for soft and round wines, the gum arabic must play a primary role as an additive.
But if it really plays a primary role, why to the question “Given that the law isn’t really strict about it, do you think it is fair to add it to a wine without clearly stating it?” only one out of ten clearly says that it wouldn’t be fair? All the others, with different shades of subtleness (it would create useless alarm amongst consumers/ it is a natural product/ we should then report all additives on the labels…), say that they agree with it not being reported on the label, and here we start to get doubtful. Gum arabic is clearly reported as an additive (E414) on the labels of many alimentary products. Why shouldn’t be reported on wine labels?
With the fifth question (“Do you reckon it would be fair to regulate its use by law?”) the group breaks up into different parts. Five winemakers reckon it would be fair to regulate its use whilst for 4 of them it wouldn’t. One of them clearly says that the problem doesn’t interest him.
When asked “If you answered “yes” to the previous question, what would you suggest to the legislator in that sense?”, some of them suggested a maximum dosage (and all the suggested dosages were different), others only vaguely suggested to fix a maximum amount, and a few of them say that this is a false-problem, and it should be left up to the consortiums or to the same winemakers.
The question “How can you recognize it in a wine?” was of a crucial importance to us. To this question, all winemakers (except one of them) said that it cannot be recognized. Only by having a non-added sample of wine to compare with the added one (and of this I had personal experience!) it is possible to spot its presence.
We were, at this point, already struggling to understand. What came out so far is that the gum arabic adds softness and roundness to the wines, smoothening up the eventually rough tannins. It is extremely difficult to recognize it (so that one could naively think that the softness and the smooth tannins would be down to nicely ripe grapes) and stating its addition on the labels is not very important. But to the question “Would you reckon its use is quite common?” all winemakers answered that “yes, it is very widely used”, so, basically, it is in virtually every wine we drink.
They confirm the above also by answering affirmatively to the question “Have you ever used it and if you did in which dosages?”. All winemakers confirmed to use it, but the stated dosages are very different, starting with 20 grams per hectolitre to reach the 1000 grams per hectolitre. That’s quite a difference isn’t it?
Finally we asked them “Would you like to add any other personal comment on the subject?”. Here we’ve got different statements that we can group in the family of “Let’s regulate its use but being careful not to overdo it because it is a natural product and shouldn’t be execrated”. Some of them added that a massive use of it should be forbidden… Because apparently it is counter-producing.
So far we have reported on what has been said, but now it is our turn to add something to it.
We do not want to comment on the single answer, but it seems to us that the general feeling is that of a complete lack of concern about the subject. This feeling we’ve got, comes not only from the answers we’ve received but also from the those we didn’t receive, and it concerns a (maybe unwritten) rule that should be of paramount importance to all.
This rule says “if you change the rules of the game, then you should informe me about it!”. The arabic gum is used regularly and very diffusely in incredibly variable proportions (20-1000 grams per hectolitre) without clearly stating it on the label, arguing that is totally natural or that declaring so would create pointless alarms amongst consumers. But who says that these alarms would be pointless? Gum arabic could well be the most innocuous additive on earth, or could even (just like resveratrol) be good for you but, given that adding it “changes the rules of the game” if you use it I should know about it. Its addition gives the wine some positive characteristics that are normally associated with other elements (like good vineyard management). The fact that few winemakers feel the need of declaring its use on the labels (and that no one did it so far) is to us quite serious because maybe it means that all substances used by wine cellars are exempted by any ethical rule because what counts is only the final result. How far will we go to give to the market the kind of wines it seems to ask for? Wouldn’t be better to discuss all together about what can and what cannot be done? Technology evolves to an incredible pace, delivering everyday new products for the winemaking industry, but an ethical committee to assess their legitimacy could maybe avoid many future problems.

 

Autore: Carlo Macchi
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Commenti presenti: 4
antonio
inserito il 30/04/2011

credo che sia giusto riportare in etichetta tutto cio che si aggiunge nel vino, ma credo che sia ancora piu giusto coltivare una buona uva per ottenere un buon ...............

carlo macchi
inserito il 30/04/2011

Sono d'accordo: se tutte le uve fossero di ottimo livello non ci sarebbe bisogno di gomme e gommine. Però.....esiste la realtà ed è diversa.

Roberto
inserito il 28/05/2011

E' assurdo che il nostro paese, fra i maggiori produttori per quantità e qualità, debba avere una normativa cosi' blanda. Del vino si dovrebbe poter conoscere provenienza delle uve, annata e anche i lieviti. Poi se qualcuno ci aggiunge mosti,zuccheri e gomma che se lo beva pure.

Paolo
inserito il 04/02/2012

Purtroppo carissimi, le cose non sono così semplici come si vorrebbe far credere. Innanzitutto, i "prodotti" aggiunti al vino/mosto hanno origine e scopi assolutamente diversi l'uno dall'altro, tali per cui alcuni in effetti andrebbero dichiarati, altri assolutamente no. Tanto per fare un esempio, i mosti correttivi (demonizzati da qualcuno) sono prodotti assolutamente naturali ottenuti da uve ad alta gradazione zuccherina. Sono anche l'unico prodotto autorizzato in Italia per correggere uve sane che purtroppo, causa annate avverse, raggiungono livelli zuccherini assolutamente non sufficienti al difficile mercato (chi di voi vorrebbe bere un Chianti a 10° alcol?). Una correzione del genere, non dovrebbe ASSOLUTAMENTE essere dichiarata, in quanto trattasi di poco più che un taglio. Altro discorso è parlare di gomma arabica, acido metatartarico o quant'altro, prodotti per i quali mi vedo daccordo, in qualità di wine maker, iniziare a discutere per eventuali diciture in etichetta. Teniamo però presente che il vino è forse il prodotto alimentare italiano con la più restrittiva normativa in materia e che questi stessi additivi, in particolare l'AMT, stanno sempre più venendo a ridurre il proprio uso grazie all'utilizzo di prodotti di origine naturale in grado di dare gli stessi risultati (e qualche volta, anche migliori).

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