chablis – it’s just the sulfur really


To start with, I just can’t quite write that subject-line without a complaint; I was brought up with sulphur, not sulfur, but since UIPAC took up the American spelling…

science magazineMoving swiftly on, I note from the February 2nd issue of ‘Science‘ (Science 2007, 315, 666) that maybe a common compound of sulfur might be responsible for that special smell of a Chablis:

Scientists at the University of East Anglia (UK) have apparently discovered what makes the sea smell like the sea! It seems that the answer is a bacterial gene which they call dddD, which catabolises a bacterial metabolite called DMSP to DMS – or dimethylsulfide. It seems then, that it is DMS that is responsible for the smell of the sea – or in Chablis terms, the smell of the seashore(?)dimethylsulfate

It seems that, not only can winemakers choose yeasts that make their chardonnay smell of pineapple, but in the future they might be able to add something to give their wines that certain Chablis ‘thing’. The team at the university have already cloned the dddD gene onto E. coli such that the bacteria can produce DMS gas in the presence of DMSP – perhaps it’s only a matter of time until the yeast is available…

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

There are 2 responses to “chablis – it’s just the sulfur really”

  1. Louise23rd February 2007 at 6:27 amPermalinkReply

    I was brought up with the spelling sulphur too- valid complaint. I find this an interesting insight into the seashore smells- you are right it will not be long before you can get hold of specific smell flavour yeasts.
    On another note, I notice you have linked to my blog on a Kenyan winery- Thank you. We will be making the Pinot Noir and a little bit of Chardonnay in about two weeks. I have just changed my URL to

  2. bill nanson23rd February 2007 at 8:57 amPermalinkReply

    Hi Louise,
    Love your notes so far – they are a wonderful insight into doing something in a new environment – I just can’t imagine some of the winemakers in Burgundy chasing away baboons 😉

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