a bit of science

a few new things

By billn on May 30, 2009 #a bit of science#other sites

Perhaps worthy of your attention, I find the following:

  1. Berry Bros & Rudd have shown a real drive to ‘engage’ their customers and potential customers, not just by being the first with a new ‘offer’, but by blogging, twittering, U-tube-ing and who-knows what else. Their ‘blog’ was refreshing in that it was more ‘a day in the life of…’ than a selling tool, per se. Not ones to do things by half, this week (I think it was this week) they have re-vamped their already young site. Take a look, it’s not bad – even Jasper discussing trying to avoid ‘lunar knots’!
  2. Gougeon and Schmitt-Kopplin tell Chemistry World:

    ‘By using the most recent advances in ultra high resolution mass spectrometry, we have shown that it is now possible to provide an instantaneous picture of how diverse the chemical composition of a wine can be.’

  3. Bring me my ‘Cataplana‘ !

newsday, saved by the cork…

By billn on April 28, 2009 #a bit of science#other sites

It’s taking me 3 days to finish my most recent bottle, so I thought I might bring you all the news instead – though to start with, I didn’t find much!

There is the Dr Vino non-story about reviewers being taken to lunch and more peripherally Mark Squires getting yet another vote for worst moderator – I laughed at first, but in the end, not even worth linking to. I found two interviews reasonably interesting; Randall Grahm and Bernard Magrez, clearly two completely contrast-worthy characters, and I find yet more photos from Vincent Dancer – he’s been quite busy in the last days.

If there’s one story that could slip through un-noticed, but actually begs further comment, it is a recent Decanter news item:
jadot diam cork closure

Closure manufacturer Oeneo has successfully protected the technology behind its Diam ‘technical cork’ in a court victory against rival closure companies.

Sounds dull? On closer inspection, not.

The approach under challenge was the one that produces the ‘Diam’ cork amalgam (as used in the recent Belland) seal and the Jadot above. The key step for this is the use of something called super-critical-carbon dioxide. In layman’s terms, that’s taking carbon dioxide gas and increasing the pressure until it behaves almost like a liquid – and why? – well in this state it acts like the world’s best solvent and easily washes away the nasty TCA molecule which causes corkiness. So much for the process, but what’s the news? Well for me the real news is twofold, and none of it is actually addressed in the Decanter ‘news story’:

  1. Firstly, the fact that some groups are now seeing potential value from the long and relatively expensive patent challenge process would underline to me the quality of the solution – it must work – and if it works, there’s money to be made.
  2. Secondly, and it’s a bit more subtle, but did you notice who the ‘challengers’ were? “Portugal’s Cork Supply Group and industry consultant Pedro Gil Ferreira“: Not only does the Diam approach seem to be a strong solution, but also it takes away a clear cork advantage (or let us say improvement) from the cork producers themselves and clearly puts it into the hands of others. Whilst the technology seems to have the potential to prolong, or even rejuvenate a cork market that is more than moribund (it is actually losing significant sales to alternatives), the value extraction (read: profits!) will be in the hands of others.

That’s how I read this challenge anyway!

resveratol again

By billn on January 20, 2009 #a bit of science#other sites

Chemistry & Industry, 22 December 2008It seems mandatory that the word resveratol must be accompanied by hype and pseudo science in any article – particularly when seen in any of the ‘wine press’. From Chemistry and Industry Magazine is yet another optimistic vignette, but at least there is some ‘real’ science content:

“Resveratol in wine has been hailed as the elixir of youth and cure for many ailments. It occurs in the seeds and skins of grapes and has reputed anti-tumor, antioxidant and antimicrobial action. It has even allowed for a longer life.
Resveratol prolongs the lifespan of flies, mice and yeast, similar to the effects of a starvation diet, and is believed to work by promoting sirtuin, a protein that helps to repair chromosomes. This wonder polyphenol is more prominent in red wines and especially Pinot Noir.
Many effects were reported from lab studies where the chemical was applied in unnaturally high doses, and you would have to consume buckets of red Burgundy to get the same dose. But not to worry, since Sirtis, a company founded by Harvard University scientist David Sinclair, has begun testing mimics of resveratol. One of these mimics is called SRT1720 and was reported last month to protect mice on fatty diets from getting obese and to enhance their endurance on treadmills. It was lauded as the cure for ‚couch potatoes’. But such mimics are potentially suitable as drugs since they activate sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) at lower doses than resveratol.
SRT1720 tricks the body into thinking food is scarce and has to burn fat to survive. Sirtris believes resveratol mimics could potentially treat diseases such as diabetes, inflammation, cancer and heart disease. According to ceo Christoph Wesphal: ‚The body of clinical data supporting the role of SIRT1 activation as a viable mechanism for treating a broad range of diseases of metabolism and aging is growing’. The company has obviously attracted the right attention; Sirtris was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline during the summer.
Blueberries and pomegranates are good natural sources of resveratol, and it is sold in supplements derived from Japanese knotweed, though some doubt whether this source contains much active ingredient. But functional foods and drinks are another possibility. A Texan university plans to genetically modify yeast to produce the wonder compound so that beer drinkers can similarly imbibe this tonic in their favourite tipple”.

vitis vinifera/pinot noir genome unravelled

By billn on August 27, 2007 #a bit of science

The finished sequence is the work of a consortium of French and Italian researchers led by Patrick Wincker, a geneticist based at Genoscope — the French national genetic-sequencing facility in Evry. Full analysis of the more than 30,000 genes contained within the sequence could aid breeding strains with novel flavours or better pest resistance. Source

Link to the project at the Centre National de Séquençage. Clearly the PFVini will be unhappy!

chablis – it’s just the sulfur really

By billn on February 22, 2007 #a bit of science

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…

Melatonin: a grape excuse to hit the bottle

By billn on July 12, 2006 #a bit of science#other sites

Back from a short break. Gratified to see that the site made a new record last week when the summer issue was launched: 743 unique IP addresses in one day – wow – that’s 200 up on the last record!

Just in case you need more excuse to drink here’s an article I picked up last week from Chemistry in Industry:

Melatonin: a grape excuse to hit the bottle

by Marina Murphy

There is now yet another reason to drink more wine. Scientists in Italy say they have discovered that grape varieties used to make some of the most popular red wines contain melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’ previously thought to be produced only by mammals.

Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxy-tryptamine) is produced in the pineal gland, a pea-like organ located in the brain that is sensitive to light. When light hits the eye, production of melatonin ceases. Besides aiding sleep, melatonin is thought to influence annual rhythms and seasonal changes in animals.

Researcher Iriti Marcello of the University of Milan believes: ‘the melatonin content in wine could help regulate the circadium rhythm [sleep-wake patterns], such as the melatonin produced by the pineal gland in mammals’. This, he said, may well explain why so many of us reach for the bottle to help us wind down after a long day.

Iriti’s group measured melatonin content in the skins of eight Vitis vinifera cultivars (grape varieties): Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Croatina, Nebbiolo, Merlot, Marzemino and Sangiovese. Concentration varied greatly among the cultivars with the highest levels of melatonin found in Nebbiolo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Croatina (Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, doi:10.1002/jsfa.2537). Nebbiolo contained the highest melatonin levels at around 400pg/ml.

But Richard Wurtman, of the department of brain and cognitive sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, is sceptical. ‘Many investigators have tried and failed in the past to find melatonin in a number of foods,’ he said. Wurtman is not convinced that what the researchers are calling ‘melatonin’ is melatonin — ‘just something with some fairly similar high-pressure liquid chromatography parameters and some immune cross-reactivity (by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). More appropriate studies should use gas chromatography/mass spectrometry,’ he said.

Itisi’s group say that the concentration of melatonin in grapes can be increased using benzothiadiazole, a chemical that increases disease resistance in plants (a plant ‘vaccine’).

Melatonin levels in human blood range from 20pg/ml in the morning to 55pg/ml at night.

Burgundy Report

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