Month: February 2018

Impact of climate warming on viticulture: a glance at the situation of the Cotnari wine-growing region from Romania.

By Liviu Mihai Irimia

Viticulture is an area of global interest due to its long and glamorous tradition, to fascination that wine exerts on consumers and, last but not least, to the gains it provides. We find the same profile of viticulture all over the world: the clean green carpet of plantations in the summer and yellow-golden in the autumn; the ruby wine flashing in the crystal glass seen in the light of the candle; the nobility of the label and the elegance of the bottle bearing the mark of the waiting years in the timeless cooler of the cellar. These are the things that fascinate us all and bring us together in the deep knowledge of its components: vine, vineyard, wine cellar, wine.
My research field is, of course, Viticulture, in which I have focused my attention over the past decade on the analysis of viticultural potential of geographic areas at the fine scale. If our initial interest was to reveal the spatial distribution of viticultural potential in order to optimize wine grape varieties zoning, in the recent years interest has also focused on studying the impact of climate change on wine-growing areas. The methodology developed by us, based on multiannual data characterizing traditional wine-growing regions in the temperate continental climate area, helps us today to identify the changes caused by climate change in the specificity of the old wine-growing regions and also to identify new areas with viticultural potential appeared a result of climate change.
Research on the evaluation of viticultural potential and on distribution of homogeneous viticultural zones into wine-growing regions has brought the interest of wine growers and wine producers. They are interested in making such studies on their own vineyards, in order to use results for the optimization of zoning winegrape varieties and also for optimization of vineyard management. The results of such studies have been published in specialized journals, among which the Journal International des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin of Bordeaux University is the most honorable for us. The approach was so effective that today the development of such a study and the implementation of its results in one of Romania's wine-growing regions are funded by a government grant.

The second research direction, regarding the shifts in viticultural potential as a result of climate change has been developed on the basis of our findings that with the changes of the multi-annual averages of the bioclimatic indices of the vineyards, their viticultural potential and implicitly, the wine types which can produce also changes. Our research fits into global concerns about the impact of climate warming on viticulture (Hannah et al., 2013, Moriondo et al., 2013, Malheiro et al., 2010) and is reflected in studies on changes in climatic suitability for viticulture at the vineyard's fine scale, such as the study regarding the Cotnari wine-growing region, as well as on at regional scale, such as the study on changes in Romania's climate suitability for viticulture. Romania is one of the world's largest wine-producing countries, the fourth largest as viticulture surface in Europe, and its millennium-old viticulture is representative of the ecological diversity of vineyards, technologies, winegrape varieties grown and types of wine production practiced, for the entire area with temperate continental climate.

Given our studies and interests, we collaborate today with scientists from different countries to study the impact of climate change on viticulture and starting with 2014 we participate in the European Life ADVICLIM project coordinated by Rennes 2 University (France), aiming to adapt European viticulture to climate change. Pilot sites of the ADVICLIM project are located in some of Europe's most important wine-growing regions, namely Bordeaux, the Loire Valley and the Rhine Valley, plus the well-known Cotnari wine-growing region in Romania and the new Sussex Rock Lodge vine area in the southern England. The evolution of the climate of the five wine-growing regions is permanently monitored by field sensors that transmit real-time data and allow, by their location, the fine-scale characterization of the climate of the vineyards and the changes that they suffer as a result of climate change. Our latest article presents the results of a study on the impact of climate change on the climate suitability for viticulture of the Cotnari wine-growing region from Romania. It is the first study in the field of viticulture climate which reveals the size of the spatial shifts occurring as a result of climate change at the vineyard scale and of the way it produces. The study shows that climate suitability for viticulture has a multi-level spatial structure and as a result of climate change, the class at the higher altitude in the area, allowing white table wine and sparkling wine production, moved above about 70 m. In the same time, in the lower area of the Cotnari region climate suitability for red wine production appeared, a new type of wine production for this northern viticultural area traditionally specialised in white wine production. It is also the first study revealing the changes in wine types production, as well as the need to adapt the winegrape varieties and their location in the area. The results provide a virtual picture of changes caused by climate change in any current viticultural area, the evolution and consequences being determined by the specific climate of the zone within which the vineyard is located. The research also concluded that the higher the altitude in the wine-growing area, the higher its possibility to adaptat to climate change, due to the possibility of shifting the climate suitability classes on elevation. Conversely, the lower the altitude, the lower the adaptation capacity of the vineyard area, it being covered successively by a new and unique class of suitability, up to exceeding the thermal limits for the production of quality wines in the area.

Liviu Mihai Irimia is an Associate Professor at the University of Agricultural Sciences of Iasi (USAMV, Iași, Romania), Department of Horticultural Technologies. His entire professional career is related to Viticulture, starting with the fact that he originate in an important wine-growing region of Romania (Husi wine-growing region) and completes his current activity as a researcher and professor in Viticulture. His expertise in Viticulture is a mix of in-depth knowledge gained through study, practical experience, scientific research and professor over 23 years (1994-2017). Graduate of the Faculty of Horticulture in Iasi USAMV (1994) with a license in the study of new Romanian grapevine varieties; manager of a vine plantation of 100 ha between 1994-2002; student of Bourgogne University (France), Institute Universitaire de Vigne et du Vin Jules Guyot (2005); PhD in Viticulture-Oenology at USAMV Iasi, Romania (2006); assistant professor and later lecturer in Viticulture - Ampelography at the USAMV Iasi, between 2002-2012; researcher in Viticulture with expertise in the study of vine training systems, GIS-based analysis of wine-growing areas and viticultural climatology.

Collaborator of CNRS France (LETG COSTEL) in the research projects JC 07-194103 TERVICLIM (2008-2012) and GICC-TERADCLIM (2011-2013); responsible for the USAMV Iasi (Romania) partner in the European project Life ADVICLIM (2014-2019) coordinated by Rennes 2 University (France); Director of the 7BG / 2016 AVEVINPERFORM (2016-2018) research project of the UEFISCDI Romania. Member of the Chaire UNESCO "Culture et Traditions du Vin" of the University of Bourgogne (France), from 2012 and member of the Romanian Society of Horticulturists from 2006. National prizes for scientific articles 2015 and 2016 and OIV Mention (2015) as co-author of the book Changement climatique et terroirs viticoles, Ed. Lavoisier Tec & Doc (France). Author of about 60 scientific papers in the field of Viticulture and of the book Biology, Ecology and Physiology of the Grapevine (2012). As a researcher, Liviu Mihai Irimia collaborates currently with personalities of world viticulture from France, Germany, England, Spain, New Zealand and USA, mainly in studying the impact of climate change on Viticulture.

Posted by in Viticulture

Science & Wine – One Month

By Paula Silva

Yesterday, Science & Wine celebrate one month of existence, and I must share my happiness with all of you. I am not a professional blogger and my intention is to share understandable scientific information about wine with really interested people, i.e., those who can follow the link or spend a couple of hours trying to learn something they don't know. When I started my only expectation was that my blog could be seen by others as an original and intelligent way of dissemination. I have a long way to run, but I am very motivated with this start. I had already had the contributions of well-known researchers, namely Daniel Del Rio, Kim Anderson, Fulvio Mattivi and Giovanni de Gaetano. The blog had almost 3000 views distributed in 59 countries, THANK YOU! In this day I decided to see what researchers are doing in wine research area. According with a search performed in Web of Science Core Collection, with “wine” as the field tag used, in last month 42 papers were published. The word cloud show keywords used by authors in the papers. Find here the list.

Posted by in Curiosities

Moderate sparkling wine consumption and its role in the modulation of oxidative stress in neurodegenerative diseases

By Paula Silva

As the population life expectancies increases, so do the number of people diagnosed with neurodegenerative diseases, which are caused by degeneration of the central nervous system (CNS). This phenomenon, which mainly affects elder individuals, occurs in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease (PD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Oxidative stress is a molecular mechanism of pathogenesis common to several neurodegenerative diseases. As other highly metabolically active cells, in neurons there is a constant production and elimination of reactive oxygen species (ROS). An unusual loss of antioxidant protection or increase in ROS can lead to its accumulation and ensuing cellular damage through oxidation of lipids and proteins. High levels of ROS can also cause nuclear DNA and RNA oxidation, which can lead to cellular dysfunction and apoptosis. Accumulated oxidative damage of DNA and RNA has been observed in AD, PD, and ALS (1).
Polyphenols display antioxidant properties (2). Red wine contains a polyphenols mixture that are responsible for health beneficial effects of moderate wine consumption, including in neurodegenerative diseases (3). Sparkling wines exhibit low polyphenol content and a low antioxidant potential in comparison to red wine (4). The beneficial effects of sparkling wine polyphenols in health are only starting to be explored. Satue-Gracia et al. (5) carried out one of the first studies in this field, using de-alcoholised Cava sparkling wines, and showed their antioxidant activity in a low-density lipoprotein system, which was positively correlated with the total phenolic content, trans-caffeic acid, coumaric acid, protocatechuic acid and quercetine-3-glucuronide.

In a further intervention study, the moderate consumption of Cava wines decreased inflammatory markers of atherosclerosis (6). Vauzour et al. (7) have also shown potential neuroprotective activity against peroxynitrile-induced injury of Champagne wine extracts at low concentrations (0.1 mg/L) that was mainly related to the tyrosol, caffeic and gallic acid content. More recently, it was shown that the hydroxycinnamates caffeic acid and p-coumaric acid, the hydroxyphenethyl alcohol, tyrosol, and a Champagne wine extract rich in these components protect neurons against injury induced by 5-S-cysteinyl-dopamine in vitro. It was also shown that the protection induced by these polyphenols was equal to or greater than that observed for the flavonoids, (+)-catechin, (-)-epicatechin and quercetin (8).
Given the wide spectrum of mechanisms involved in degeneration of neurons, I think that combinatorial approaches represent the most promising strategy for preclinical assays, so the administration of a sparkling wine polyphenol extract could present synergistic/additive interactions. In my opinion, is necessary to evaluate the effects of sparkling wine polyphenols and of polyphenolic mixture in neuron cell cultures. Also, the biochemical and histopathologic features in a rodent model(s) should be scrutinized after a polyphenolic mixture administration. Finally, to explore the use of this(ese) rodent model(s) to study neurodegenerative diseases, a cross sectional study with human samples must be used to examine the expression of oxidative stress markers to compare the results obtained in rodent samples.

(1) Neurodegenerative Disorders: Springer; 2016. p. 1-12.
(2) Current Opinion in Food Science. 2016;8:33-42.
(3) Maturitas. 2015;80(1):3-13.
(4) Food Chemistry. 2011;125(2):288-306.
(5) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 1999;47(6):2198-202.
(6) The Journal of Nutrition. 2007;137(10):2279-84.
(7) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2007;55(8):2854-60.
(8) Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. 2010;501(1):106-11.

Posted by in Health

Why wine tasters do not have oral cancer?

Why wine tasters do not have oral cancer?

By Paula Silva

I am an enthusiastic about life experiences that involve all senses, tasting wine is one of them. To learn more about it I attended the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 course. We taste a lot of different wines in three days. We taste a similar number of wines that a professional taste in a normal work day. I found myself thinking about why wine tasters do not have oral cavity cancer (OCC).

OCC is a neoplastic condition characterized by the malignant transformation of the lips, oral cavity, or oropharynx cells, and is the tenth most common malignancy in men worldwide whereas in women it is relatively rare and not ranked among the top ten. Different epidemiological studies indicate that the risk associated with OCC increases, when treated as an independent effect, in people who consume ≥30 grams of ethanol per day [1-10]. Relative risks for cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, oesophagus and larynx is around 5 for an amount around 50 g/day of ethanol [11]. These values are higher than the ones that define moderate consumption (up to 1 drink-equivalent to about 12 g of ethanol- per day in women, up to 2 in men of all types of alcoholic beverages combined) [11]. The carcinogenic effect of light/moderate drinking on the risk of developing OCC remains controversial. The consumption of 2 or less glasses/day was not associated with the risk of OCC [12, 13]. Epidemiological studies reviewed by Poli et al. [14], however, provided evidence that an increased risk for oral and pharyngeal cancer is present also at low doses of alcohol consumption.

Knowing all this, I was expecting that it was possible to found in the literature the description of cases of potential carcinogenic risk associated with occupational exposure to ethanol by ingestion, as the case of wine tasters, but in fact I did not found. It can be argued that this is not an issue, since in that case, wine is not swallowed, but mouthwashes are also not swallowed and there are many studies about their risk to OCC. In fact, since mouthwashes contain ethanol, and sometime the concentration can be as high as 26%. So, I decided to make the question to a friend of mine and well-known epidemiologist Professor Giovanni de Gaetano.

According with Professor Giovanni de Gaetano, wine can have a dual effect, since epidemiological analyses also showed a cancer-preventive effect of phenolic compounds on OCC. Professor Giovanni de Gaetano thinks that both sets of data must be considered when addressing the problem of beneficial or deleterious effects of moderate wine consumption on OCC development in humans. To the best of Professor Giovanni de Gaetano knowledge, at experimental level, some studies were carried out to explore the ethanol carcinogenic mechanisms, whereas others analysed the phenolic protective mechanisms. In the former group, in vivo biokinetic studies mainly focused on the analysis of salivary acetaldehyde. In contrast, the chemopreventive properties of phenolic compounds against oral carcinogenesis were mainly studied using in vitro and in vivo test systems. Likely, the phenolic compounds from wine mitigate the ethanol deleterious effects, decreasing the risk of OCC.

In conclusion we both agree that, although all these studies have yielded important data for understanding the mechanisms of action of either ethanol or phenolic compounds on keratinocyte cells from oral cavity, either normal or tumour cells, much remains to be studied. More adequately powered, randomized, placebo-controlled human studies as well as experimental animal models are required for a better understanding of the effect(s) of wine, particularly when consumed regularly in moderate doses, on oral cells. In conclusion, this area warrants further investigation as a new way of thinking, which is to assess the wine-specific intake risk, considering the additive/synergistic or contrasting effects of its different compounds.

Thanks Professor Giovanni de Gaetano it is always a pleasure to learn with you.

[1] Cancer. 1998;82:1367-75.

[2] Oral Oncol. 2000;36:170-4.

[3] Eur J Cancer Prev. 2013;22:268-76.

[4] Oral Oncol. 1995;31:301-9.

[5] Cancer. 1986;57:391-5.

[6] Cancer Res. 1990;50:6502-7.

[7] Cancer. 1993;72:1369-75.

[8] Cancer Res. 1989;49:4919-24.

[9] Int J Cancer. 1988;41:483-91.

[10] BMC cancer. 2014;14:187.

[11] Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 2016;26:443-67.

[12] Br J Cancer 2007;96:1469-74.

[13] ‎Eur J Cancer Prev. 2013;22:268-76.

[14] Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2013;23:487-504.


Scheme of the mechanisms by which ethanol may affect oral carcinogenesis. Ethanol is metabolized to acetaldehyde by alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1) in oral cavity, and is further oxidized to acetate by acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). ADH-mediated ethanol metabolism results in the generation of reducing equivalents in the form of reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) and acetaldehyde, whereas ethanol oxidation by CYP2E1 leads to the production of acetaldehyde, but also to the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Single nucleotide polymorphisms of ALDH2 cause the amount of production and/or oxidation of acetaldehyde to vary between individuals. Increased CYP2E1 activity not only leads to increased generation of ROS, but also to an increased activation of various environmental agents, such as the pro-carcinogens present in tobacco smoke. Ethanol may also act as a solvent for these carcinogens to enter the cell. Acetaldehyde can bind to DNA, forming stable adducts, and ROS results in lipid peroxidation products such as 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE), which binds to DNA to form mutagenic adducts. During cancer promotion, ethanol and acetaldehyde alter methyl transfer, leading to DNA hypomethylation that could change the expression of oncogenes and tumour-suppressor genes. Finally, ethanol-associated immune suppression may facilitate tumour cell spread. A composite illustration of the various clinical appearances of leukoplakia with expected underlying microscopic changes is also showed. Leukoplakia is a premalignant, precancerous, or potentially malignant lesion or condition, which means that there is an increased risk of future malignant transformation into a squamous cell carcinoma either at the site of the leukoplakia or elsewhere in the oral cavity. Lesions become progressively more “severe” toward the right, culminating in erythroleukoplakia, which most frequently demonstrate severe epithelial dysplasia and carcinoma in situ when studied histologically. It should be emphasized that the scheme does not necessarily represent a chronological change, but rather the potential presentations of leukoplakia. Homogeneous leukoplakia is a uniform, flat, thin, and white plaque, with or without fissuring and with a gradual increase of hyperkeratosis and acanthosis. Leukoplakia can also be nonhomogeneous being nodular or flat with a mixed white and red discoloration (“erythroleukoplakia”). The histopathologic features of leukoplakia may vary from hyperkeratosis with or without epithelial dysplasia to various degrees of epithelial dysplasia, carcinoma in situ, and even invasive squamous cell carcinoma.

Giovanni de Gaetano

Affiliation: IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed, Via dell’Elettronica,
86077 Pozzilli (Isernia), Italy (

MD (Rome), Hematology Specialist (Rome), PhD (Leuven), MD (honoris causa) (Debrecen, Hungary and Bialystok, Poland). Head, Department Epidemiology and Prevention, IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo NEUROMED, POZZILLI, Italy.
President Ethical Committee of Molise Region. President (1997-2007) of European Thrombosis Research Organisation (ETRO). Member of the Editorial Board of several international journals. Chairman of the first EU-funded project on wine and health (1994). Partner of different EU-funded projects. Corresponding Member “Accademia Italiana della Vite e del Vino”. Invited speaker at Pontificia Accademia delle Scienze (Vatican City): “Wine in moderation and health“(2007). Member of “Alcohol in Moderation” (AIM) and the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research (Boston University). Areas of current scientific interest: Epidemiology of risk factors for cerebrocardiovascular disease (MOLI-SANI project). Epidemiology of Mediterranean Diet, alcohol and health. Author of over 500 peer-reviewed publications (Pubmed) and editor or contributor of numerous invited book chapters. H index (Top Italian Scientists): 71. Total citations: > 20,000.

Posted by in Health

New investigations shed new light on the destiny of sulfur dioxide in wine

By Fulvio Mattivi

A series of paper released from Italian scientists are opening new doors for better understanding the chemical changes occurring in wine during ageing and offer new prospects for more precise use of SO2 in winemaking. The reaction of sulfonation could be a good news for wine lovers!

Sulfonation, the addition of a sulfonic acid group (-SO3H) to an organic compound, is a widespread industrial process used in a diverse range of products, including dyes, pigments, medicines, surfactants, pesticides and organic intermediates. Moreover, sulfonation modulates the biological activities of a wide number of chemicals, such as drugs, toxic chemicals, hormones and neurotransmitters. What do have sulfonated compounds in common? Many sulfonic acids can be isolated, stored and shipped as an article of commerce for a simple reason: they are stable! So the take home message is that free form of sulfites (sulfite, bisulfite and sulfur dioxide) are largely converted during wine ageing into their stable sulfonates, modifying the composition of wine.

In aged wines, such as Amarone, Sagrantino, Tannat, considered in this study, and in general in wines subjected to long years of ageing in the bottle, such as the reserve sparkling wines of Trento doc, or the premium vintage Port wines, which are consumed at a considerable age, a large part of sulfites are converted into several sulfonates. I suggest that people sensitive to sulfites should consider consuming in moderation some of these wines. But remember: the half-life of sulfites in humans has been estimated to be about 15 min, and the associated problems should appear within a similar time. If you experience problems several hours after lot of drinks, don’t blame sulfites: it is a hangover!

Sulfites are a group of food additives widely present in our diet. Exposure to these substances is still a matter of concern: the list of food and beverages containing them is so long that would exceed the length of this commentary. It has been estimated that wine, together with meat preparations, are the main contributors to the exposure for adults and elderly (EFSA Journal 2016, 14, 4: 4438).
Today oenologists and winemakers recognise SO2 as an indispensable additive in winemaking, able to protect wine from various unwanted reactions. The use of this additive is controlled by legal limitations, but the recommended doses lacks precision and is still unknown why very similar wines consume differently the added SO2. Indeed, in spite of the historical use of sulfites in winemaking, our knowledge of the fate of sulfites in wine was still incomplete. New understanding came from two recent studies based on the “untargeted metabolomics”.

In the first one, Arapitsas et al (Metabolomics 2014, DOI: 10.1007/s11306-014-0638-x), evaluated the chemical implications of the temperature of storage of red wines, by following the kinetics of evolution over 2 years of several Sangiovese wines aged with two different storage conditions, optimum (cellar) vs domestic (house). The resulting “global picture” regarding metabolic changes in wine during storage highlighted for the first time a temperature-dependent pathway involving the addition of bisulfite to catechins and proanthocyanidins, leading to the formation of several sulfonated flavanols. This reaction was later reproduced in laboratory, leading to the discovery that wine sulfonated flavanols are hydrophilic compounds with increased solubility as compared to free flavanols, which can be produced also via cleavage of larger oligomers, the tannins. This reaction has peculiar sterical requirements, so that the main end-products isolated and structurally characterized were epicatechin 4β-sulfonate and procyanidin B2 4β-sulfonate (Mattivi et al, ACS Book Chapter 2015 DOI: 10.1021/bk-2015-1203.ch003).

The second study (Arapitsas et al., Journal of Chromatography A 2016, DOI: 10.1016/j.chroma.2015.12.010 ) focused on the fate of sulfites in white wines. Discovering, via untargeted metabolomics, the formation in wine of various sulfonated compounds: the S-sulfonated derivatives of cysteine, glutathione and pantetheine, and the sulfonated indole-3-lactic acid hexoside and tryptophol. Interestingly, the consumption of SO2 was promoted by the presence of higher levels of oxygen on bottling.

Finally, the journal Scientific Reports recently published the results of a third, “targeted” study conducted by a research team of Fondazione Edmund Mach and University of Trento (Arapitsas et al., DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-19185-5). This study developed a new quantitative method, used to evaluate the importance of these reactions according to the different wine style and age.
The study published in Scientific Reports demonstrated that the quality of aged premium wines, as we know them today, is highly influenced by the addition of SO2. A very slow reaction between SO2 and wine tannins, thus the major responsible for the wine body, give products that highly characterised the chemical fingerprint of long aged red wines. Such a reaction could be co-responsible for the smoothing of very aggressive young red wines, even if this remains to be proved in the future.
Differently, white and sparkling wines were characterised by a relative fast reaction between SO2 and catabolites of the pathway of the amino acid tryptophan (a.k.a. indoles). These metabolites, with great concentrations in wines, could be responsible for the known phenomenon (among winemakers) that some wines unexpectedly need bigger doses. The same sulfonated metabolites could also influence the aromatic character of the wines.

Fulvio Mattivi (Italy) His main research activity concerned food and wine chemistry, investigating the different classes of polyphenols under the analytical, technological and nutritional point of view. After establishing in 2009 a state-of-the-art MS-based laboratory of metabolomics, where applications are developed spanning from plant extracts to biofluids, his research interests moved towards the search of biomarkers in food chemistry and human nutrition. He co-authored 150 research articles and 2 international patents. He is currently full professor of Food Chemistry at the Center Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE) of the University of Trento and affiliated to the Research and Innovation Centre of Fondazione Edmund Mach in San Michele all'Adige.

Posted by in Chemistry, Enology, Food Science and Technology