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Rotundone: the science behind ‘pepper’ in wine

With some wines, you could be forgiven for thinking someone had sneakily ground some pepper into your glass. But there’s very good reason for it, says Matt Walls...

What’s your favourite smell? For some it’s newly mown grass; for others, sizzling bacon. For me, it’s freshly ground black pepper. I still remember the first time someone drew my attention to its aroma in a glass of Rhône Syrah; since then I’ve been insatiable. But it’s not just that Syrah occasionally smells like black pepper – Syrah grapes contain the exact same flavour compound that you find in peppercorns, and it survives the fermentation process to end up in your glass. It’s a chemical called rotundone and its fascinating properties have only recently come to light.


Scroll down for Matt’s pick of six wines for a taste of pepper


 


See Matt’s pick of six wines for a taste of pepper


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