Friday, August 11, 2017

Port wine and tea

To continue my exploration of tea through library searches, came across a paper on the flavor chemicals in port wine... (don't ask how this paper came up when I searched for wonders about search algorithms sometimes!..not that I'm complaining: this paper on port wine was fascinating.*)

Although I don't drink alcohol for genetic/metabolic reasons (I can't detoxify alcohol's poisonous metabolite, actealdehyde) I have been fond of the flavor of certain alcoholic beverages, including port. Now I know why.

A glass of port, photo by Jon Sullivan that was a featured picture on Wikimedia Commons (Featured pictures) and was considered one of the finest images. 
A key step in the making of port is the addition of a wine-derived spirit called "aguardente" (burning water) obtained by distillation. This distillate increases the alcohol content of the port, but also contributes a number of volatile compounds to port's flavor.

Among these compounds are ones that make green tea so refreshing by activating the cool receptor TRPM8: 
- linalool, found in all teas, but dominating green tea, with its fresh flowery/citrus aroma;
- geraniol, found in geraniums (as its name implies) and in roses as well as all teas, which contributes a peach-like nuance; and  
- (Z)-3-hexen-1-ol, which contributes a grassy note to green tea, and in addition a slight pungency due to activation of TRPA1.

A couple of other flowery compounds in aguardente are more characteristic of oolongs and black teas, including: 
- beta-damascenone, the name of which derives from Damask roses, which has a more musty quality than many of the other rose-related scents in tea, probably from its ability to activate the warm (TRPV3) and hot (TRPV1) receptors; and
- benzaldehyde, which contributes a sweet, nutty, cherry/almond note to oolongs in particular (also an activator of TRPV3). 

So the next time you have a glass of port, look for the flavors of your favorite tea, and vice versa!


Just a reminder: if you would like a compilation of knowledge about tea flavors, their sources and their effects on nose, mouth, and brain, you can find it in my book: "Three Basic Teas & How to Enjoy Them," by Virginia Utermohlen Lovelace, available on Amazon.

Rogerson, F.S.S. and De Freitas, V.A.P. (2002), Fortification Spirit, a Contributor to the Aroma Complexity of Port. Journal of Food Science, 67: 1564–1569. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2621.2002.tb10323.x

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