The science of complexity

Apertura_portaleFrom July 14th to 17th 2015, the ninth edition of the International Conference In Vino Analytica Scientia (IVAS2015) will take place in Trentino-Alto Adige, for the first time in Italy.
At the close of the deadline for submitting the contributions (January 2015), we made the point and got some previews concerning different topics and news by Fulvio Mattivi, responsible person of Dipartimento di Qualità Alimentare e Nutrizione (Department of Food Quality and Nutrition) of Centro Ricerca e Innovazione (Centre for Research and Innovation) of the Foundation Edmund Mach at San Michele all’Adige (TN, Trentino). Fulvio Mattivi is director of the organizing committee of the Meeting alongside with Peter Robatscher of the Experimental Station at Laimburg (BZ).

290 contributions from 26 Countries

In Vino Analytica Scientia is the only scientific event of international level that specifically deals with all the themes concerning analytical chemistry applied to grapes, wine, and spirits.
Fulvio Mattivi says: “The subscriptions have exceeded all expectations, with a number of 290 contributions from 26 different Countries. All universities that play an important role in the domain of analytical chemistry are represented. Among the presented proposals, the contributions coming from such European Countries as Italy, France, Spain, Germany and Portugal clearly prevail, but we also received many contributions from Australia, New Zealand, USA, and South Africa. Contributions coming from Central European Countries are also present, not only from Germany, but also from Slovenia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, as well as from South America (Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Argentina), and finally from Lebanon, Pakistan, and Philippines“.

Metabolomics in the spotlight

Mattivi, one among the first researchers who have applied the metabolomic approach to oenology, explains: “The session characterized by the most important news is the one concerning metabolomics, chemometrics, and authenticity of the products. These are new disciplines for oenology, which offer important opportunities and, as they produce the so-called “Big Data” (with database consisting of terabytes of data), they need statistical analysis tools and appropriate data-mining. An experiment of metabolomics where thousands of compounds are examined is more complex in itself than what happens in a research where a few tens of compounds are considered, but this complexity needs to be managed, and therefore a little at a time packages, guidelines, and best practices are being created that allow to have a guarantee as for time and quality. Another important aspect is related to the opportunity of publishing and making available to the scientific community the data that have been processed, in order to allow a third party to process them independently and make their own considerations, for instance checking the validity of the processing or conclusions, or validating an alternative idea or a different system or algorithm in order to process them. All this is carried out with a dual objective: to avoid throwing away the acquired data that contain not yet used information, and at the same time to make as transparent as possible both interpretations and results which were obtained“.
In order to overcome these difficulties, Edmund Mach Foundation has developed a set of open source tools, software, guidelines, and packages for quality control of data, useful for those who, beginning from the setting of the experimental design to the publication of data in a public International database, want to properly enter the world of metabolomics. All this will be presented in a workshop at the opening of the Meeting.

Science and technology are closer and closer

The results of researches concerning the composition of the different products allow quicker and quicker explanation of the wine-making process. In recent years, transfer times between research and application have been greatly reduced and impose to the operators who work in the wineries, too, to keep up to date as for scientific developments.
For example, a compound which until a few years ago was almost unknown, glutathione, has become very important in the explanation of such fundamental phenomena as oxidative evolution of wines and musts, and many methods have been developed for its assessment as well as for the interpretation of such key concepts as potential in glutathione.
Mattivi, anticipating one of the possible contents of the meeting which will take place in July, says: “Another open issue on which the researchers are working is the exposure of the wines to the light, as well as to oxygen. There are some very interesting developments, such as the ones developed by Australians researchers on reactions which involve complexes between metals and organic acids in intercepting the light and generate oxidative reactions that will then impact on the quality of wine“.

Managing complexity

Mattivi continues: “In the decade we are living, oenology is radically changing. We are finding that the compounds that were neglected because they were not known, and therefore were not described in the current theories that explain the quality of the wine, are about 80% of the present ones. For example, with our research group we found that in the headspace of Trento Doc, 1,700 volatile compounds are present. Even assuming that many of these compounds may be negligible, this result opens to a completely unexplored complexity in the interpretation of a series of phenomena: from physiology of the plant, to zoning and relationships between the plant and its environment, effect of the two fermentations, aging on yeasts. By considering 1,700 compounds we have much more complex answers than the traditional ones. Traditionally, this meeting pays great attention to the sector of high quality sparkling wines, which at present is arousing wide interest all over the world“.
Will this complexity also help to explain the relationship between the composition of wines and sensory perception?
There are German researches (Krautwurst) concerning the physiology of human smell in which the Authors were able to decode more than 400 specific receptors. Knowing that some compounds are associated with specific receptors will help us in the future to classify and correlate the composition with the induced effect on the feelings of pleasure or annoyance. There are more than 400 specific receptors for such wines as sparkling ones, in which more than 1,000 volatile compounds are always present. We are still faced with changes which explain the complexity with large numbers, and that could lead to interesting conclusions, perhaps to understand how sommeliers and wine tasters seem able to empirically recognize and describe a long list of feelings in a complex wine“.

(in box) 

Sessions and invited speakers

The conference includes five sessions, two of which concern chemical analysis and composition of grapes, wines and spirits, one is related to chemical and biochemical reactions, one considers chemometrics and metabolomics, and a final one concerns sensory analysis. These sessions are introduced by seven Invited Speakers chosen from scientists who boast recognised international stature in the treated disciplines. We can anticipate their names: Victor de Freitas (University of Porto, Portugal), Silvia Maria Rocha (University of Aveiro, Portugal), Aaron Fait (Ben Gurion University, Israel), Begoña Bartolome (Institute of Food Science Research, Spain), Vladimir Shulaev (University of North Texas, Denton, USA), Dietmar Krautwurst (Leibnitz Institute, Freising, Germany), and Mario Pezzotti (University of Verona). 

(article by Alessandra Biondi Bartolini)

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