Definition - What does Volatile mean?

In the context of winemaking, volatile refers to the specific acids that can spoil or sour a wine, turning it to vinegar or even worse, solvent. The volatile acids that can spoil wine are:

  • Acetic acids, which has an aroma of and tastes like vinegar
  • Ethyl acetate, which has a solvent nail polish remover aroma and taste.

Neither of these volatile acids bring a welcome addition to any wine.

WineFrog explains Volatile

While the term volatile itself refers to an unexplained outburst, wine makers often know what triggers the volatile acids in wine to take over and spoil the wine, and the problem is easier to prevent than it is to fix.

Wine makers can test the volatile acidity levels of wine throughout the wine making process to ensure that wine has low levels of volatile acids. An overtake of volatile acids usually occurs when there is an over exposure to oxygen or improper sulfur dioxide management, which along with temperature control and sanitation is the best way to avoid the problem.

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