What is rotundone?

A. The name of the racking system used to barrel-ferment red wines by rotating the barrels on mechanical arms

B. The compound that makes some wines taste peppery

C. The step in the process of disgorging Champagne when the temporary crown cap is pulled off by what looks like a round bottle opener

D. A type of Burgundy barrel with an especially deep bilge for extended lees contact


Rotundone (row-TUND-own) just might make you think someone had surreptitiously ground up some black pepper into your glass. The compound—often (but not always) found in the syrahs of France’s Rhône Valley and the shirazes of Australia—is the exact same compound that exists in peppercorns.  It can be found in grapes themselves and survives the fermentation process. Syrah/shiraz is of course famous/notorious for the black and/or white pepper aroma and flavor, but rotundone can also occasionally be found in pinot noir, gamay, durif, schioppettino and the white grape grüner veltliner, among others. The compound was discovered by the Australian Wine Research Institute in 2005.

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