The Enosis Research Center: Where Wine Speaks
By: Olga Sgibneva
The Enosis research center in Piedmont, Italy, is a project created by the renowned modern enologist Donato Lanati. At times, Mr. Lanati is reminiscent of a scientist from a sci-fi movie with his audacious experiments. The only difference is that he actually achieves these impressive results in real life. Donato Lanati has dedicated his entire life to the sublime ritual of winemaking and adapting traditions to the ever-changing modern environment.
The cornerstone of the center’s philosophy is that the grape berry epitomizes the power of nature and the character of the earth and tradition. Donato Lanati is curious like a child and wise like a scientist in his use of modern technologies and innovations to highlight the character of a location and represent it in wine, using all available knowledge about the grapes and their components. The Enosis laboratory achieves impressive results thanks to the latest techniques and high-tech devices, many of which have been developed by Mr. Lanati and his team.
Mr. Lanati, Founder of the Enosis Center
In the very heart of Piedmont, surrounded by gentle slopes, lies the village of Meraviglia (Italian for «wonder, miracle»). It is home to the famous Enosis research center, with its laboratory, wine caves and cellars built inside a hill, and vineyards used by scientists to study 37 autochthonous Italian grape varieties. It also hosts training, tasting sessions, and a range of other activities aimed at explaining fairly complex subjects in an elegant, easy-to-understand, and illustrative manner.
The center’s work is devoted to the in-depth and comprehensive study of grapes’ potential. The center studies the biochemical processes that occur in wine at all stages—from growing grapes to a glass of wine. Its experts study the possibility of consciously managing every aspect of the winemaking process in order to create wine with guaranteed characteristics and quality.
The founder of the Enosis research center, Donato Lanati, is a respected and world-famous scientist, professor, and winner of international winemaking awards. Lanati graduated from the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Turin where he now serves as a professor. Mr. Lanati was awarded the Wine Oscar in 2015. He is an active member of the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) and a consulting enologist for numerous wine estates in Italy and other countries.
Enosis was founded over 25 years ago by one of the most open-minded, curious, and audacious enologists in the world. They say Donato Lanati can sense even the subtlest nuances of wine. He never stops at just making «good» wine. His interest is in scientifically understanding how and why wine has so many different tones of flavor and aroma.
The Center’s Research Work
Numerous studies conducted by Enosis confirm that the flavor of wine is determined by the molecules of grape berries. This means that a harmonious wine comes from a harmony of berry molecules. The center’s scientists are focused on the search for this harmony. They strive to find a correlation between molecular composition and the grape varieties, soil, climate, vine growing conditions, metabolic and enzyme processes that occur in berries during ripening and wine production.
Understanding the molecules makes it possible to develop the perfect formula for expanding and activating the organoleptic characteristics of grapes. It gives a significant advantage to winemakers by letting them know what kinds of characteristics the wine will have, whether or not it will become something outstanding, and how to achieve that.
The center has an interesting approach to wine, aiming to present it as a cultural object from a certain area. To Enosis, wine isn’t just a drink, it’s a cultural space and a taste of that culture. Their goal is to spark an interest in the culture and traditions of a winemaking region every time someone holds a glass of that wine in their hands. The key components are the memory of the vines, the character of the soil and the power reflected in the grape molecules. All of these form a wine map of sorts.
Lanati is convinced that every bottle of wine can be read like a map, or «a set of fingerprints,» as professor and Nobel Prize winner Tomas Lindahl put it when visiting the center. A wine’s map includes the history of its harvest, the climate, the health, and quality of the soil. It’s like a DNA profile of an area, imprinted in the memory of grapes and reflected in the molecules of berries.
Each berry consists of skin, flesh (pulp), and seeds that accumulate different elements in different quantities based on the genetics of the specific grape variety and the location where the vine is growing.
Skins contain a variety of elements: tannins of different forms are responsible for the wine’s structure, anthocyanins determine the color of the wine, aromatic and other compounds (hydroxycinnamic acids, stilbenes, phenolic acids) affect the bouquet and the protective qualities of the berries (e.g., antioxidants such as resveratrol). Seeds accumulate tannins in monomeric forms (oligomeric and polymeric compounds, so-called procyanidins). However, the structures of procyanidins in skins and seeds are different, depending on the nature of the monomeric forms they’re composed of, the degree of reaction to gallic acid, and the level of polymerization of the entire molecule. Seed tannins bear more bitterness, and skin tannins provide astringency. Vacuoles of pulp cells accumulate hydroxycinnamic acids that determine the presence of aromatic substances in the wine.
The study of wine maps has led Enosis researchers to conclude that the organoleptic characteristics of a wine are related to the chemical composition of the molecule as created by nature, not by humans. The taste of a wine is determined by its molecules, and its health is determined by the level of antioxidants. The processes that occur in wine are, in a way, similar to the processes that occur in the human body. A knowledge of chemical processes allows winemakers to produce wine of a required quality in a natural environment and in line with the region’s traditions. Such knowledge makes it possible not only to replicate successful results but to replicate the process again and again, guaranteeing specific characteristics and quality in the wine.
The Enosis Laboratory
The center is a vision of the future, a space laboratory working to express the invisible in a glass of wine. The lab team studies how a bouquet moves inside a glass, the causes of that movement, and what affects it. The color of a wine is the first thing that draws your attention to it, but the glass hides a huge, invisible world of movement and transformations of aroma and flavor. To fully reveal the taste and enjoy all the sensory aspects of wine, Donato Lanati has invented the wonderful Meraviglia wine glass, whose central protrusion can capture and retain aromas and resembles one of Saturn’s rings.
We each have our own «memory»—a library for recording aromas that we use to decipher a wine’s taste. But our memories can get mixed up, causing our perception of a flavor to become personal. For that reason as well as assessing wine by taste, the lab also uses special equipment to break down the entire spectrum of flavor.
Mr. Lanati is an inexhaustible source of scientific creativity. Under his guidance, and in collaboration with Gimar Tecno di Occimiano, scientists have created the special Genesis fermenter. The fermenter uses technologies that help program the maceration process, the temperature, the duration of contact with grape skins, oxidation processes, and many other aspects of winemaking. Together, these help achieve the final goal of creating voluminous unblended wine that reflects the specifics of its terroir. The fermenter can accommodate 200 kg of grapes and produce 100 liters of wine ready to achieve perfection. Genesis has been used successfully by a number of leading wine estates in Piedmont that produce wines with excellent aging potential.
The center studies the secondary metabolites of grapes—that is, phenolic compounds—compounds of an aromatic nature, alkaloids, and terpenoids (used by plants for protection purposes). They also study free and uncomplexed aromatic compounds, natural antioxidants, and the stability of polyphenolic compounds.
Based on the results of the studies, the center provides wine estates with services such as terroir assessment, selection of the most suitable grape varieties, and the creation of wineries and laboratories for monitoring the quality of the wine in production. They document production technology, devise procedures for the entire winemaking process (including the distribution of activities between different specialists), and provide staff training.
There is also the option to link the Enosis lab to the wine production process online to ensure control over the production of each bottle. This helps not only guarantee the quality of the wine for the lab’s clients but also conduct rapid analysis of any emerging problems and find adequate solutions. One example of successful collaboration is the partnership between the Enosis center and the Georgian company Badagoni, which boasts one of the most advanced production facilities and labs in Europe. Badagoni employs the services of the Enosis center to perform quality control on its wine.
The research conducted by Enosis has become even more crucial in light of global climate change. Modern winemakers know that the experiences of the last 2,000 years are no longer enough. Hot weather causes stress in berries and blocks electric charge, which leads to higher sugar concentrations. As a result, wines start losing their distinct colors and become richer and more concentrated. This poses a particular threat to elegant wines. Enosis is looking at new approaches to cultivating delicate autochthonous grape varieties as well as changing approaches to oxidation in barrels and providing shade for berries. Scientists are also changing the frequency of vine pruning in order to accelerate harvest times and increase access to water.
Each wine culture has its own most valuable and promising grape varieties that Donato Lanati has suggested banking on in the future. He says that Mavrud is faithful and loyal to the traditions and land of Bulgaria, and that Saperavi is a Georgian treasure and a well of polyphenols and anthocyanins. In Piedmont, he has highlighted Albarossa—a little-known red grape variety cultivated in 1938 by crossing Barbera with Nebbiolo di Dronero. Albarossa prefers dry limestone soil and sunny hills. Its berries are rich in sugars, anthocyanins, and tannins; they develop a balanced acidity and ripen late. They are a wonderful option to study and use in a changing environment.
Wonderful people create wonderful things, and Enosis is one such thing in the world of wine. Maestro Lanati’s creation utilizes modern technologies for the benefit of nature and centuries-old traditions.