Athabasca University professor Dietmar Kennepohl explains some of the surprising chemistry behind the pairing of wine and cheese.

Athabasca University professor Dietmar Kennepohl explains some of the surprising chemistry behind the pairing of wine and cheese. Photo credit: Lucio Gelmini

About 100 people attended the annual Café CIC public lecture held at Concordia University College of Alberta in Edmonton this past March. This year’s topic was the Art, History and Chemistry of Wine, presented by Athabasca University chemistry professor Dietmar Kennepohl, FCIC, and organized by Concordia University College chemistry professor John Woollard and the Edmonton CIC Local Section. The evening was a blend of science, art and humour, with musical interludes on the piano by Marion Kubke as well as the much-anticipated, practical laboratory component where six different wines and three cheeses were sampled and analyzed by the audience. 

The presentation touched on such topics as the fermentation process and the infamous French paradox. How do the French manage to stay slim while enjoying chocolate, wine, cheese and bread while maintaining low rates of cardiovascular disease despite consuming large amounts of saturated fats? Kennepohl also discussed bottle shapes, bubbles in Champagne wine and the seemingly mysterious process of wine tasting. Exploring the world of wine throughout the ages did raise some surprising chemistry questions behind this popular beverage. How can fermented grape juice smell like roses and taste like fruits? Why did the ancient Romans prefer to drink wine from lead vessels? 

Café CIC topics over the past five years have included the chemistry of chocolate, wine, beer, tea, coffee, Scotch whisky and cheese. This signature event is a relaxed evening get-together that provides the opportunity to showcase the chemical sciences in a fun and entertaining way. Check out the CIC Edmonton section video on organizing and running your own Café CIC at: http://cicedmonton.org/making-of-cafe-cic/.