Amino acids are the fundamental building components of proteins, which are required by all living systems. Twenty amino acids are important in the formation of thousands of proteins in living materials. Enzymes are proteins that function as catalysts for particular biological reactions.

Nitrogen-containing substances comprise up 1 g/l of juice in mature grapes, with amino acids accounting for almost half of that. Proline, arginine, and glutamic acid are the most frequent amino acids found in vines.

The amounts of amino acids increase during grape ripening, particularly arginine and proline; if the fruit is exposed to light, proline increases more than arginine. High arginine concentrations in wine are a risk due to the development of the carcinogen urethane (ethyl carbamate) from nitrogen-rich soils.

Yeasts can produce all of the amino acids they need, but they will also consume intact amino acids from their surroundings if they are accessible. As a result of the nitrogen metabolism of the yeast cells living in grape juice, fusel oils are generated in wine. If the wine is left in the presence of lees or dead yeast cells after fermentation, yeast proteins break down, secreting smaller peptide units and amino acids into the wine.

The inclusion of yeast breakdown components, peptides, and amino acids contributes to the unique flavor of bottle fermented sparkling wines.

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