Discovering the secrets of soft drinks: what is gum arabic (aka “acacia gum”)
December 23, 2023
Whenever we buy and taste a beverage or some food, we do it because we are attracted by their distinctive qualities and pleasant taste. However, it is not always possible to achieve this pleasantness through a completely natural product transformation process. Let us consider the example of wine: if it were bottled in its original form, without the use of substances to enhance its taste and characteristics, the result would probably not be very appetising. With the passing of time, the techniques used in the production of wine have become more and more sophisticated, and with them the use of natural products that soften the raw flavour of the must, making the wine much more palatable, has also grown.
It is important to stress that we are not referring to chemical additives, but rather to naturally occurring elements that, once purified and properly treated, can be transformed into effective natural taste improvers. Among these, gum arabic powder stands out particularly in the winemaking process.
What is gum arabic
Gum arabic is commonly found in nature. It is a kind of resin that naturally exudes from the trunk of the maple tree and tends to crystallise very quickly.
These trees are widespread in sub-Saharan Africa and tend to produce this highly prized and sought-after gum in the fields of food and agriculture, when the plant is subjected to stress. This occurs, for example, after heavy rains, following periods of great drought or when the plants become old and natural cracks form in the bark. It is precisely from older plants that large quantities of gum arabic are obtained.
Gum Arabic is harvested, purified and marketed for various uses in the food industry due to its many properties. These make it possible to:
prevent sugars from crystallising;
give greater stability to the foam;
keep the aromas of a food unaltered and make it last longer.
Gum arabic in wine
Just as in the food industry, gum arabic is used in the art of wine-making to ensure the stability of wine.
This ingredient, known for its strong emulsifying and thickening effect, clearly modifies the fluidity of wine, but its main action is on precipitation. Gum Arabic is used as a stabilising agent in the delicate pre-bottling phase, proving to be a valuable ally in the wine ageing process, as it brings a distinctive softness to the finished beverage.
During the ageing phase, the wine may undergo changes that can lead to a slight opacity, affecting the colour and clarity of the product. Proteins, metals and polyphenols, naturally present in wine, can cause unwanted precipitation, compromising the quality of the wine even after bottling. Through the use of gum arabic, such phenomena can be effectively prevented.
In addition, gum arabic has a significant impact on the flavour profile of wine. It moderates the astringency of the tannins, a characteristic that is often too pronounced in some wines with a high tannin content, thus making the wine more velvety and palatable.
In the light of these considerations, it becomes clear that taste improvers, such as gum arabic, play a fundamental and irreplaceable role in the beverage production process, enhancing quality and the final taste experience.
The addition of natural additives in beverage and food production should not be viewed by the consumer public with suspicion or as an attempt to manipulate the raw material. On the contrary, this practice allows the distinctive qualities of such products to be improved and enhanced. Thanks to these additives, it is possible to achieve a richer and more palatable taste, which otherwise, by rigidly adhering to an overly puritanical approach, might not be achievable.
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