Ask Wine Wizard

Gum Arabic


Sam Mainard — Elk Grove, California asks,

Every year before harvest I get a winemaking product catalog from various wine industry suppliers like Laffort, Enartis, and AEB USA, and they have quite the bewildering array of tannins, additives, and all sorts of things they claim will improve your wine. My neighbor has used gum arabic for a couple of years and swears it improves his white and red wines. Could you please tell me a little bit about what it is, how to use it and what it might do for my wines? I typically make Cabernet Sauvignon and a little bit of Chardonnay, all dry, all barrel-aged for at least one year.

Here goes some gum arabic info . . . I was first introduced to it at Bonny Doon when Randall Grahm brought it back from one of his jaunts to France, around 1999 or so. We did extensive bench trials with it in many of the Bonny Doon wines, and in some cases chose to add it to reds and whites alike. Gum arabic was first introduced in France’s wine industry (at least 75 years ago, I believe) as a bid to help improve tartrate stability. Not “another chemical” to add to wine, it’s an entirely natural product that comes from trees! Gum arabic, also known as gum acacia or Arabinol®, is a naturally-occurring large carbohydrate molecule polymer extracted from the sap of two specific species of African Acacia trees: A. senegal and A. seyal. In the case of gum arabic, the polymer is highly branched, consisting of arabinose, rhamnose, and galactose. The long polysaccharides contained in gum arabic products act as colloid protectors, which will prevent and slow down the reactivity of different molecules. It’s been used for centuries
Response by Alison Crowe.