Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

alcohols, those organic chemicals, the simplest members of which consist of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms arranged so that there is an –OH group present. Many different alcohols are used in commerce and industry but the most common is ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, the alcohol that is the important, and intoxicating, ingredient in wines and spirits. The presence of ethanol in foods and beverages, commonly referred to simply as ‘alcohol’, is the product of yeast fermentation of natural sugars.

Other alcohols with more than two carbon atoms of ethanol are also the product of fermentation and these are sometimes called higher alcohols, or fusel oils. The higher alcohols separated from ethanol by distillation are normally used as solvents in industrial processes. The major constituent of higher alcohols or fusel oils is the five-carbon isoamyl alcohol.