Lightstrike

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

lightstrike, known as goût de lumière in French, is the damaging effect that light at short wavelengths in the ultraviolet and blue end of the spectrum can have on wine, as well as products such as beer and milk. The light provokes a chemical reaction with riboflavin and amino acids in the wine, resulting in malodorous sulfur-related compounds such as dimethyl disulfide (DMDS) and methanethiol, which smell variously of cardboard, garlic, and cooked cabbage. White wines in clear bottles exposed to artificial light, particularly fluorescent light, even for a relatively short period of time, are the most likely to be affected, although bright daylight is equally damaging. Sodium lighting is often used in cellars in Champagne for this reason. Green glass is better than clear but not as good as amber, and red wines are less likely to be affected because phenolics, especially tannins, help to protect the wine. Coating or sleeving the bottle is another solution but again adds to the production costs. Some champagne producers such as Roederer protect their best bottles by wrapping them in amber-coloured cellophane. Reducing the intensity and changing the direction of shop lighting would be a much cheaper solution but harder to control. Research by the civc is trying to identify an LED light that excludes those wavelengths that cause lightstrike.