What is you first thought when you hear the word "alcohol"? Undoubtedly it is connected in some way to ethanol, as contained in alcoholic drinks.
The effects of ethanol consumption have been known and used for thousands of years. This is unsurprising since ethanol is naturally produced by the fermentation of carbohydrates. For example, the addition of yeast to an aqueous sugar solution leads to the evolution of CO2 and the formation of ethanol.
C6H12O6 (aq) 2CH3CH2OH (aq) + 2CO2 (g)
Ethanol is a member of a large family of compounds called Alcohols. These compounds have a carbon backbone with the functional group OH (hydoxy) attached. Alcohols are abundant in nature and varied in structure. Simple alcohols are used as solvents, others in the syntesis of more complex molecules.
Alcohols have a wide range of uses. This table describes just a few of them.
|Methanol||By destructive distillation of wood. Also by synthesis from hydrogen and carbon monoxide under high pressure.||Solvent for fats oils and resins. Manufacture of dyes, antifreeze and plastics|
|Ethanol||By fermentation of sugar or starch. Synthesis from ethene or ethyne. Direct hydration of ethene.||Solvent for paints, glues, pharmaceuticals and explosives.|
|Propan-2-ol||By hydration of propene form cracked gases. Also as by-product of certain fermentation processes.||Solvent for oils. Making propanone, antiseptic solutions and soap.|
|2-methylpropan-2-ol||By hydration of methylpropene||In perfume making. As wetting agent in detergents. Solvent for drugs and cleaning compounds.|
|Cyclohexanol||By catalytic hydrogenation of phenol. By catalytic air oxidation of cyclohexane.||Intermediate in making chemicals used in nylon manufacture.|
"The peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learnt to cultivate the olive and the vine."
--Thucydides, Greek Historian, 5th Century BC
Throughout time, wine has had a special influence on western culture, a sentiment which is evidenced in the above quote. From its earliest development, wine has had a special place in our customs, diet and social gatherings. From France to Australia, wine is produced and enjoyed in large quantities. Few areas of the world remain untouched by its many virtues. The growth of wine's popularity closely resembles the development of the western world. As the wine trade began to spread throughout the world, western civilization also advanced and grew. This is evident throughout the study of wine's history and diversification. In today's modern world wine is widely discussed and consumed globally. The wine industry has undergone a massive boom in the last few decades resulting in many varieties of wine from which to choose. This boom should continue into the near future as we discover even more technologies and benefits that wine brings us.
"I think wine has taken over from the toys of the old days like watches and cars. Wine shows you have money, but it also shows you have taste."
From the History of Wine website
"Organic Chemistry - Structure and Function 3rd Ed." -- Vollhardt and Schore
"Encarta 98 Encyclopedia" -- Microsoft
"History-of-wine.com" -- W3Commerce Ltd.
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