Monday, 7 January 2008

What Makes the Smells in Wine?

A group of researchers at the University of Zaragoza in Spain have been trying to find out which chemicals cause the smells in wine, and they have made an important break though recently.
Wine is such a complex mix of ingredient chemicals that it is not as simple as just separating the different chemicals and smelling them. This is because the chemicals actually interact with one another to either enhance or suppress certain smells.

Ferreira and colleagues carried out experiments studying (and smelling) 5 high quality, aged red wines. The aim was to identify the compounds most likely to be involved in their 'aroma profiles'.

In previous work, Ferreira's team had discovered esters responsible for wine's berry fruit flavours, but what they discovered in this new study added a surprising new dimension to their findings. Adding these fruity compounds to their wine made no perceptible difference to the aroma. Their continued study revealed that other ingredients suppressed or enhanced these flavours, controlling whether they could be detected by the human nose.

While ethanol has a strong suppressing effect on fruity odour, woody smelling hydrocarbons interact with the esters to boost it. 'This shows, for the first time, the importance of the interaction between these chemicals,' said Ferreira. 'We already knew that ethanol inhibits fruity flavours, but we have now pinpointed other chemicals that enhance it. This opens a whole new prospect, allowing us to measure these compounds and evaluate how fruity a wine will be once it has aged.'

I just hope that this research does not lead to artificially produced or enhanced wines!

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