Aromatic maturity is a cornerstone of terroir expression in red wine

Harvesting grapes at adequate maturity is key to the production of high-quality red wines. Enologists and wine makers define several types of maturity, including technical maturity, phenolic maturity and aromatic maturity. Technical maturity and phenolic maturity are relatively well documented in the scientific literature, while articles on aromatic maturity are scarcer. This is surprising, because aromatic maturity is, without a doubt, the most important of the three in determining wine quality and typicity (including terroir expression). Optimal terroir expression can be obtained when the different types of maturity are reached at the same time, or within a short time frame. This is more likely to occur when the ripening takes place under mild temperatures, neither too cool, nor too hot. Aromatic expression in wine can be driven, from low to high maturity, by green, herbal, fresh fruit, ripe fruit, jammy fruit, candied fruit or cooked fruit aromas. Green and cooked fruit aromas are not desirable in red wines, while the levels of other aromatic compounds contribute to the typicity of the wine in relation to its origin. Wines produced in cool climates, or on cool soils in temperate climates, are likely to express herbal or fresh fruit aromas; while wines produced under warm climates, or on warm soils in temperate climates, may express ripe fruit, jammy fruit or candied fruit aromas. Growers can optimize terroir expression through their choice of grapevine variety. Early ripening varieties perform better in cool climates and late ripening varieties in warm climates. Additionally, maturity can be advanced or delayed by different canopy management practices or training systems.

Authors: Cornelis van Leeuwen1, Jean-Christophe Barbe2, Philippe Darriet2, Agnès Destrac-Irvine1, Marc Gowdy1, Georgia Lytra2, Axel Marchal2, Stéphanie Marchand2, Marc Plantevin2, Xavier Poitou3, Alexandre Pons2,4, Gilles de Revel2 and Cécile Thibon2

1EGFV, Univ. Bordeaux, Bordeaux Sciences Agro, INRAE, ISVV, Villenave d’Ornon, France
2
Unité de recherche Œnologie, EA 4577, USC 1366 INRAE, Univ. Bordeaux, ISVV, Villenave d’Ornon France
3Jas Hennessy, Cognac, France
4Tonnellerie Seguin-Moreau, Cognac, France

Email: vanleeuwen@agro-bordeaux.fr

Keywords: Vitis vinifera, grapevine, maturity, aroma, terroir

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