Wine odors: chemicals, physicochemical and perceptive processes involved in their perception
The odors of wines are diverse, complex and dynamic and much research has been devoted to the understanding of their chemical bases. However, while the “basic” chemical part of the problem, namely the identity of the chemicals responsible for the different odor nuances, was satisfactorily solved years ago, there are some relevant questions precluding a clear understanding. These questions are related to the physicochemical interactions determining the effective volatilities of the odorants and, particularly, to the perceptual interactions between different odor molecules affecting in different ways to the final sensory outputs.
The understanding of perceptual interactions has been delayed to a large extent by the common misunderstanding that odorants and odors are the same thing. Odorants are, however, chemical entities -volatile molecules- able to impact the olfactory receptors, while odors are the sensory experiences encoded by odorants. A significant part of the code is nowadays known, and can be explained in terms of odor x odor interactions. These interactions can be competitive, cooperative, destructive and creative. Cooperative interactions are relevant because give rise to the concept of odor vector, establishing a key link between the chemical and sensory spaces. Different studies have shown that the nearly 80 main wine odorants form 35 different wine aroma vectors, classified into 10-different aroma categories. Yet, aroma vectors can further interact by creative interactions to form new aroma nuances. Some of these interactions have been identified and will be shown. Furthermore, destructive interactions can also take a major role in wine, since ethanol and the higher alcohols are strong aroma suppressors. These suppression effects are of the highest interest in wine dealcoholization.
Finally, it will be shown that physicochemical interactions with different matrix components are enough to change the volatilities of some odorants by factors between 2 and 4, more than enough to have sensory relevance.
Acknowledgement. Most of this research has been funded by the Spanish government (projects MYCIN PID2021-126031OB; MINECO AGL2017-87373)
Issue: ICGWS 2023
Laboratory for Aroma Analysis and Enology (LAAE), University of Zaragoza, Spain