Understanding sweetness of dry wines: first evidence of astilbin isomers in red wines and quantitation in a one-century range of vintages

The gustatory balance of wines relies on sweetness, bitterness and sourness. In dry wines, sweetness does not result from the presence of residual sugar as in sweet wines, but is due to other non-volatile compounds. Such taste-active compounds are released during winemaking, by grapes, yeasts or oak wood and belong numerous chemical families [1]. Beyond this diversity, stereochemistry of molecules can also influence their sensory properties [2]. However, the molecular determinants associated with this taste have only been partially elucidated. Astilbin (2R, 3R) was recently reported to contribute to wine sweetness [3]. As its aglycon contains two stereogenic centers, three other stereoisomers may be present: neoisoastilbin (2S, 3R), isoastilbin (2R, 3S), and neoastilbin (2S, 3S). These compounds have already been observed in natural products, but never in wine. This work aimed at assaying their presence for the first time in wines as well as their taste properties.The isomers were synthesized from astilbin and purified by semi-preparative HPLC. Their content was assayed by developing a UHPLC-Q-Exactive quantification method. The method was applied to screen astilbin and isomers in various wines, especially in different vintages from the same estate. Sensory analysis highlighted the sweet taste of these stereoisomers whose intensity varied according to their configuration. Quantification results revealed that while young wines contained higher concentrations of astilbin than the old ones, the concentrations of the other isomers, mainly neoastilbin, were higher in the old wines, suggesting their formation over time.These results highlight the contribution of astilbin isomers in wine sweetness. More generally, this study brings new insights to understand the chemical origin of wine taste.

Authors: Marie Le Scanff – Unité de recherche Œnologie, EA 4577, USC 1366 INRA, ISVV, Université de Bordeaux, F33882 Villenave d’Ornon, France ,Syntia FAYAD, Unité de recherche Œnologie, EA 4577, USC 1366 INRA, ISVV, Université de Bordeaux, F33882 Villenave d’Ornon, France Axel MARCHAL, Unité de recherche Œnologie, EA 4577, USC 1366 INRA, ISVV, Université de Bordeaux, F33882 Villenave d’Ornon, France 

Email: marie.le-scanff@u-bordeaux.fr

Keywords: sweetness, sensory analysis, taste, isomers, wines

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