Wines Have Terpenes Too
Discovering the complex aromas of our favorite imbibe
Like cannabis, there are specific organic compounds that contribute to the aromas and flavors of our favorite wines. If you are familiar with reading wine reviews or tasting notes, you’ll most often see descriptors such as strawberry, pear, cassis, blackberry, wet wood, forest floor, bell pepper, and more. What factors contribute to these characteristics?
Meet the five essential aroma and flavor compounds that are naturally produced by the grape itself.
If you’ve ever perceived fruity and floral notes in your wine, this is likely due to esters. This compound can develop during fermentation from acids, with the influence of yeast, or later during aging if the wine goes through certain chemical reactions. Common aromas associated with esters include white flowers, banana, raspberry, strawberry, apple, and pear. Most white wines, rosé wines, and light red wines present aromas produced by esters.
As the name suggests, lactones produce creamy or nutty characteristics in wine. If you are a Chardonnay lover, you’ve most likely encountered aromas and flavors of vanilla, butter, coconut, or milk notes. Lactones are cyclic esters that are synthesized by grapes, produced during fermentation or aging.
Due to this compound, wine can often present “green” notes or herbaceous flavors and aromas similar to bell pepper, asparagus, or freshly cut grass. This vegetal characteristic is produced by pyrazines. The accumulation of pyrazines often begins at berry set while the grapes are still on the grapevine; however, the majority of these notes come from the grape stems and skins. For this reason, most winemakers do not include stems during the fermentation process and limit how long the grape juice sits with the skins to reduce the intense flavors of pyrazines. Wines that can exhibit pyrazine notes include Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Similar to cannabis, terpenes are also found in wine! If you’ve ever perceived aromas of lychee, lavender, orange peel, rosemary, eucalyptus or rose in your wine, these aromas and flavors are due to terpenes. A few wines that have expressive terpene profiles include Gewürztraminer, Muscat Blanc, Nebbiolo, Grenache, Côtes du Rhône, Merlot, and Syrah. Because both wine and cannabis naturally contain terpenes, it is very easy to combine similar aromas and flavors.
Wine can often display bittersweet flavors. This is due to the compound called thiols. Sauvignon Blanc is known to exhibit the flavors and aromas of thiols which include grapefruit, passion fruit, and guava. As thiols develop, this compound can also take on deeper notes such as red currants and earthy characteristics. Research has shown that certain vineyard practices, such as water stress on the vines, can increase the amount of thiols in wine.
Interested in learning more? Check out our Terpene Aroma and Pairing Guide below to see what aromas can also be found in cannabis.
Peace, Love & Cannabis,
The Herb Somm