Aim: The aim of this study was to elucidate how an initially neutral Merlot must resulted in a wine with characteristic aromas of red- and black-berry fruit, focusing on the respective contributions of yeast metabolism together with grape juice, pulp, and skins.
Methods and Results: Sensory analyses were performed on Merlot grape skin maceration models, based on observations in the winery. Initial findings revealed that strong fruity nuances appeared during pre-fermentation maceration. In the maceration models used, the development of aroma of red- and black-berry fruit systematically paralleled the growth of the yeast population. The respective roles of grape skins and yeasts were investigated throughout the alcoholic fermentation of model musts with addition of Merlot skins or Merlot skin extract in ethanol. The aromatic nuances revealed by alcoholic fermentation in a must alone had no specific white-, rosé-, or red-wine character. In contrast, wines made by microvinification with grape skins and/or grape skin extract in ethanol had a clear, intense aroma of red- and black-berry. Microvinification with both Merlot skin extract and grape skins revealed the most intense fruity character.
Conclusions: Inodorous skin constituents produced a specific aroma of red- and black-berry fruit after alcoholic fermentation by yeast. The physical presence of grape skins during fermentation enhanced the intensity of the fruity nuances obtained.
Significance and impact of the study: The study established, for the first time, the existence of inodorous constituents in Merlot grape skins, extractible by ethanol and transformed by yeasts to produce a specific aroma of red- and black-berry fruit in the finished wines.
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