Terpenes is the technical name for the category of chemical substances that give wine its distinct aromas. Scientists from Technische Universität München (TUM), the Hochschule Geisenheim, and the Universität Bonn have just discovered two enzymes that mine terpene composition in order to measure the degree of aroma in a particular wine grape. The breakthrough may play a fundamental role in the creation of new, highly aromatic grape varieties.
Terpenes accumulate during ripening. Soil conditions and duration of sunshine also play a key role in their development. However, in order for terpenes to impact aroma they must be in a ‘free state’ – meaning they are unattached from any other substance. When terpenes attach to sugars, they no longer impact aroma. The two recently identified enzymes are responsible for transferring sugar groups to various terpenes. By knowing where these enzymes are and what they do, it is possible to find and isolate vines with free terpenes.
The discovery could impact more than just wine grapes. A greater understanding of terpenes and related enzymes may be the first step toward touch-activated scent. Would you be more likely to purchase a wine if you could smell it first?