How to influence citrus notes in wine

Factors such as non-Saccharomyces yeast and soil moisture can affect these generally beneficial aromas and flavours…


How to influence citrus notes in wine
  • James Wright
  • 2019-03-05
Most people can taste the difference between the most common citrus fruit flavours in wine – such as lemon, grapefruit, lime, bergamot, mandarin, pomelo or tangerine – and also identify the respective aromas.

'Consumers like drinking wines with citrus aromas at parties and barbecues'
We generally like these citrus aromas, as the following study points out…
Food Quality and Preference:2018:71 p250-260:Ristic R 2018:Wine-related aromas for different seasons and occasions – Hedonic and emotional responses of wine consumers from Australia, UK and USA
Key findings: ‘Lemon’ aroma in wine evoked energetic emotions and consumers like drinking wines with citrus aromas at parties and barbecues.

'Minerality is positively correlated to acid taste and citrus'
The association between acidity and citrus is primary and ‘minerality’ is interlinked, according to this study from the USA:
Journal of Sensory Studies:2014:29-1 p1-13:Heymann H 2014:An Exploration of the Perception of Minerality in White Wines by Projective Mapping and Descriptive Analysis
Key findings: Minerality was positively correlated to acid taste (highly correlated to malic acid, tartaric acid and titratable acidity) and citrus.
However, citrus aromas are not just about acidity. There are specific aroma associations that are independent of acidity and they affect whether a wine tastes more lemony or grapefruity, for example.

Citrus image 4
Let’s start with the chemical compounds involved. The following grape and wine aroma compounds are associated with citrus aromas:
  • Acids:Organic:Carboxylic acids:Fatty acids:Medium chain:C10:Decanoic acid- Citrus (Whitener M E B 2017)
  • Alcohols:C8:3-Octanol – Citrus (Whitener M E B 2017)
  • Aldehydes:C8:Octanal – Lemon (Ramirez Rodrigues M M 2011)
  • Aldehydes:C9:Nonanal – Citrus (Sigma-Aldrich 2019)
  • Aldehydes:C10:Decanal – Citrus (Wikipedia 2018)
  • Esters:Acetate esters:C12:Linalyl acetate – Bergamot (Wikipedia 2018)
  • Esters:Acetate esters:C12:Linalyl acetate – Lemon peel (Lota M 2002)
  • Terpenes:Monoterpenes:Limonene:Stereoisomers:D-Limonene – Lemon (Smithsonian Institute 2019)
  • Terpenes:Monoterpenes:Limonene:Stereoisomers:L-Limonene – Orange (Smithsonian Institute 2019)
  • Terpenes:Monoterpenes:Limonene – Lemon (Wikipedia 2019)
  • Terpenes:Monoterpenes:Limonene – Lime (Lota M 2002)
  • Terpenes:Monoterpenes:Limonene – Orange (Wikipedia 2019)
  • Terpenes:Monoterpenes:Pinene:Alpha-Pinene – Mandarin (IST 2019)
  • Terpenoids:Monoterpenoids:1,4-Cineole – Lime (characteristic of, IST 2019)
  • Terpenoids:Monoterpenoids:Citral – Lemon, Lime, Orange (Wikipedia 2019)
  • Terpenoids:Monoterpenoids:Citronellol – Lemon (Wikipedia 2019)
  • Terpenoids:Monoterpenoids:Geraniol – Lemon (Wikipedia 2019)
  • Terpenoids:Monoterpenoids:Linalool – Lemon, Lime (Wikipedia 2018, Lota M 2002)
  • Terpenoids:Monoterpenoids:Terpineol:Isomers:Alpha-terpineol – Citrus (Degenhardt A 2013), Lemon leaf (Lota M 2002)
  • Thiols:3-Sulfanylhexan-1-ol – Grapefruit (Schoenberger C 2018)
  • Thiols:3-Sulfanylhexyl acetate – Grapefruit (Schoenberger C 2018)
  • Sulfides:Dimethyl sulphide – Lemon (IST 2019)
  • Sulfides:Hydrogen sulfide – Lemon (IST 2019)
'Terpenes are affected by the fermentation process, cellaring temperature and wine pH'
Can we influence these compounds and wine aromas via vineyard management and winery practices?
Food Research International:2013:54-1 p881-891:Marciniak M 2013:Influence of water status on sensory profiles of Ontario Riesling wines
Key findings: Higher citrus intensity was found in sub-blocks with lower soil moisture and leaf water potential.
Following up on the above, a study from Italy looking at red grape variety Aleatico…
AJEV:2017:68 p100-111:De Santis D 2017:Biochemical Markers for Enological Potentiality in a Grapevine Aromatic Variety under Different Soil Types
Key findings: Linalool and Limonene contents were significantly higher in deep sandy soils. Terpenes play a significant role in defining varietal characteristics in wine such as citrus notes. Terpenes are affected by the fermentation process, cellaring temperature and wine pH.

'The use of non-Saccharomyces yeast led to significant changes in aroma compounds associated with citrus aromas'
Here a study from Australia…
AJGWR:2017:Online February 2017:Whitener M E B 2017:Effect of non-Saccharomyces yeasts on the volatile chemical profile of Shiraz wine
Key findings: The use of non-Saccharomyces yeast led to significant changes in aroma compounds associated with citrus aromas.
As the following two papers point out, the management of thiols also plays a role in citrus aromas in wine…
A collaboration between Spanish and French researchers…
Food Research International:2016:87 p152-160:Franco Luesma E 2016:Study of the effect of H2S, MeSH and DMS on the sensory profile of wine model solutions by Rate-All-That-Apply (RATA)
Key findings: Methanethiol was shown to be a strong suppressor of citrus aromas.
A study on Australian Chardonnay aromas and aroma compounds…
AJGWR:2017:Online July 2017:Capone D L 2017:The role of potent thiols in Chardonnay wine aroma
Key findings: Citrus aromas were associated with 3-Sulfanylhexan-1-ol (3MH), 3-Sulfanylhexyl acetate (3MHA), and were positively associated with liking scores.

James Wright is an international viticulture and management consultant and author of and the newsletter VitiSynthesis.

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