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Wine’s Fruity “Nose”

November 26, 2014

You can thank fruit flies for your favorite wine’s fruity “nose”.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Wine’s fruity secret. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you’ve been looking around a wine shop for the perfect bottle to pair with your Thanksgiving turkey, you’ve probably seen a pinot noir advertised as having “notes of cherries and plums” or a viognier with “essence of apricot”. But where do these subtle aromas come from? Do vintners add fruit flavorings to their wine? Not according to University of Leuven geneticist Kevin Verstrepen. He says the yeasts used in winemaking actually produce those fruity flavors in order to attract pollinating insects like fruit flies.

KEVIN VERSTREPEN (University of Leuven):

Some of these chemicals that yeasts are making are really identical to the ones that ripening fruits produce. But of course they might make them in different concentrations, plus they make a whole mixture of it, and then you get other flavors from grapes.

HIRSHON:

So a wine’s nose can sometimes be hard to pin down. This Thanksgiving, you might want to raise a glass to the humble fruit fly. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.