Wines with tropical fruit aromas are thought to be enjoyed by consumers, but this has only been studied in Australia (Capone et al. 2018). Chardonnay is the most widely grown grape variety, located in all wine producing regions around the world (Gambetta et al. 2014). It is considered a neutral grape variety, allowing it to be influenced by various fermentation (or production) practices (Francis et al. 1992; Gambetta et al. 2017). Various protocols have been used in traditional winemaking to alter the aroma profile of the final wine, including choice of yeast, malolactic bacteria, oak, aging, and lees contact (Gambetta et al. 2014). While all these practices lead to different and desired characteristics in Chardonnay, they do not guarantee tropical fruit aromas nor acceptance by consumers.
Preference or liking is a well-established sensory question that is important to understand consumption and allows for more thorough and comprehensive understanding when developing products. Emotional response is a newer tool used in sensory studies. Building associations with positive emotions can greatly strengthen consumer purchasing, while associations with negative emotions can result in avoiding that product (Samant and Seo 2020; Mora et al. 2021). The combination of descriptive information, liking, and emotional response can provide very strong information for determining consumer groups or in developing new products in the right scenario.
The purpose of this research was to determine if winemaking practices could impact the tropical fruit aromas in Chardonnay wines and how those aroma differences could influence wine consumers preferences and emotional responses. Understanding the causes of tropical fruit aromas in wine and the processes that alter these compounds is necessary to ensure winemakers have the tools to consistently achieve the desired quality of tropical fruit aroma. By adapting their winemaking approach, winemakers will be able to meet the desires of the consumer consistently year to year.
Chardonnay wines were made utilizing skin contact and a fermentation gradient to achieve wines with and without tropical fruit aromas (Figure 1). Skin contact (SC) occurred for 18 hours prior to pressing. Grapes were obtained from OSU’s Woodhall Vineyard in 2021. Fermentation gradient (FG) occurred as followed: ferments started at 20 °C and were held for 96 hours before the temperature was decreased to 13 °C for the rest of the fermentation. Fermentations without FG were performed at 13 °C.
Figure 1. Winemaking flow diagram showing 18 hours skin contact (SC) and fermentation temperature gradient (FG) of 20 °C for 48 hours, then reduced to 13 °C for the remainder of the fermentation.
Wine consumers were used to evaluate the wines. Sensory panels occurred ~6 months after bottling. They characterized the aroma of the wines using check-all-that-apply (CATA), preference using a 7-point Likert scale and emotional response using the EsSense 25 profile (Nestrud et al. 2016). Multiple factor analysis (MFA) was used to relate all three types of data to each wine.
The different wine processes resulted in wines with different characteristics. The control was described as passionfruit, lychee, pome fruit, and honey, while SC and FG were described by asparagus, dried fruit, and grapefruit aromas. SCFG displayed lemon/lime, mango, stone fruit, and guava aromas. Results showed that liking was linked to the emotions of ‘warm’ and ‘mild” and with the aromas of pineapple and orange (Figure 2). Liking was found split between the Control and SCFG wine, suggesting that some people liked the control the best and others liked the SCFG wine the best. It is well known that multiple clusters of consumers exist, each with their own preferences for liking. Our results suggest that some people like the control with its more tropical fruit aromas and the SCFG wines with different tropical fruit aromas.
The differences with tropical fruit aromas and fruit aromas in the wines resulted in positive emotional responses. Emotions ‘good natured’, ‘happy’, ‘satisfied’, ‘enthusiastic’, ‘loving’, and ‘secure’ were associated with fruity aromas; pome fruit, stone fruit, pineapple, and orange. FG showed the emotion ‘adventurous’ with aromas of ginger and lychee. SC was the one wine with more negative emotions linked to the aroma of asparagus.
Figure 2. Multiple Factor Analysis (MFA) plot, resulting in 81.02% total variance across the first 2 factors (56.55% in F1 and 24.47% in F2).
Understanding the link between wine processing and quality and consumer desires is important as wine is subjected to different environmental conditions each year, and consistency can be difficult to achieve. These conditions of winemaking using skin contact and fermentation temperature gradient would be recommendation for winemakers looking for this tropical fruit aroma sensory signature in Chardonnay wines. This work only investigated a small set of parameters and more research is needed to understand the full impact of skin contact and fermentation gradient on tropical fruit aromas and the opinions of wine consumers. – By Dr. Elizabeth Tomasino, Associate Professor, Oregon State University
This work was possible by funding provided by the American Vineyard Foundation, Project #2021-2479.
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