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Terpenes in Wine: Where Wine Flavors Come From

Terpenes in Wine

Unlike other alcoholic beverages, the aroma profile of wine is what gives it a unique character. Various substances and circumstances contribute to a wine bottle’s particular flavor component.

The growing region of the grapes, the vintage, and the fruit’s esters and lactones are only a few possible contributing factors. One of the important factors is “terpenes.”

Terpenes in wine come in a wide variety and significantly impact the scent and overall flavor profile. Wine terpenes heavily influence the flavor profiles of different grapes, vintages, and winemaking styles. Grape terpenes can present themselves in your favorite wine in more than one way.

Find out what terpenes are present in wine and how terpenes in wine can be added to enhance or change its flavor profile!

What are Terpenes?

Isoprene units (C5H8) form chains that are called terpenes. Both linear and cyclical chains of these units are possible. Isoprene units can make up a terpene anywhere from 2, 3, 4, to 6.

The unit count determines the terpene’s unique properties. Many (but not all) plants naturally contain terpenes. It gives them their distinctive flavor and scent.

Terpenes are present in the skin and juice of grapes, and their concentration might vary for various reasons. It can be specific to grape variety, weather, soil conditions, growing practices, etc.

In all honesty, terpenes in wine are the reason we are here. So, let’s continue exploring!

How do Terpenes Affect Wine?

Wine experts quickly identify the three taste categories of wine: earth, spice, and fruit/floral/herbal. We’re discussing the second group when it comes to wine terpenes.

In an excellent bottle of wine, terpenes bring the trio of this group to life. They can balance a resinous, herbaceous front end with a more subdued, fruity, and lemony rear end. The prominence of grape terpenes determines how they affect a particular varietal.

When you open a bottle of wine containing a lot of terpenes, you can usually smell them immediately.

They have three effects on the wine’s profile:

  • Impart a distinct odor and flavor
  • Compliment different tastes
  • Ensure that the wine doesn’t go “off.”

Terpenes also have relaxing, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Furthermore, they add this to the wine for a better experience.

Except for the whole sleeping thing, you’d need to consume quite a bit of wine to experience these advantages over the short term. But feel free to use the terpene-powered advantages of wine to support your position on the “a glass of wine is good for you”!

Terpenes in Wine

Each grape’s unique terpene profile will contribute to the wine’s flavor and aroma. But wine contains several typical terpenes, including:


White wines, in particular, benefit from this terpene’s rose-like scent. Bound grapes that have gone through the fermentation process contain geraniol. Due to terroir, or the place in which a wine is produced (along with human-controlled elements like the fermenting process), some white wine varietals will have higher terpene concentrations. Red wine is made from grape skin, which adds numerous other chemicals that can overshadow the wine’s geraniol level.


This terpene gives insect repellents their distinctive smell. It is citrusy but with a heavier, sweet side. White wines like Chardonnay, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, and Viognier frequently have citrus-like aromas. Among the wine terpenes bouquets, this one is the easiest to identify.


This particular sesquiterpene is stable. It can be found in red grape skin. This terpene is frequently found in red wines because they undergo skin-on fermentation. Detecting this wine terpene’s flavor can be challenging, but it has a very light spice.


When you open a bottle and smell lavender, there probably is linalool in the grape. This monoterpene smells floral and lavender. For instance, Chenin Blanc and some varieties of Muscat grapes (which generally contain high concentrations of both geraniol and linalool) may exhibit this. It frequently coexists with geraniol. Like geraniol, linalool is more prevalent in white wine than red wine. Linalool is said to have elements of lily, bay leaf, and orange flower in its scent.

Nerol (A-Terpineol)

Nerol has an aroma that falls in the middle of flowery and citrus scents. The Torrontes, Pinot Grigio, Muscadet, and Semillon varieties are the ones that frequently contain a-terpene.

Can Terpenes be Added to Wine?

Terpenes are frequently added to meals, alcoholic beverages, breweries, and other drinks. Terpenes, however, are not usually added to the wine. Instead, methods are employed to bring out specific terpenes that the winemaker wishes to be present in the final product.

The amount of terpenes in the finished wine might change when various grapes are combined. Additionally, different yeast strains can be used by winemakers during the fermentation process. Also, the sugar will be metabolized by the yeast.

Secondary metabolites (terpenes) are produced due to the interaction between the primary sugar metabolites. Adding milk, lemon juice, or other acids can trigger additional chemical processes that impart different flavor characteristics when making wine.

What are the Different Types of Terpenes?

Based on the number of isoprene units that terpenes in wine contain, they are classified into different groups:


Like monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes can have a linear structure. But they can also have cyclic, bicyclic, or tricyclic structures (a collection of rings). They are made up of three 15-carbon atom isoprene units.


There are four isoprene units in diterpenes (C20H32). Plants, a few animals, and fungi all biosynthesize them. They are more frequently discovered in structures with cyclic carbon chains (such as sesquiterpenes).


Two isoprene units with at least one double bond make up monoterpenes. They are primarily found in a plant’s essential oils. These substances produce a powerful scent and flavor.


With five isoprene units, sesquiterpenes have a more intricate structure. They possess anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial activities. Sesterpenes are less prevalent than other types of terpenes.

How Does the Winemaking Process Affect The Terpene Content

Depending on the type of wine they are seeking to make, the winemaker will change some stages of the typical process that can affect the terpene content in the following manner:

Grape Crushing

The grape juice is extracted using the crushing method. The skins may be removed or left in the wine, depending on the wine type.

Red wines, which include extra wine terpenes found only in grape skins, are produced when the skin is left on throughout fermentation. Many of the more potent terpenes in wine that compete with the lighter, flowery terpenes are eliminated when the skins are removed.

Know more here Ocimene Terpene: Strains, Benefits & More

Fermentation Step

The grape juice is moved into a barrel or other storage container for fermentation. This makes it possible for natural yeast to metabolize the carbohydrates and create alcohol.

Winemakers will use various yeast or wooden barrels depending on the type of wine or flavor profile they want. Terpenes in wine and other flavoring ingredients from the wood slowly seep into the wine as it ferments.

Winemakers can change the flavor of their products significantly depending on the kind of wood used to create their barrels.

Packaging and Aging

When the wine is prepared for bottling, workers will either bottle it by hand or utilize automated equipment to expedite the process. Before the wine is bottled, additional extracts or ingredients might be combined to customize the flavor further.

The wine is then often stored for several weeks to allow the flavors to settle before it is put on the market.


Grape terpenes have an incredible effect on the flavors and aromas we experience in every bottle of wine. These organic substances, which are present in grape skins and juice, have a substantial impact on a wine’s profile, giving wine drinkers a distinctive and enjoyable experience!

Terpenes in wine are of different types, each contributing its distinct notes (ranging from floral scents to citrusy hints). Winemakers carefully manipulate the terpene content by adjusting the winemaking process to achieve the desired flavor profile. It ranges from crushing the grapes to fermentation and aging.

So, next time you crave a glass of wine, remember that wine terpenes are the unsung heroes behind the delightful fragrances and tastes that fill your senses.

Cheers to the art of winemaking and terpenes!


What flavor do terpenes have in wine?

In wines like Grenache, Gewürztraminer, and Syrah, grape terpenes are recognized for their flowery flavors of Christmas trees, lychee, rose, and lavender. In small concentrations, thiols are the source of fruit scents like black currant in Merlot.

What is the source of the wine aroma?

Wine scent comes from various sources and methods, such as Monoterpenes phenylpropanoids, nor isoprenoids, aliphatics, methoxypyrazines, and volatile sulfur compounds. These are some of the fragrance molecules that come directly from grapes.

How many flavors are there in a bottle of wine?

The expert findings revealed that 22 substances, including the well-known ethyl phenols and vinylphenols, as well as several fatty acids, alcohols, esters, terpenes, and aldehydes, were responsible for flavors in the bottle.

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