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The List of Wine and Food Aroma Compounds


When we smell wine aromas, what do we exactly smell and feel from the micro point of view?

Looking through aromas, we refer to "Taste Buds and Molecules" by Francois Chartier, recognized as a genuine genius by Robert Parker.

The List of Aroma Compounds

The following is based on the 70 aroma compounds in the book.

  • Carboxylic acid esters

Found in tropical fruits such as pineapple. Pineapple and basil-like aromas. Also found in beef.

  • Ethyl cinnamate (C11H12O2)

Volatile compound found in cinnamon and strawberries. Presents a fruity, balsamic-like aroma.

  • Ethyl propionate (C5H10O2)

Compound found in pineapple and some other fruits, with a strong aroma of pineapple and strawberries.

  • Methyl cinnamate (C10H10O2)

Volatile compound found in strawberries, matsutake mushrooms, basil, shell ginger and Sichuan pepper. Used as flavorings and food additives.

  • Skatole (C9H9N)

Volatile compound found in grass-fed beef. At low concentrations, it has an orange blossom, jasmine, beetroot and nutmeg-like smell, while at higher concentrations, it has a dung-like odor. Also used for perfumes.

  • Limonene (C10H16)

A monoterpene compound consisting of two isobrenes bonded together. Found in citrus fruits and has a lemon-like aroma.

  • Ethyl isohexanoate

Volatile compound found in Gewürztraminer, Scheurebe and lychee. Has a pineapple or banana-like aroma.

  • Ethyl isobutyrate (C6H12O2)

Like ethyl isohexanoate, this compound is found in Gewürztraminer and Scheurebe. It has a fruity, rum-like aroma.

  • Ethyl octanoate (C10H20O2)

Like ethyl isohexanoate, this compound is found in Gewürztraminer, Scheurebe, etc. Characterized by banana, apricot, pear and brandy-like aromas.

  • Geraniol (C10H18O)

This monoterpene compound is found in geranium. It is the main volatile compound in lemongrass, but also in lychee and Gewürztraminer. Has a cooling sensation.

  • 3-mercaptohexyl acetate (C8H16O2S)

Found in Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Colombard. It has aromas of passion fruit and boxwood.

  • Isoamyl acetate (C7H14O2)

Compound found in Gewürztraminer, Scheurebe and ripe apples. Has a banana-like aroma.

  • Phenyl acetate (C8H8O2)

Volatile compound found in Gewürztraminer and lychee. Has a chocolate, floral and honey-like smell.

  • Citral (C10H16O)

Major volatile compound in lemongrass and ginger. Also present in other fruits such as orange, verbena, lemon, and also in Muscat and Gewürztraminer. Has two isomers; α and β. The alpha has a stronger, while the beta has a softer lemon flavor.

  • Citroneol (C10H20O)

Monoterpene compound found in lemon balm and lemon verbena. Also present a little in Gewürztraminer and lychee.

  • Phenethyl alcohol (C8H10O)

Volatile compound found in Gewürztraminer and lychee. It has a cocoa and floral aroma and is also found in roses.

  • Furaneol (C6H8O3)

Volatile compound found in Gewürztraminer and lychee. It has a strawberry, pineapple, cotton candy and caramel-like aroma and is found in pineapple.

  • Ethyl hexanoate / ethyl caproate (C8H16O2)

Compound found in Gewürztraminer, lychee and Scheurebe. Has a sweet, waxy, pineapple and blue banana-like aroma.

  • Linalool (C10H18O)

Monoterpene compound formed by the bonding of two isobrenes. Found in Gewürztraminer, lychee, Scheurebe, saffron, ginger, lemongrass and many others. It has a lavender or lily-like aroma.

  • Rose oxide (C10H18O)

The most important volatile compound in Gewürztraminer and lychee. Possesses a strong rose and lychee-like aroma.

  • Beta damascenone (C13H18O)

Compound found in Gewürztraminer and Scheurebe. Possesses tropical fruit, rose, tobacco and tea-like aromas. Also found in apricot, blackberry and rum. Produced during beer maturation.

  • Anethole (C10H12O)

Compound with an anise-like scent Also possesses fennel, green basil and celery aromas, giving a cooling sensation.

  • Apigenin (C15H10O5)

A compound found in many plants with an anise-like scent. It also has a scent of parsley and gives a cooling sensation.

  • Aldehydes

Compounds with high hydrophilic properties. Pungent, also found in spices such as saffron, with a walnut-like aroma.

  • Estragole (C10H12O)

An isomer of anethole, with a anise-like flavor. Found in various spices and fruits, including anise, cinnamon and cloves. Has fennel, tarragon and Thai basil aroma.

  • Oleanolic acid (C30H48O3)

Triterpene compound containing six isoprene. It accounts for approximately 2% of clove essential oil and has a fir tree-like scent.

  • Carvacrol (C6H3CH3)

Compound found in the essential oils of thyme, sage, basil, rosemary, mint and oregano. Has a strong oregano-like scent.

  • Camphene (C10H16)

Monoterpene compound with two isoprene moieties. Found in essential oils of ginger, camphor and bergamot, with a strong camphor and eucalyptus-like aroma.

  • Eugenol acetate (C12H14O3)

Compound accounting for 2-3% of cloves. Possesses a warm and sweet aroma.

  • Safranal (C10H14O)

Volatile compound found in saffron. Main component of saffron's aroma. Also found in tea, paprika and cumin and has sedative properties.

  • Zingiberene (C15H24)

Sesquiterpene compound with three isoprene moieties. It is particularly abundant in ginger rhizomes and is responsible for ginger's distinctive aroma. Also found in turmeric.

  • Sotrone (C6H8O3)

Major volatile compound in herbs such as fenugreek and is also a component of aromas such as maple syrup. It is also found in a variety of wines, including yellow wine, sake, soy sauce, curry and oak barrels.

  • Thymol (C10H14O)

The most important volatile compound in thyme. Also found in rum.

  • Nerolidol (C15H26O)

One of the main volatile compounds in ginger. It has a woody aroma and is also found in lemongrass, orange blossom, beer, strawberry, jasmine and lavender.

  • Pinene (C10H16)

A monoterpene compound consisting of two isoprene bonds. Found in saffron and conifers, with pine and boxwood aroma. Has two isomers.

  • Hexanal (C6H12O)

Volatile compound found in soybeans and plants. Has a green smell and produces a cooling sensation.

  • Menthol (C10H20O)

Monoterpene compound consisting of two isoprene bonds. Found in aniseed and perilla plants with an aniseed-like flavor, and gives a basil, fresh coriander, fennel and mint-like aroma.

  • Eucalyptol / cineole (C10H18O)

Volatile compound found in eucalyptus and ginger. Also found in saffron, rosemary, sage, wormwood and basil. Has a cooling sensation and, as the name suggests, a eucalyptus-like scent.

  • Carvone (C10H14O)

Monoterpene compound consisting of two isobrenes bonded together. Found in aniseed-flavored plants of the family Cercidiphyllaceae, Asteraceae, Cyperaceae, etc., with a mint-like aroma. Has a cooling sensation.

  • Beta sesquiphellandrene (C10H16)

A monoterpene compound consisting of two isobrene bonds. One of the main components of ginger, also found in parsley and turmeric. Has a woody, fruity, herbal aroma.

  • Beta-bisabolene (C15H24)

A sesquiterpene compound consisting of three isoprene bonds. Found in ginger. Presents balsamic, citrus and spice aromas. Also found in octagon, avocado, basil, cardamom, bergamot, lime, pine and sandalwood.

  • Acetone (C3H6O)

Compound found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, including cheese and other dairy products. It has a buttery, yoghurt-like flavor and is one of the most important volatile compounds in sherry.

  • Benzoic acid (C6H5COOH)

Compound with high hydrophilic properties. It is used as an antioxidant due to its antibacterial and bacteriostatic properties. Also found in oloroso, which has an almond-like aroma.

  • Coumarin (C9H6O2)

One of the main phenolic compounds in Oloroso. Presents a vanilla, tonka bean and hay-like aroma. Also detected in aged wines matured in wooden barrels.

  • Calcic acid (C9H8O2)

One of the main phenolic compounds in Oloroso. Presents a cinnamon-like aroma. Pre-oxidized cinnamaldehyde can be detected in late harvest Gewürztraminer, which presents a similar aroma.

  • Soleron (C6H8O3)

One of the volatile compounds presents in sherry. Has a dried fig-like aroma.

  • Piperonal / heliotropin (C8H6O3)

One of the compounds found in sherry (especially in Oloroso and Amontillado). Possesses floral and vanilla notes. It also has the effect of accentuating other aromas such as dill, blueberry and camphor.

  • Acetylpyol

Derivative of aldehydes formed when oak barrels are heated. Has a chocolate-like odor.

  • Acetaldehyde / ethanal / acetic aldehyde (C2H4O)

Believed to cause hangovers and tobacco dependence; found in fruits, etc. Forms the precursor to many volatile compounds. Produced during wood and charcoal combustion and has a green apple-like aroma.

  • Isomaltol (C6H6O3)

Volatile phenolic compound which appears during the decomposition of lignin when wood are burnt. Has a burnt sugar or caramel-like scent.

  • Eugenol (C10H12O2)

Compound used as an anaesthetic and disinfectant in addition to flavorings. It has an aniseed flavor with clove, basil and nutmeg-like aromas, but also appears during wood and charcoal burning, and is also found in strawberries and pineapple.

  • Guaiacol (C7H8O2)

Compound which appears during the decomposition of lignin when wood and charcoal are burnt. Has a smoky scent. Also used as a synthetic ingredient for flavorings and pharmaceuticals.

  • Diacetyl (C4H6O2)

Formed during fermentation. Has a strong buttery-cheese aroma and at low concentrations has a steamed aroma. In wine, it is produced by MLF and in sake, it is considered to be a "Hiochi".

  • Cyclothene (C6H8O2)

Volatile phenolic compound that appears during the decomposition of lignin during wood burning. Has an aroma of maple syrup, grilling and burning.

  • Cylindaldehyde (C9H10O4)

Compound found in barrel-aged wines and maple syrup. Alone, it has a smoky, chocolate and vanilla-like aroma.

  • Syringol (C8H10O3)

Phenolic compound which appears during the decomposition process of lignin during wood and charcoal combustion. Has a spice, smoky, vanilla and medicinal-like aroma and is also found in onions, garlic, leeks and shallots.

  • Vanillin (C8H8O3)

Compound found in essential oils of vanilla and clove, and also produced during wood combustion. Presents a vanilla-like smell.

  • Furanone

Compound found in maple syrup and oak barrels. Has maple syrup and caramel-like scent.

  • Furan (C4H4O)

Volatile compound formed during the combustion of wood and charcoal. Has a bread and flower-like aroma.

  • Furfural (C5H4O2)

Compound formed during the breakdown of lignin when wood barrels are burnt. Has sawdust, maple syrup, toast, roasted almond, coffee and caramel-like aromas. We can find trace amounts in cloves.

  • Borneol (C10H18O)

A monoterpene compound consisting of two isoprene bonds. Has an aroma alike to camphene and a similar cooling effect.

  • Maltol (C6H6O3)

Compound formed when sugars are pyrolytically decomposed (e.g the Maillard reaction). Has a toasted, burnt sugar or cotton candy-like scent.

  • Methyloctalactone (C9H16O2)

Phenolic compound formed when lignin decomposes during wood burning. Also called whisky lactone, also found in American oak and coconut. It has four isomers and has a coconut-like aroma.

  • Lignin

Phenolic compounds related to plant lignification are found in oak barrels and grape stalks. Thermal decomposition produces a variety of aroma compounds.

  • Rotundone

Sesquiterpene compound consisting of three isobrene bonds. Possesses a peppery aroma which found in syrah.

  • β-caryophyllene (C15H24)

Sesquiterpene compound with three isoprene bonds. Found in oak barrels, maple syrup and cloves, with a woody aroma.

  • Geosmin (C12H22O)

Volatile compound found in yellow beetroot with a wet earth or putrefactive aroma. The presence of this aroma in wine is considered a defect.

  • Photolienol (C10H16O)

Compound with a lindane or honey-like aroma, found in Châteauneuf du Pape white wines, for example. Also found in Roussanne and other wines.

  • Beta ionone (C13H20O)

Terpenoid compound found in Merlot, Cabernet, etc. Presents a violet-like aroma.

  • Dimethyl sulphide (C2H6S)

Organic sulphur compound responsible for the tidal smell. It is the main aroma component of seaweed and is also produced by marine plankton.

  • Capsaicin (C18H27NO3)

Compound found in pepper and other fruits. It is derived from vanillin and has a pungent flavor.


You can apply the knowledge above to pairing method and the understanding wine. For example, Lignin is found in both grape stalks and oak barrels, so it makes a lot of sense that wine is matured in oak barrels.


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