Factors influencing rotundone levels in wines

by | May 17, 2021 | South Africa Wine Scan


  • Rotundone was first identified in 2008 by Australian researchers as the aroma compound present in Shiraz wines responsible for the peppery character.
  • It forms part of the terpene family and is classified as a sesquiterpene.
  • Rotundone is also the main aromatic compound found in white and black pepper.
  • It is also found in various other herbs and spices in nature such as thyme, oregano, rosemary and basil.
  • It has a sensory threshold of 16 ng/L in red wine.
  • Rotundone has subsequently been identified in various other grape varieties above sensory threshold: Duras, Durif, Mouvèdre, Gamay noir, Schioppettino, Vespolina and Gruener Veltliner.
  • It can also be found in various other grape varieties such as Pinot noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, but usually in concentrations below the sensory threshold.
  • Concentrations of rotundone differ between different clones of the same cultivar.
  • The highest concentration reported for Shiraz is 620 ng/kg grapes. Highest concentration reported for rotundone in all grape varieties is 5440 (+/- 33) ng/kg for Vespolina grapes.
  • Rotundone concentrations in final wines are usually much lower than the initial concentration in the grapes.
  • Rotundone is very flavour active and very stable in wine over time.
  • It is a hydrophobic molecule and extraction is improved by the formation of alcohol during fermentation.
  • Rotundone is located in the grape skins (only), leaves, petioles and peduncles/rachises.
  • Leaves contain the highest concentration of rotundone followed by petioles, peduncle/rachises – whole bunch fermentation will increase rotundone levels in wine.
  • Rotundone is produced locally in the specific plant tissues and is not translocated via the phloem to berries.
  • Herbivore attack does not have a major effect like in the case of other terpenes.
  • Powdery mildew promotes higher rotundone levels in Duras grapes.
  • Botrytis infection reduces rotundone levels.
  • Rotundone is more abundant in cooler climates or years.
  • Temperatures above 25°C have a negative impact on rotundone concentrations in vines.
  • Rotundone concentrations are higher in shaded bunches than bunches exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Rotundone is derived from a pre-cursor α-guaiene and conversion starts at veraison and increases until approximately 44 days after veraison after which the concentration stays stable.
  • The most rapid rotundone accumulation is two weeks before harvest.
  • Increased water balance / irrigation from veraison to harvest increases rotundone levels in the vine.
  • Precision irrigation and canopy management strategies can increase rotundone concentrations.
  • People differ in their sensitivity for rotundone with 20 – 25% of the general population being anosmic to it.
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