Barrel-aged wine is a complex mixture and its olfactory perception results from the interaction of many flavors. To estimate the role of oak-derived flavor compounds, it is necessary to consider odor activity values (OAV) and to perform a correlation study to assess the impact of flavor compounds on the flavor attributes. Twenty Spanish and French wines, each aged in different types of barrels, were studied using both sensory (descriptive) and chemical (GC-MS) analysis. Paired-sample t-tests were used to assess whether there were systematic differences in the concentrations of oak-derived compounds between wines aged in different barrels and evaluated differently in the sensory tests. Regardless of their low OAVs, furanic compounds (furfural, furfuryl alcohol, and 5-methylfurfural) increased the “overall oak” intensity rating and decreased the “fruity” intensity rating. It is hypothesized that these compounds indirectly impacted the respective intensities. The presence of cis- and trans-whisky lactones, eugenol, and vanillin increased the intensity rating of the vanilla/pastry descriptor, while furfural and 5-methylfurfural diminished it. Regardless of the volatile phenols (guaiacol, 4-methylguaiacol, eugenol) described as smoky and spicy in their pure state, no reliable links were found between these compounds and the respective sensory descriptors in wines. Samples described as having higher olfactory persistence were richer in relatively high-boiling wood compounds, such as trans- and cis-whisky lactone, maltol, eugenol, and vanillin, than their paired samples, explaining their retronasal persistence.
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