The irresistible scent of fruit

The life of ancient peoples was closely linked to the rhythms of nature: the succession of the seasons determined the cycles of agriculture and harvest, especially those of fruit.

For the ancient Romans, Pomona (Patrona Pomorum, the lady of the fruits), was the patron deity of fruit, wine vines and the olive tree. Not much is known of her cult since she was a minor goddess who did not belong to the main Pantheon of the Roman gods; she was depicted with fruit gathered in baskets and with the leaves entwined in her hair, sometimes even with a firm scythe in her hand. She was also the protector of the month of September, when many fruits ripen.

The ripening of fruit can be identified by eyesight, by observing, for example, the color change of the outside of the fruit, but also, in most cases, by smell and taste. The smell and taste of ripe fruit, depending on the type and variety, is an unmistakable sensory message that we learn to recognize from childhood.

Citrus fruits, apples, peaches, bananas, pineapples, pears, strawberries, grapes, cherries: each of these fruits has a characteristic smell that develops both in the skin and in the pulp as it ripens and matures.

The molecules that make up the odor of a fruit are the "digital" fingerprint that, inevitably, we recognize when we bring the fruit close to our nose. Here the process of an "unaware" rapid sensory evaluation occurs which is derived from our past experiences. Our brain then either "authorizes" or "unauthorizes" the particular fruit as suitable for consumption, much like a computer processes digital information.  

The odorous chemical molecules present in fruit belong for the most part to the class of linear and cyclic chain esters, called lactones. These substances are characterized by a low olfactory threshold (a small amount is enough to sense them distinctly) and are produced in the fruit when it reaches maturity.

The natural fruit flavors used in the food industry are mainly obtained by dehydration and grinding of the fruit of origin: the powder obtained is used to flavor drinks and many preserved food products. It is also possible to obtain the main odorous molecules in the laboratory by chemical synthesis and to use them both for flavoring foods and as raw materials in the world of perfumery.

In the world of wine, fruit smells are associated with secondary aromas: these develop mainly during the fermentation of the must when the ethyl alcohol that is produced finds the ideal conditions to react with the various organic acids present, generating a multitude of aliphatic and cyclic esters and, consequently, determining a part of the characteristic hints of wines.

White wines are characterized by citrus and white pulp fruit aromas. Those obtained from very ripe grapes or grown in warm climates develop aromas of ripe fruit, pear and tropical fruit, while those obtained from grapes grown in colder climates develop aromas closer to green apple.

Red wines are characterized by aromas of red fruit (cherry, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry) and black fruit (blackberry, black currant, etc.). Some vines such as Nebbiolo, Zinfandel and Sangiovese mainly develop aromas from red fruit, while others such as Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet mainly develop aromas from black berries.

In the world of perfumery the same types of esters, chemically synthesized, are used as raw materials in the formulation of perfumes. Already from the first half of the twentieth century of the last century, chemists had been able to recognize, identify and synthesize many molecules such as ethyl pentanoate (apple smell), amyl acetate (banana smell), allyl hexaneate (pineapple smell), methyl glycidate (strawberry smell).

One of the first to be used was the gamma-undecalactone with the unmistakable peach smell: Jacques Guerlain used it in his famous Mitsouko perfume, which immediately became a worldwide success and which, even today, is an icon of perfumery.

Today their use is very popular in women's perfumes aimed at a young audience, often together with floral essences.

Click here to discover TasterPlace Aromas collections in English.


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