Cork Taint: TCA found to be a very potent olfactory masking agent

A new research on 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole, the compound responsible for cork-taint in wine suggests that the compound by itself may not smell bad rather it suppresses cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels without evoking any odorant responses.

The research team studied if TCA and TBA can suppress the activity of CNG channels in olfactory cilia. Twenty panelists selected from employees of Daiwa Can Company evaluated the reduction of original odours in wine after contaminating it with off-flavour substances.

In the study, the strongest reduction in odour was observed when wine was contaminated with TCA. TBA also caused similar effects at higher concentrations.

In sensory evaluation of reduction of original odour and addition extrinsic musty smell in white and reds, the panel found that the recognition threshold is almost the same.

Based on this, the study proposes that either "the reduction of CNG channel activity might induce some kind of pseudo-olfactory sensation by inducing an off-response, or the suppression of olfactory receptor cells output may itself induce an olfactory sensation".

The research team also throws up a possibility for development of new odour masking agents and potent ion channel inhibitors.
Not far off to get away with all off-flavours in wine! Isn't it

The findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA
Hiroko Takeuchi, Hiroyuki Kato, and Takashi Kurahashi
2,4,6-Trichloroanisole is a potent suppressor of olfactory signal transduction
PNAS 2013 : 1300764110v1-201300764.

Image: Glen Scott 

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