December 02nd 2022

Research for the sense of taste - how and why?

Development of the flavor profile of a protected Tyrolean distillate

Nataly Knöpfle conducts research at MCI in the Food Science & Biotechnology research cluster. Her current research project is concerned with the development of the "Wildschönauer Krautinger" flavor profile. "Wildschönauer Krautinger" is a legally protected beetroot spirit with an unusual aroma, obtained from the stalk beet or white stubble beet, which as a cultural asset may only be produced by a few farmers in the Tyrolean region of Wildschönau.

In this research work, the flavor development of Brassicaceae during fermentation and distillation is generally explored, but with a special focus on the production of Wildschönauer Krautinger. The Brassicaceae or cruciferous plant family includes, among others, all cabbage varieties known to us. For the project, Nataly Knöpfle chose the hardly researched stubble turnip in particular, but she wanted to also gain knowledge about white cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi and Chinese cabbage and their aroma profile as well as the transition into the distillate.

First, the beets or cabbage are crushed or juiced. The mash or juice is fermented for 48 hours with a commercial distilling yeast and then distilled. Sampling is performed from the raw material through the mash/juice to the distillate obtained. In the project, adjustments are made during fermentation and distillation in order to be able to define changes in the product. Flavor components such as sulfur compounds are analyzed, as are quality characteristics such as ethanol and methanol content.

And what is all this for? The aim of the research project is both an initial decoding of the flavor-giving components in distillate and their development, as well as the possibility of varying these without changing the character of the product. Furthermore, by adapting process steps, it should be possible to determine the origin of undesirable ingredients in the distillate and to reduce the formation of these in order to guarantee the product more quality and safety through production.

In 2022, Nataly Knöpfle was one of seven young scientists at the Entrepreneurial School® who received an award from the state of Tyrol for their convincing research project and were funded by the Tyrolean Science Fund TWF. In addition to scientific quality, special attention is paid to location relevance, practical relevance & sustainability when awarding this funding. With their focus on regionality, circular economy and inclusion, this year's award-winning research projects also contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which are strategically integrated into everyday university life at MCI.

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