By Amanda Garris
Food Science Professor Terry Acree was honored three times over at the August meeting of the American Chemical Society. He was given the Distinguished Achievement and Service in Agricultural and Food Chemistry Award, elected a Fellow of the American Chemical Society, and honored with a two-day symposium in recognition of his many contributions to flavor science — as well as his 70th birthday.
Acree's career at Cornell has focused on challenges in flavor chemistry, including wine, with particular emphasis on aroma chemistry. Over the last 30 years, Acree has made several advances in the technique and application of gas chromatography-olfactometry (GC-O). This method allows researchers to separate and identify the discrete odor compounds in a complex mixture, such as wine or coffee, and uses a human sniffer to identify which compounds have an odor.
Acree pioneered the use of so-called dilution analyses by GC-O — used to determine the most potent aroma compounds in a mixture — which he has successfully applied GC-O in several studies of wines and grapes. This work includes the identification of the compound responsible for lychee aroma in Gewürtztraminer, the foxy character of native varieties like Concord and Catawba, the changes in wine aroma after malolactic fermentation or spoilage by Brettanomyces yeast, and, most recently, the sources of complex aromas of Riesling wines. Acree was also one of the first to study the flavor release from foods during consumption by using "artificial mouths" to simulate chewing. He is currently studying the role of genetics in an individual's ability to perceive aromas.
The symposium brought together former students and colleagues, who spoke on range of topics from bitterness in coffee to strawberry aroma to culinary science, as well as their gratitude to Acree for his impact on their research and careers in food science.