The need to understand and control ester synthesis is driven by the fact that esters play a key role in the sensorial quality of fermented alcoholic beverages like beer, wine and sake. As esters are synthesized in yeast via several complex metabolic pathways, there is a need to gain a clear understanding of ester metabolism and its regulation. The individual genes involved, their functions and regulatory mechanisms have to be identified. In alcoholic beverages, there are two important groups of esters: the acetate esters and the medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) ethyl esters. For acetate ester synthesis, the genes involved have already been cloned and characterized. Also the biochemical pathways and the regulation of acetate ester synthesis are well defined. With respect to the molecular basis of MCFA ethyl ester synthesis, however, significant progress has only recently been made. Next to the characterization of the biochemical pathways and regulation of ester synthesis, a new and more important question arises: what is the advantage for yeast to produce these esters? Several hypotheses have been proposed in the past, but none was satisfactorily. This paper reviews the current hypotheses of ester synthesis in yeast in relation to the complex regulation of the alcohol acetyl transferases and the different factors that allow ester formation to be controlled during fermentation.