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The Science behind Wine, Flavour and Perception

The Science behind Wine, Flavour and Perception

Newly researched developments in science help us understand why wine can taste different depending on many factors such as our mood, environment, our genetics the way we drink and of course how it's made and where it’s grown.

We have enjoyed wine for thousands of years, and understanding the science behind it allows us to articulate it in a way that is more tangible than merely listing the flavours we believe we taste. This blog will explore the Science behind Flavour, perception and wine making. A lot goes into crafting the perfect glass of wine.

What is the Basic Science of Wine Making?

Creating wine is a complex process which centres around the fermentation of grapes. Grape skins contain natural yeasts, and often in medium to large scale production of wine, commercial yeasts are added which convert the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol. The yeast also causes a release of carbon dioxide. The grape juice (must) is then transformed into wine during the fermentation, which acts like most cooking processes in placing a magnifying glass over flavours to completely change and expand on the base aroma compounds. Yeasts are similarly related to ourselves and use food (sugar in this case) for forming energy, however unlike humans and in the right semi anaerobic conditions they can continue to work without the required amounts of oxygen. This process is not as efficient as our use of respiration to break foods down into energy, and as a result a bi product of alcohol is created in the process.

Understanding the Science behind the wine is essential for winemakers to create outstanding wine for us all to enjoy.

What is the Science behind the Flavour of wine?

The Science of Flavour is fascinating; we combine all our senses to create a single perception of what we devour. The basic tastes we detect in are sweet, sour, bitter, umami and salty. By pairing these with aromas and texture we can only then ascertain what we are eating. Very few of us can detect we’re eating a strawberry for example on taste alone, we unconsciously build a picture of what we are eating in our minds which more heavily rely on smell and texture than the flavour itself.

What is the Science behind the perception of wine?

Our perception of this image we form is very much like perceiving a picture, we can all look at the same picture, receive the same input but perceive it in completely different ways, and of course we would all describe this in completely different ways if asked what it was all about!

This is part of the reason we describe flavours in wine, buy using flavours of other things we’ve tasted, rather than having a separate nomenclature (such as chemical compounds or codes) do describe flavour. What better way to explain a picture, than to compare it to another. And for this very reason, dwelling on flavours in wine is clearly not as important as perhaps we give it credit for.

Our olfactory system is where all the mixing flavor and aroma inputs happen. As we drink wine, we smell it through our nose and taste it via our tongue as it slips down our gullet. This is referred to as orthonasal smell. There is a second hit however which has much more effect than we realise which is referred to as retronasal smell; the escape of heated aroma compounds from our windpipe after swallowing. These compounds are superheated due to our body temp and an array of newly developed aromas emerge due to the warming process of the body (including alcohol carrying aromas), and travel back through our nose to be re-smelled on the way out of the body. This triple hit of orthonasal, tongue taste, and retronasal smell is what gives us the tools to build the image of flavour.

To conclude, the Science behind your glass of wine is an enchanting journey that helps us understand why it tastes as it does. So the next time you sip on a glass of wine, consider flavour and enjoy all the complex flavours that make it a quaffable drink. Be sure to pop into our bar for a wine-tasting event in elephant and castle, London, to learn more about wine. We also have the option for private hire if you'd like to provide your guest with a unique experience.

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