Multidisciplinary strategies for understanding ill-defined concepts

Aims: The objective of the present work is to review strategies applied to decrypt multidimensional and ill-defined concepts employed by winemakers and to illustrate these strategies with recent applications.

Methods and Results: The first group of strategies are based in acceding long-term memory of experts including description and association tasks. For example, in a recent study, Spanish experts were asked to provide a sensory description of a green wine from memory. Terms such as “vegetal aroma” and “unpleasant/default” were shared by experts from different regions in Spain, while “excessive sourness”, “astringency” and a term linked to wine phenolic compounds such as “tannin” presented an important idiosyncrasy related to the region of origin of winemakers. Previously, a word association task was applied for understanding the concept of minerality. Place-related (Chablis, geology and terroir) and sensory dimensions (shellfish, chalky and freshness) appeared to be the core of the concept for Chablis winemakers. The second group of strategies involves sensory tasting and chemical characterization. It was used for deciphering perceived quality, minerality and green wine concepts. This strategy includes two main steps, description of samples and chemical analysis of volatile and non-volatile chemicals with sensory activity by either targeted or untargeted instrumental approaches. For example, for a set of Spanish red wines and following a targeted instrumental approach, the samples evaluated by Spanish experts as highest quality were associated to high levels of norisoprenoids, and low levels of whiskylactones and higher alcohols. 

Significance and Impact of the Study: The multidisciplinary approaches involving sensory (including both mental and tasting approaches) and chemical strategies are pertinent and effective for deciphering multidimensional and ill-defined concepts. These approaches are useful for improving the understanding and communication among people of the wine sector. These approaches can also help the industry to optimize grape and wine production stages to achieve the desired sensory characteristics by feeding into practices for modulating the composition of wine at different production stages. Finally, these approaches are an important source of knowledge for everyone interested in science of wine tasting. 

Authors: M.P. Sáenz-Navajas1*, H. Rodrigues2, D. Valentin3

1Laboratorio de Análisis del Aroma y Enología (LAAE), Department of Analytical Chemistry, Universidad de Zaragoza, Associated Unit to Institute for Vine and Wine Sciences-ICVV-(CSIC-GR-UR), Spain
2Plumpton College, Centre for excellence in Wine Education and Research, UK
3Centre des Sciences du Goût et de l’Alimentation, AgroSup Dijon, CNRS, INRAE, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté, F-21000 Dijon, France

Email: maria@saenz.info

Keywords: Sensory, description, memory-based strategies, tasting, sensory-active

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