A nanosensor that mimics the oral effects and sensations of drinking wine has been developed by Danish and Portuguese researchers. Jim Drury saw it in operation.
The science of wine tasting is complex. In addition to taste, a wine's smell, body, and astringency all count. SOUNDBITE (English) JOANA GUERREIRO, PHD STUDENT AT iNANO CENTRE AT AARHUS UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "Astringency is that tactile sensation that we feel on our mouth when we drink wine. So polyphenols that are present in wine they interact with our saliva proteins and they can lead to complex formation and that interaction it's translated into that dryness feeling and that constriction feeling or sensation that we have on the mouth." Joana Guerreiro, from Aarhus University's iNano Centre, has helped develop what she calls the perfect scientific testing method. It's a nanosensor, consisting of a small gold plate coated with nanoscale particles. Proteins from human saliva are added, before being exposed to wine. The gold particles act as nano-lenses, says iNano Centre associate professor Duncan Sutherland. SOUNDBITE (English) DUNCAN SUTHERLAND, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT iNANO CENTRE AT AARHUS UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "We're using the colour of these gold nanoparticles as a way of reading out the sensor signal....its size and its shape actually changes the colour and also the surroundings, so by having protein there and having these small molecules from wine we can actually see the colour change using a spectrometer." It's the first sensor that measures not just the amount of polyphenols in a wine, but the effect of those molecules entering a drinker's mouth. Astringency testing is currently performed by professional tasting panels after production. At London's Bottle Apostle, British wine author Graeme Chesters says the nanosensor has great potential for wine producers. SOUNDBITE (English) GRAEME CHESTERS, WINE AUTHOR AND EXPERT, SAYING: "The science of wine making is actually surprisingly complicated and its study is an ongoing process, both in the vineyard and the winery, and this development is certainly a component of that, and I can see there being a use for an automated method of measuring early in the production process the amount of phenolic astringency in wine and then the winemaker can adjust it up or down accordingly, perhaps according to current commercial tastes." Guerreiro says the sensor could also help produce better, and more targeted, medicine. The iNano team want funding to make a commercial sensor to test wine, fruit juice and beer.... Cost-conscious wine producers may well raise a glass when it's finished.