Research to compare traditional and scientific wine evaluations

The Colorado Wine Industry Development Board and Nebraska Winery and Grape Growers Association have announced plans to participate in a wine quality assurance research study.

“Wine tasting is an ancient art form and this study hopes to modernize that process,” said Doug Caskey, executive director of the wine board. The board promotes and helps market Colorado wines and wine-related tourism as well as supports research and experimentation.

“For example, traditional means may include detecting a particular aroma,” Caskey said. “But this new study will ask the question, ‘What are the levels of the aroma and what is causing it?’”

The study will investigate a unique methodology for wine sensory quality assurance evaluation developed and first implemented at Penn State in 2007 by Stephen Menke, an associate professor of enology at Colorado State University. 

The evaluation protocol consists of two panels. Both panels will be comprised of individuals in isolated sensory booths conducting blind wine tasting. All samples will be tagged with a randomized code.

The first panel will be trained to detect specific ranges of concentrations in wine of nine aroma chemicals involved in common wine faults. This panel will sniff the wine samples in the study and not taste them. These panelists may deduct points from a possible total for each category of fault aromas, which can reduce the possible score. 

The second panel will both sniff and taste the same samples based on the traditional sensory or “hedonistic” methods and evaluate the wines on a modified Davis 20-point scale that includes flavor, appearance, color, aroma and mouthfeel. The scores from both panels will be tabulated together to form a composite score in hopes of finding conformity between the traditional and scientific methods.

Menke, who also serves as the state enologist, will monitor the study, as will Susan Cuppett, a professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL).

The study, titled “Comparison of Scoring for Two Types of Wine Quality Assurance Panels with a Derived Composite Score of Both Panels,” will be carried out in the sensory laboratory at the UNL food science processing facility. 

“We hope this will be the first step in the process of establishing robust quality assurance programs in Colorado and Nebraska,” Menke said. “And we hope to add chemical assessment and more quality assurance training for winery personnel in the future.”