When you take a well-aged bottle from your fine wine cellar, pop the cork and pour the vino into your favourite glass, you'll probably already have your own tried-and-trusted techniques in place for picking out the various subtle flavours.
Perhaps you take the tiniest sip, allowing the wine to spread slowly over your tongue in a gradual tease. Maybe you take a bigger gulp, swishing the liquid around every nook and cranny of your mouth to identify the flavours in one fell swoop.
Some casual wine drinkers might argue that it doesn't particularly matter, and that the beverage will taste the same no matter which way it is drunk. However, if a new study is to be believed, the amount of wine that enters your mouth at each sip can notably change its overall taste.
A volatile nature
This is because the nature of wine means that it releases different levels of volatiles (chemicals with taste and smell) depending upon the amount of vino taken in. Additionally, it was revealed just why wine can taste so different to how it smells – a problem that has perplexed even the most avid connoisseurs across the ages.
The amount of wine that enters your mouth at each sip can notably change its overall taste.
In general terms, flavour relates pretty closely to smell, according to an article published in The Telegraph, and that's because the human nose aids that tongue in picking up taste when we eat or drink. However, a common substance found in the mouth that isn't present in the nostrils – saliva – can affect the way that volatiles are released when we take a taste.
Hence, the flavour is altered from what we previously smelled when we place our nose in the bowl of the glass. How did this breakthrough in the old art of wine tasting actually come about, though?
Does size matter?
Researchers at the University of Naples Federico II took two different Italian whites made from the Falanghina grape and studied 22 of their volatiles. These were poured into a custom-made bionic mouth which could hold up to 100 ml, and the volatiles were analysed via a specialised technique called high resolution gas chromatography mass spectrometry – try saying that after a couple of glasses of the good stuff!
The experiment captured details of the volatiles released by a taking a small sip – around 30 ml – or a bigger gulp, which equates to 40 ml. Additionally, saliva samples from a selection of non-smoking males was added to half of the specimens.
The results were astounding. The bouquet that we wine fanatics so adore changed hugely when a bigger sample was gulped, and saliva changed it yet further. Will this groundbreaking research change the way that you taste your wines?
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