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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Enology -- a science that deals with wine and wine making

I just finished off a bottle of Rosso Classic by Francis Coppola, the famous film director of the Godfather series and Apocalypse Now (the movie based on Conrad's Heart of Darkness). This wine, which I really liked, is a blend of 47% Zinfandel, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon and 21% Syrah from California.

A couple of summers ago I promoted use of statistical design of experiments (DOE) to the Society of Industrial Microbiology at their annual conference. One of the attendees was a professor in the Department of Viticulture & Enology, University of California. What a great job!

I first became interested in the potential of DOE for wine-making when I came across some intriguing case studies by Douglas Montgomery in his textbook Design and Analysis of Experiments. A recent writeup on Professor Montgomery at Arizona State University (ASU) Regents' Professor: Douglas Montgomery mentions that he's "delved into aspects of chemical engineering in a project to develop an efficient wine-making process for an Oregon winery." I believe his specialties are Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio. The sensory evaluation of wine involves smell and taste.

I find these intriguing facts about human sensations at International Journal of Food Science & Technology

-- There are around 10,000 taste buds, each of which contains 50–100 cells detection sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (produced by monosodium glutamates and the like).
-- Humans can distinguish around 10,000 chemicals with upwards of 100 million olfactory receptors!

If you really want to enjoy an flavor sensation (combination of taste and smell), add cheese to the wine and make a pairing. According to Discovery News Brief "the first attempt to study wine and cheese pairing using a controlled environment and a scientific experimental design" found that the ideal combinations are Gewurtztraminer with a creamy blue cheese, unoaked Chardonnay with a semi-soft washed rind cheese and a blush wine with an aged cheddar. My suggestion is that these findings require confirmatory experiments!


  • At 1:19 PM, Blogger Wayne said…

    Don't forget the wines from East of the Mississippi. Cornell University in the Finger Lakes wine country of New York offers several degrees related to wine. They even have an elective course in wine tasting. A friend of mine who graduated from Cornell said the class was one of the hardest to pass on campus. I wonder why?


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