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Electronic tongue set to beat human wine tasters

Scientists are currently developing an electronic tongue that is set to be more reliable and sophisticated than the human palate.

Boffins at the Barcelona Institute of Microelectronics are still in the early stages of developing their ‘e-tongue’, as it is known, but the device is already able to tell the difference between certain grape varieties and vintages.

Using tiny synthetic membranes, each sensitive to different chemical components in a wine, the e-tongue can already distinguish the differences between the Chardonnay, Malvasia, Macabeu and Airen grape varieties. It can also tell whether the same wine is from the 2005 or 2004 vintages.

According to Dr Jiménez-Jorquera and colleagues working on the project, the samples analysed by device will be increased to get more precise results – a form of sensory training.

The device works in the same way as the human tongue and is sensitive to sweet, salty, acidic, sour and savoury (umami) tastes.

Jiménez-Jorquera told Royal Society of Chemistry journal The Analyst that the e-tongue ,‘could be used to detect frauds committed regarding the vintage year of the wine, or the grape varieties used’.

‘The awful, dirty little secret is that most collectors don’t have the palate to know if there’s really 1787 vintage Sauternes in that Château Yquem bottle or whether the damn thing was knocked up last week in a lockup outside Zurich out of old bottles and Tizer,’ said Tim Haywood, food writer for UK website The Guardian.

Written by Oliver Styles

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