Scientific research could help buy wine by taste alone

It's a dilemma for ardent wine connoisseurs - do you want to buy wine based solely on its taste, or would you prefer aspects like its aroma to continue to play a part in the decision-making process?

Scientists in Australia are working hard to put that decision in the hands of the buyer, by learning exactly what it is that gives wine its distinctive flavour, including what makes individual grapes taste different from one another.

But it's hard to test that without other characteristics getting in the way - so for 14 months now, a team at the Australian Wine Research Institute have been extracting glycosides, flavour compounds associated with the sugars that are present in wine, and isolating them from the look and smell of the wine itself.

This has eventually allowed them to carry out blind taste tests, including serving the glycosides in black glassware to hide any remaining colouration.

As a four-year project, it is likely to be some time before their findings are in common usage when you buy wine, but the early outcomes are intriguing.

For example, "tasters could detect a floral or fruity flavour that built in the mouth after tasting [a Gewurztraminer wine]", says AWRI scientist Mango Parker.

It's early days, but it could provide an alternative to the traditional process of smelling wine and examining its colour, to allow decisions to be made solely by virtue of taste in the years to come.