Nanoscience May be Improving Your Wine in the Future with 'Mini-Mouth'

First Posted: Sep 17, 2014 11:31 AM EDT

Science may be improving your wine in the future. Researchers have created a new device, a nanosensor, which can mimic what happens in your mouth when you drink wine, measuring how you experience the sensation of dryness. That's sure to give wine producers something to work with.

 When you drink a glass of wine, an explosion of flavors erupts on your tongue. These flavors are largely created by how wine growers turn their grapes into wine. A large part of a wine's taste relies on astringency, which is characteristic of the dry sensation you get in your mouth when you drink red wine in particular. This particular component relies on tannins in the wine.

Now, it seems that researchers have created a device that can actually measure the effect of astringency in your mouth when you drink wine. The sensor itself is a type of "mini-mouth" that uses salivary proteins in order to measure the sensation that occurs in your mouth when you drink wine. The sensor itself is a small plate coated with nanoscale gold particles; it's first covered in proteins contained in saliva and then a drop of wine is added. The gold particles on the plate act as nano-optics and make it possible to focus a beam of light below the diffraction limit so as to precisely measure the proteins and see what effect the wine has.

So what does this mean? It's possible that wine producers can use this sensor in order to control the development of astringency during wine production since it can measure astringency levels right from the beginning of the process. Without the device, this can only be achieved when the wine is ready and only by using a professional tasting panel.

"We don't want to replace the wine taster," said Joana Guerreiro, first author of the new study, in a news release. "When you produce wine, you know that the finished product should have a distinct taste with a certain level of astringency. If it doesn't work, people won't drink the wine." She added that "The sensor expands our understanding of the concept of astringency."

The findings could improve wine production, certainly; but it could also be used in the field of medicine. The sensor could potentially make it possible to very accurately measure the effect of something on the molecular plane for targeted medicine.

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