Colorado wine tasting gets scientific

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Colorado wine makers are participating in a wine quality research study in hopes of learning ways to make their wines better and grow the $42 million industry.

The Colorado Wine Industry Development Board and Nebraska Winery and Grape Growers Association have commissioned a study with Colorado State University’s Stephen Menke, an enologist.

The study will investigate a unique methodology for wine sensory quality assurance evaluation and calls for two panels to review wines. One panel will only smell the wine. They are trained to detect nine aroma chemicals involved in common wine faults. The second panel will smell and taste the same samples. The wine will be scored on flavor, appearance, color, aroma, and mouth- feel. The scores from both panels will be combined in hopes of finding conformity between traditional and scientific methods of reviewing the wines.

“Wine tasting is an ancient art form and this study hopes to modernize that process,” said Doug Caskey, Colorado Wine Industry Development Board executive director. “For example, traditional means may include detecting a particular aroma but this new study will ask the question, what are the levels of the aroma and what is causing it.”

The results will be formulated after each tasting, he said. Learning more about the problem areas will help wine makers adjust their wine formulas and, hopefully, come up with something better, he said. The results should give wineries a wide-spectrum approach on what is going on with their wine and how the wine is perceived, Caskey said.

“Industry- wide, this elevates the overall quality of wine in the state,” he said. “And hopefully consumers’ perception that we are working on making it better.”

The study will be monitored by Menke and Susan Cuppett from University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

“We hope this will be the first step in the process of establishing robust quality assurance programs in Colorado and Nebraska” Menke said.  “And, we hope to add chemical assessment and more quality assurance training for winery personnel in the future.

Colorado’s wine industry is made up of 100 wineries, 1,200 acres of grapes and 200 grape-growers. Wine is a $42 million industry in the state, according to 2006 numbers. A current industry study is underway.

“From the individual winery perspective, this will give them a sense of how the wines are fairing,” Caskey said. “Are there wine making issues they need to address?”