60-Second Science

Oenophiles Confirm Fruity Flavors Finish First

Wine researchers find that fruity flavors tend to finish quickest on the palate, whereas oaky flavors linger longer--as aficionados have long claimed. Christopher Intagliata reports


The lore among wine aficionados is that fruity flavors tend to finish quickest on the palate, whereas oaky flavors linger longer.

“And then when you go to the scientific literature, you find out that really there haven't been scientific studies done on it.” Carolyn Ross, a sensory scientist at Washington State University.

She and her colleagues investigated the claims. They identified four flavor compounds common in white wine, which give floral, fruity, mushroomy and oaky notes. They then studied the compounds in what’s known as a model wine: “Meaning that it had alcohol in it, it had some sugar, some acid in it, but it wasn't actually wine.”

They added the compounds one at a time to their model wine, and asked trained tasters to clock how long it took flavors to fade. Fruity did indeed finish first—lasting a minute and a half. The others took 30 seconds longer to fade. And even when mixed with the other flavors, fruity still finished first—so the lore was right.

The study appears in the journal Food Quality and Preference. [Emily S. Goodstein et al, Perception of flavor finish in model white wine: A time-intensity study]

As for home tasters? “Pay attention to the finish, perhaps time it, if that's your thing.” It does happen to be ours.

—Christopher Intagliata

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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