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Sensory Analysis – Its Coming of Age

By: , Posted on: January 31, 2017

Source: Wikimedia

Sensory analysts investigate the basic nature of perception as well as assist the food and beverage industries in devising products with consumer appeal. It was first used by wine scientists to assess whether changes in grape and wine production had detectable influences on wine quality. Subsequent studies could be designed to investigate the sensory and chemical nature of the differences detected, and assess whether these had consumer relevance. The results shed light on how vineyard or winery practice could be improved.

Although useful, most techniques assessed wine quality as static phenomena, missing dynamic features important to the wine aficionado (e.g., the development and duration of a wine’s fragrance, and the length and finesse of its finish). Sensory procedures tended to illustrate wine quality in a manner similar to floral diagrams. The latter idiomatically illustrate features of botanical importance, but do grave injustice to the visual impact flowers may have on the viewer. To adequately represent the mercurial nature of wine quality, a graphic means of representing this feature was necessary, the equivalent of a video used by trainers to point out improvements in athletic technique.

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The first procedure to tackle the issue of sensory dynamics was time-intensity (TI) analysis. It measured how a particular attribute’s intensity changed with time. Although useful in investigating the psychophysiology of perception, it was of little value to the wine industry. A technique assessing all sensorially relevant characteristics simultaneously, and over the full course of assessment, was required. A simplistic version of such a technique was first suggested in 1975, but not presented in detailed form as a serious analytic tool until 2009. The procedure, termed temporal dominance of sensations (TDS), graphically represents how the intensity of a wine’s most obvious gustatory and olfactory attributes change during sampling (typically lasting 30 to 60 sec). Subsequent samplings can also assess in greater detail how these attributes change over the full course of a tasting (often lasting up to 20 min). The pragmatic value of TDS to the wine industry has recently been demonstrated in several studies detailing the range of sensory influences generated by different skin-contact procedures and modified alcohol contents. TDS can also be combined with polar (spider) plots, illustrating the sensory properties that characterize the wine(s), but that may individually not be sufficiently pronounced to be measured adequately by TDS. Thus, sensory scientists are positioned to provide new and critical insights into vineyard and winery procedures that influence consumer preference. The ultimate goal is to better assist the wine industry to produce affordable quality wine, for all, on the supermarket shelf.

Reprinted from Sokolowsky, M., Rosenberger, A., Fischer, U., 2015. Sensory impact of skin contact on white wines characterized by descriptive analysis, time–intensity analysis and temporal dominance of sensations analysis. Food Qual. Pref. 39, 285–297., with permission from Elsevier.


Read more from Ron Jackson on wine science here

About the Author

ron jacksonRonald S. Jackson received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Queen’s University and the doctorate from the University of Toronto. His time in Vineland, Ontario, and subsequently at Cornell University, redirected his interest in plant disease toward viticulture and enology. As part of his regular teaching duties at Brandon University, he developed the first wine technology course in Canada. For many years, Dr. Jackson was a technical advisor to the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission, developed sensory tests to assess the tasting skills of members of its Sensory Panel, and was a member of its External Tasting Panel.

Dr. Jackson has left his position as a professor and the chair of the Botany Department at Brandon University to concentrate on writing. He is allied with the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, Brock University.

wine tasting a professional handbook

He is also the author of Elsevier books Wine Science: Principles and Applications, Fourth Edition, which won the prestigious OIV Award in 2015, and the forthcoming Wine Tasting: A Professional Handbook, Third Edition, due in February 2017.

Visit the Elsevier Store to access content on food and beverage science and more! Use discount code STC215 at checkout and save up to 30% on your very own copy!

Additionally, please click one the links below to listen to Dr. Jackson’s lectures and learn more.

Botrytis – the Jekyll-and-Hyde fungus
Wine Language – Insight into the Mind of the Taster
Oak Characteristics Relative to Barrel Production

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Food Science & Nutrition

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