Not a wine “tasting” robot

> This is a comment on a piece that was published in the media, and featured in 33senses
> By Barry C. Smith
* Read the original article: “This robot tastes better than a wine critic”, published by TechCrunch.
Photo credit: Getty images, The Guardian

This is an interesting device, but it’s not – as the headline claims – a wine tasting robot. It’s an astringency detecting device. Because the tannins in wine (and in tea and rhubarb) can cause a puckering and drying sensation in the mouth and we know why that happens – the polyphenols coagulate the proteins on the tongue making the saliva less slippery – we can measure the likely effect on human tasters of this texture effect. What the robot can’t do is put this element of touch together with taste and smell to create the whole multisensory experience of tasting that tells us whether a wine with this amount of tannin in it is balanced or not. So far, only a human taster can do that. Nevertheless, it’s an important if small part of the jigsaw pieces that go together to explain the extraordinary feat of wine tasting.

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