London: Scientists in Spain claim to have developed an "electronic tongue" to rival sommeliers in tasting of cava or the sparkling wine.A team at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona has created the tongue which uses electronic sensory systems with "advanced mathematical procedures" to identify the different varieties of the Spanish sparkling wine according to taste.
Cava is said to be Catalan alternative to champagne.
The scientists aimed to replicate the human tongue to obtain classification of sweetness of the Catalan alternative to champagne by measuring the sugar levels within it. In that way it can accurately detect defects in the production process and act as quality control measure.
The "robotic sommelier", as it has been dubbed, can already determine the difference between Brut, Brut Nature, and medium dry varieties, and could in the future be "trained" for wider applications, `The Daily Telegraph` reported.
"It`s a complex training system. You need to show it samples -- teach it like you would a child, and once trained, it tells you what a new sample looks like or resembles. Then it can be trained for almost any situation," said Manel del Valle, who led the team.
He believes it has a commercial use and could eventually replace the teams of experts needed in each bodega.
"It could perform automatic tests in the production process to detect defects and may be a replacement for the (human) sensory panel used by many wine producers," he said.
But, the team insists that human sommeliers would not become obsolete anytime soon. "The sommelier will be always the one with personal treatment. In a restaurant for example, this personal treatment will be never replaced by a machine," Del Valle said.
However, it`s not the first electronic development to challenge the traditional expertise of a sommelier.
In Japan, researchers developed an anthropomorphic robot that could recognise the type of wine and the grape varieties within it by analysing the infrared light absorption within a glass of the liquid.
In France, researchers have developed an "electronic nose" which can not only pinpoint where a wine was made but even in which barrel it was fermented.
First Published: Wednesday, August 3, 2011, 19:27