Wine scientist reveals how food, music and temperature can affect its taste.

When Dr Jacqui McRae reveals what she does for a living, most people are overcome with professional envy.

As a research scientist at the Australian Wine Research Institute, Dr McRae spends her days studying the finite qualities of some of Australia’s best drops.

So does she ever get to taste what’s in the beaker?

“Ah no,” she said,” that would be nice, but no.”

Dr McRae began her scientific career studying the active constituents in medicinal plants.

After seeing an advertisement for a wine researcher, her interest was piqued.

“There is a lot of chemistry and biology in wine.

“My job is to work out how some of the textures, flavours and aromas are formed and what they contribute to the wine.

“Specifically I look at tannins — how the tannin structure changes over time and what that means for wine mouthfeel.”

The reaction of the tannins to the proteins in our mouths can determine the sensory response to the liquid, Dr McRae explained.

“When you have a big glass of wine with some cheese, that will soften the astringency somewhat,” she said.

“But how does that same wine change over time, why does it change and how does that affect the mouthfeel?”

This is what Dr McRae’s research focuses on.

Dr McRae said everything from personal palates to different music could affect how wine tastes and feels.

“There are so many questions around wine that need to be investigated.”

Dr McRae and her colleagues have also looked into the impact of artificial ageing products, cork versus screw cap stoppers, and whether placing a spoon in the neck of a sparkling wine bottle will really stop it from going flat.

Too hot, too cold — what temperature is just right?

“If you are serving wine straight from the fridge, it is too cold,” Dr McRae said.


“Red wines can cope with higher temperatures than white wines, so you might want to serve a red wine during winter at room temperature.”

Dr McRae said the serving temperature of the wine would greatly affect the overall taste and experience.

“If you drink it too cold you won’t get those volatile compounds — the flavour and aroma compounds are not going to come out.”

Serving red wine slightly cooler than room temperature will enhance the taste.

For the ultimate wine experience, 8-12 degrees Celsius is recommended for white wine and 16-20C for reds.

Mulling, heating and cooking with wine removed many of the reactionary compounds.

“It’s a different entity than what you are drinking straight from the bottle,” Dr McRae said.

“Usually with mulled wine they are adding a lot of spices, so that is not a problem if you are losing some [flavour] because you are adding some.”

And surprisingly, given their line of work, Dr McRae said while most of her colleagues could enjoy a glass of red or white, it generally was not their drink of choice.

“We have a lot of beer drinkers,” the self-confessed gin lover said.

As part of Science Week, researchers from the Australian Wine Research Institute will host A Big Glass Of Wine Science forum at 157 Melbourne Street, Adelaide, on August 16 from 5:30pm.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.


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