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Alcoholic Beverages: Sensory Evaluation and Consumer Research

Alcoholic Beverages: Sensory Evaluation and Consumer Research

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Alcoholic Beverages: Sensory Evaluation and Consumer Research

1,016 pagine
Nov 24, 2011


Sensory evaluation methods are extensively used in the wine, beer and distilled spirits industries for product development and quality control, while consumer research methods also offer useful insights as the product is being developed. This book introduces sensory evaluation and consumer research methods and provides a detailed analysis of their applications to a variety of different alcoholic beverages.

Chapters in part one look at the principles of sensory evaluation and how these can be applied to alcoholic beverages, covering topics such as shelf life evaluation and gas chromatography – olfactometry. Part two concentrates on fermented beverages such as beer and wine, while distilled products including brandies, whiskies and many others are discussed in part three. Finally, part four examines how consumer research methods can be employed in product development in the alcoholic beverage industry.

With its distinguished editor and international team of contributors, Alcoholic beverages is an invaluable reference for those in the brewing, winemaking and distilling industries responsible for product development and quality control, as well as for consultants in sensory and consumer science and academic researchers in the field.
  • Comprehensively analyses the application of sensory evaluation and consumer research methods in the alcoholic beverage industry
  • Considers shelf life evaluation, product development and gas chromatography
  • Chapters examine beer, wine, and distilled products, and the application of consumer research in their production
Nov 24, 2011

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Alcoholic Beverages - Elsevier Science


Part I

Sensory evaluation: principles and application to alcoholic beverages


Overview of sensory perception

W.L.P. Bredie and P. Møller,     The University of Copenhagen, Denmark


Perception of foods and beverages is mediated by the human senses, of which the five common senses play an important role. Sensory function at physiological and genetic levels is now understood in detail. This chapter provides details about the chemical senses, important for the perception of flavour. Chemical receptors for taste, smell and pain are widespread in the human body and are believed to have other functions, as in homeostasis and food intake regulation. Food perception is intertwined with the way humans select foods, food intake and learning of new food preferences. Sensory physiology undergoes changes and food preferences vary through life; perception of the sensory quality of foods is stable from early adolescence to old age.

Key words

food perception

common senses

sensory physiology

food interoception


1.1 Introduction

The appreciation of foods and beverages is strongly influenced by the sensory properties of the appearance, smell, flavour and texture. The sensory properties of foods are mediated through all our senses including the common senses of sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell, as well as pain and temperature. Many of the perceptions humans have with foods become more familiar and liked upon repeated exposure and are thus learned throughout their lifespan. The sound of opening a can of beer will create expectations regarding the freshness of the product, and even such a perception that is less central to our awareness is not trivial for the total sensory quality experienced with the product. Although the common senses are quite central to the understanding of the perceived sensory quality, the sensations and feelings related to the desires to eat and satisfaction with the consumption of food should not be neglected. These feelings occur in the alimentary tract and are important drivers for food intake and termination of eating and drinking. As with perception of foods, which deals with the interaction of the senses with the environment, feelings in the body can be referred to as interoception.

Our senses of sight and touch can set up expectations of the overall flavour of food which can be very hard to ignore. For example, the presentation of a prestigious cognac in a cheap polystyrene container would ruin not only the expected quality, but also the perceived sensory quality. The interplay of the presentation, expectation and situation in which the food is made available plays an important role in the experienced sensory quality. Equally, the colour of food can affect our perception of the flavour both by enhancing the magnitude of perception, for example the fruity and strawberry flavours in red drinks (e.g. Small and Prescott, 2005).

Between all the senses, the most significant for our appreciation of foods and drinks remain the chemical senses, which encompass taste, smell and chemesthesis (pain, touch and temperature). Taste or gustation detects compounds dissolved in liquids using delicately organized chemosensors, mostly in the mouth. Smell or olfaction detects air borne compounds, both from the ambient air, but also from those emitted from the food in the oral cavity and throat to the nose. Chemesthesis mediates information about irritants through nerve endings in the skin as well as other borders between us and the environment, including the epithelia in the nose, mouth, eyes and in the alimentary tract.

In this chapter we will give a closer look at how our senses interact with foods and beverages. Special attention will be given to the role and function of the senses, especially the chemical senses, which are central in the perception of flavour. Furthermore, the chapter describes what happens in the mouth when drinking a beverage and how the sensory signals that arise are transduced and integrated in the human brain. Several mechanisms of human perception will be explained and described with the aim to give a better understanding about why sensory properties and preferences are so different for different foods and beverages.

1.2 The common senses

Humans are endowed with many senses which make it possible to obtain information about ‘what’ is ‘where’ in the environment. A fair number of these different senses, or sensory modalities, are of crucial importance for perception and affective evaluation of foods and drinks, as well as for choice behaviour, which have been demonstrated to rely far more on the sensory properties than upon any other parameters.

In English, and many other languages, the overall sensory impression of food and drink is usually described by the word ‘taste’. When we use the word in this sense it will be written in quotation marks, ‘taste’; without quotes we refer to the separate sense of taste. Besides helping us to choose and create expectations, visual perception also contributes to preparing the gastrointestinal system for digestion via a number of so-called cephalic reflexes, such as increasing the flow of saliva in the mouth. This aids the chewing process and facilitates transport of tastants to taste cells, increasing release of insulin in the pancreas and increasing release of acid in the stomach (Giduck et al., 1987; Mattes, 1997). Perception of food smells has also been demonstrated to have cephalic consequences. These effects take place via so-called orthonasal olfaction, or olfaction obtained by sniffing behaviour. This is different from the way the sense of smell contributes to the ‘taste’ of food and drink, which is referred to as retronasal olfaction. Recent work has suggested that retronasal and orthonasal olfaction might be distinct in many ways (Small et al., 2005), possibly reflecting the different functional roles they play in food and other behaviours.

Finally, interoception, the sensation of the internal physiological state of the body, plays a large role in food behaviour, probably in particular with respect to how preferences and habits change, seemingly outside our conscious control (Craig, 2002; Capaldi, 2001).

1.2.1 General definitions of taste and flavour

It is customary to talk of five basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. The last one, umami, is less well known than the other four. It is often described as the taste of bouillon or glutamate. Umami was discovered by Japanese scientists and the name is meant to indicate ‘pleasurable taste’, and is associated with seaweed, fermented soy and fish products. The concept of basic tastes comprises the idea that sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami tastes are basic, in the sense that no one of them can be obtained by any combination of the other four, and that any taste sensation possible can be created by an appropriate mixture of the five basic tastes. The basic tastes are usually defined in terms of sucrose (sweet), quinine (bitter), sodium chloride (salty), citric acid (sour) and monosodium glutamate (umami).

As already mentioned, the five basic tastes are not sufficient to create all of the thousands of different ‘tastes’ available to us from different foods. Smelling a food or drink gives an impression of its so-called aroma. The sense of smell would therefore seem to be an important sense for the perception of foods and drinks. Think about how food tastes when you have a common cold; or how wine tastes if you block your nose when drinking it. If smell was not important for the ‘taste’ of food and drinks it should be possible to ‘create’ the ‘taste’ of, e.g., an orange, by a particular mixture of the basic tastes. The sensation of smell produces an almost infinite number of possible ‘tastes’ when combined with the other senses important for food and drink perception. The dimensionality of the space describing the different possible tastes increases enormously from the five dimensions that the sense of taste provides on its own. In the scientific literature the central (i.e. in the brain) integration of taste, smell and trigeminality is often referred to as flavour. For the total experience of a food or a drink, it would make sense to also include tactile sensation (touch, mouth-feel) and hearing among the senses that contribute to the flavour of a food or drink. In common language, taste is often confused with flavour, as the tastes that people describe are merely derived from olfactory inputs or other sensations, such as touch and temperature.

Despite the fact that we only rarely doubt whether we have added too much salt to a dish or too much tonic in our gin and tonic, or if our coffee is too bitter, the underlying neurophysiological processes that immediately allow us to evaluate these questions are very complicated, as will be elaborated upon later in this chapter. Suffice it to mention here that the sensation of a taste starts with stimulation of taste cells in the mouth. Different neurophysiological mechanisms have been identified to code the different basic tastes. Smells are coded by receptor cells in the olfactory epithelium, which is located in the upper part of both nostrils. The epithelium occupies 4–5 cm² in each nostril and consists of about 350 different types of receptor cells. Most odorants activate many of these 350 different cells, but different smells activate different subsets to different degrees in patterns of activation to be disentangled by the brain.

Trigeminal stimuli are also occasionally referred to as ‘irritants’, since the sensations they give rise to can be unpleasant or even painful. Besides allowing us to perceive hot spices (chilli, garlic and ginger, etc.) and CO2 in fizzy drinks, most chemical substances at sufficiently high concentration will also activate the trigeminal system. The receptors of the trigeminal system consist of so-called free nerve endings, and many of the functional properties of this system are very different from properties of olfaction (smell) and gustation (taste), as we will return to later in the chapter.

1.3 Oro-sensory systems

The oro-sensory area can be viewed as the total group of sensory receptors present in our lips, tongue, palate, soft palate and areas in the upper throat (pharynx and laryngopharynx). Although sensations of temperature, touch and pain can be sensed throughout the oro-sensory area, the sense of taste appears to be comparatively better organised. Even at the lips, temperature and pain are clearly sensed and temperatures at 32 °C are sensed as cool, whereas temperatures above 34 °C are sensed as warm and above 43 °C as painful (Heft and Robinson, 2010). Thus the drink or food touching the lips is already primed by a signal of suitability for consumption.

1.3.1 Sense of taste

In its scientific meaning, taste is mainly a function of the taste buds in the mouth, most of which are organised in structurally-defined units also called taste papillae. The receptor cells for taste are chemoreceptors as they have receptor proteins that respond to compounds put into the mouth (Fig. 1.1). The chemoreceptors in the oral cavity detect a range of volatile and non-volatile compounds leading to basic taste sensations. The perception of basic tastes has probably evolved to provide information about foods in accord with desires, and often in accord with metabolic needs for specific nutritive substances. Another function is to alert us to toxins or intake of a potential toxic dose of a food. It is therefore not surprising that very bitter substances or high concentrations of sugar or alcohol are difficult to ingest in large portions. Beside the basic tastes, there is some evidence for another taste quality, namely fat. At present the architecture and sensory function of fat receptors in the mouth is a topic of scientific debate. The chemoreceptors for taste reside in the taste buds, which are mostly located in fungiform, foliate and circumvallate papillae on the tongue. About two-third of the taste buds are located in the taste papillae, whereas the remainder are situated on the palate and on the epiglottis (Miller, 1995). The filiform papillae in the middle part of the tongue have mainly trigeminal functions, like the burning sensations of CO2 and capsaicin.

Fig. 1.1 Chemo- and thermoreceptors in the mouth extending the common view of the five basic taste qualities (sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami) to other receptors that are also believed to be important for the overall taste quality of foods and beverages.

The taste bud is composed of up to 100 epithelial cells, some of which are supporting cells, called sustentacular cells, and others function as taste cells. The outer tips (apical) of the taste cells are organised around a minute taste pore. From the tip of the taste cells several taste hairs or microvilli protrude into the taste pore towards the cavity of the mouth. These microvilli contain the receptor proteins that interact with tastants. At present there are three major classes of taste cells. Type I cells (glial-like) have a support function for clearance of the taste bud for neurotransmitters and may remove extracellular K+ that accumulates after action potentials. Salty taste may be transduced by the glial-like cells, but this is still uncertain. Type II receptor cells make up about 30% of the taste bud and contain G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) in their membranes. These cells are responsible for the transduction of sweet, bitter and umami tasting stimuli. They associate with afferent nerve fibres but do not form definitive synapses (Chaudhari and Roper, 2010). The type III cells or intermediate cells make up about 20% of the cells in the taste bud and have well-differentiated synapses. They are transducers for sour stimuli. They form prominent synapses with afferent nerve fibres and are also involved in cell-to-cell signalling in the taste bud (Roper, 2006; Kataoka et al., 2008). Application of taste molecules on the taste cell causes a partial loss of the membrane potential, which is also called depolarization of the cell. In turn, the depolarization causes a number of intracellular events among others leading to the release of vesicles with neurotransmitter (type III cells). Interwoven among the taste cells is a branching network of taste nerve fibres that are stimulated by the taste cells through release of neurotransmitter. It has been observed that increasing the tastant concentration often leads to a greater depolarization of the taste cell.

Healthy adults have between 3000 and 10000 taste buds in the oral cavity. The taste cells in the taste buds are continuously regenerated by mitotic division. The mature taste cells lie in the middle of the taste bud, and break up and dissolve. The lifespan of taste cells is approximately ten days in lower mammals. The taste organ is thereby continuously in a process of regeneration and recovers from cellular damage, e.g. from burning the tongue when drinking a hot cup of tea. Some variation in the number of taste buds has been correlated to sensitivity to 6-propylthiouracil (PROP) and phenylthiocarbamide (PTC). Studies have shown that people with a high sensitivity to these substances have a greater number of fungiform papillae on the anterior part of the tongue (Miller and Reedy, 1990; Bartoshuk et al., 1994).

Taste receptors and transduction

Taste components that cannot penetrate the taste cell membrane interact with taste receptor proteins located in the cell membrane. These proteins are a subclass of the super family of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). The human taste receptors have been classified as T1R1, T1R2, T1R3 and T2Rs, and interact with bitter, sweet and umami substances. Other taste stimuli penetrate cell membranes including sodium, protons, undissociated acids and some bitter and sweet compounds. These compounds may interact with intracellular targets to activate the taste receptor cell. The definition of what would be a taste receptor for such ligands is therefore less clear (Bachmanov and Beauchamp, 2007). The activation of GPCRs by an external stimulus is the starting point of a succession of interactions between multiple proteins in the cell, leading to the release of chemical substances in the cell, also called second messengers. Although the cellular signal cascade is a general pattern of GPCRs, the large variety of each protein involved renders these mechanisms very complex and they are not completely understood. A schematic representation of the transduction cascades in taste cells is shown in Fig. 1.2.

Fig. 1.2 Schematic overview of the apical transduction mechanisms for the five basic taste qualities. (a) The sweet, bitter and umami tastants are mediated by interactions with the taste receptors (GPCR) of the type II taste cells. The sour and salty tastants are mediated by ion channels causing different intracellular events. (b) The proton channels are presumably present in type III cells. (c) Type II or type III cells carry the channels for salty tastants. (Source: Chaudhari and Roper, 2010; Firestein and Beauchamp, 2008.)


The human receptor for sweet taste is a single heterodimeric T1R2/T1R3 receptor (Li et al., 2002). Even though this receptor responds well to known sweet compounds, there may also be some low affinity of sweet tastants to its monomer or homodimers (Zhao et al., 2003). Transduction of sweet taste is, however, generally accepted as proceeding via activation of the heterodimeric T1R2/T1R3 receptor with subsequent activation of the G protein gustducin and/or transducin and possibly Gi(2)). The gustucin GβGγ subunit activates PLCβ2 to act on membrane phosphatidylinositol to produce IP3, which acts at its receptor IP3R on intracellular Ca²+ storage sites to release Ca²+. Finally, Ca²+ gates the transient receptor potential ion channel, TRPM5, enabling the inward flow of Na+, depolarizing the taste bud cell and initiating signalling to the central nervous system (CNS). Even though only one receptor for sweetness exists, a plurality of binding sites is accessible as well as multiple agonist-binding loci (Dubois et al., 2008). This means that the interaction of the receptor with the sweetener or combination of sweeteners can be complex. Hydrophobic sweeteners may also enter the taste cell to initiate the intracellular cascade.


The receptors for bitter taste are also members of the GPCR family. They have been named T2Rs and 25 types have been identified from the human genome analysis. The structure of the functional bitter receptors are not known, but it seems unlikely that they are limited to monomers. The combinations of homo- and heterodimers easily lead to a manifold number of bitter receptors in humans. Many bitter tastants bind directly to GCPRs that activate PLC and the production of IP3, leading to an increase in intracellular Ca²+. The binding of intracellular Ca²+ to the ion channel TRPM5 causes the channel to open, allowing cations to enter the cell, thus causing depolarization and excitation of the taste receptor cell (Dubois et al., 2008).

The genotype of the PTC/PROP receptor has been identified as T2R38 with PAV and AVI as halotypes. Accordingly, nontasters carry the recessive alleles AVI/AVI, while tasters are heterozygous (PAV/AVI) or carry the dominant AVI/AVI alleles. However, this genetic classification appears not to be sufficient to account for PTC/PROP sensitivity alone since it only expresses the taste receptor and not the number of fungiform papillae (Kim et al., 2003). Furthermore, bitter receptors appear to be less specific to bitter compounds. This means that several T2Rs can interact with the same bitter ligand. The bitter taste system has, therefore, some analogy to the olfactory system, which is also broadly tuned with respect to odorants.


The receptor for umami taste is T1R1/T1R3. Both T1R1 and T1R3 are members of class C GPCRs, and T1R3 is the same 7-TMD protein present in the sweetener receptor T1R2/T1R3. In humans the umami receptor is specific for glutamate and aspartate, and exhibits strong enhancements upon addition of nucleotides such as inosine monophosphate. Beside the heteromeric receptor, several intracellular effectors mediate the umami taste. Umami taste is coded at the cellular level, just like sweet and bitter taste. Thus, within the taste bud some taste bud cells are specific sensors for umami taste stimuli (Dubois et al., 2008).


Sodium salts are detected by the taste buds by permeating Na+ through apical ion channels and thereby depolarizing the taste cells in the taste bud. The amiloride-sensitive epithelial Na channel (ENaC) has been associated with salt taste detection and is found in type I cells. In sensory studies scaling the intensity of salty taste in drinking water showed a good positive correlation with the concentration of Na+, but Cl− seemed also to play a role for salty taste perception in drinking water (Marcussen et al., 2011, unpublished results).


The decrease of oral pH as a result of intake of an acid would suggest that acids leading to the same pHoral have the same sourness; however, this is not the case. At a fixed pH, acetic acid is always more potent sour than an equivalent strong acid, e.g. HCl. This indicates that a decrease in pHoral is not the signal for sour taste transduction. Changes in intracellular pH (pHi) of taste bud cells correlate, however, very well with neural responses. This indicates that the pHi is the proximal signal for sour taste transduction (Dubois et al., 2008). Sour taste transduction is mediated by multiple pathways, including transport of H+ through proton sensitive channels and cross membrane diffusion of undissociated

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