Electronic Wine-Tasting Tongue

December 31, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Many people will ring in the New Year with a good wine. Connoisseurs rely on their taste buds to distinguish a fine glass of vino. Mary O'Connor is Director of Planeta Vino in Madrid, Spain. It's her job to teach people how to judge a glass of vino. But now she may have more than just her taste buds to rely on.

At just the touch of a button, an electronic tongue -- developed in Barcelona -- is a wine connoisseur.

Similar to taste buds on a tongue, the six sensors on the microchip measure the different chemical components of wine.

After it's calibrated to a specific wine, the device can distinguish between grape variety and vintage year. Wine industry specialists like Mary said the electronic tongue could be useful to prevent fraud.

"People who've paid a lot of money and think that it's of a certain vintage and of a certain providence and it's not," said O'Connor.

But as for tasting, Mary would prefer to leave that job up to her.

"Nobody doubts the technical capacity of this new technology, but will it ever be able to replace the human palette and judge actual quality," said O'Connor.

The hope is one day the technology will be scaled down to a hand held, portable device which can be bought for personal and commercial use.