Does the serving temperature of a wine influence in its sensorial perception?

At Vila Viniteca we have a Wine Tasting Panel — a private and unique initiative in the wine world — formed of 16 professionals of our team, who we have trained for two years, in order to become expert wine tasters. The goal of the Project is to offer an answer in an objective and faithful way to inquiries and doubts related to the sensorial perception in the wine world

As a result of an exigent training of 30 sessions, a total of 60 hours, our Panel was prepared to carry out the research projects which we outlined and defined. These projects have to help us to expand our knowledge within the wine area, increasing rigour in communication and improving the sensorial experience of a glass of wine.

The temperature is an important variable in tasting. Such was the case that, its study was the objective of two of the projects developed at the Tasting Panel. During the first project we wanted to study the different cooling methods of a wine bottle and now, we consider studying if there are variations in a wine perception according to its serving temperature.

In general, we already know that differences are perceived according to the temperature of the wine tasting, but how does it vary? In which aspects? ¿Do I find more acid in a wine if it is cooler? Is it more expressive and aromatic when it is warmer? Can we sustain that the effect of the serving temperature variation is a phenomenon which repeats in all the wines in the same way? Does it depend on the wine style?

In this article we explain how we developed the project and the obtained results after the study of the effects of the serving temperature in the wine. All this, we did it in order to answer the question concerning the serving temperature variation, if it has any direct influence on its sensorial perception. 

We decided to do the experience with 6 still different wines (3 whites and 3 reds with different elaboration methods and from different production areas), which were evaluated at 5 different temperatures.

Methodology

Initially the established temperatures when we designed the Project conditions were: 3 ºC, 6 ºC, 9 ºC, 13 ºC y 17 ºC. After doing the cooling trials of the bottles in order to obtain the desired serving temperatures, we decided to adjust them because the lowest temperature, (3 ºC) was almost imposible to achieve it accurately.

It is necessary to specify that when we speak about serving temperature we refer to the temperature at which the panellists evaluated each sample.

The 6 wines included in this Project have the following features:

The serving temperature can vary up to one grade (+/- 1 ºC), maximum stippulated in the experimental conditions of the project. To control it rigorously, previously to the evaluation of each sample by the panellists, the temperature of each one was registered. This was the exact temperature of wines evaluation which was part of the Project:

The project developed in 7 sessions at the data and following conditions:

The panellists performed the sessions in standardised installations acording to ISO 8589:2012 regulation and they had about 10 minutes to evaluate each glass individually with a green or red illumination in order to cancel the color interferences.

Characteristics which each panellist evaluated of each sample:

Olfactive phase: (more information here)

  • Aroma intensity at still glass (continuous scale from 0 to 10)
  • Aroma intensity at swirled glass (continuous scale from 0 to 10)
  • Defects and intensity presence (low/average/intense) if any.
  • Aromatic descriptors: 48 aromas which can be found in a wine and for which the panellists have been trained.
  • Taste phase (on the palate):
  • Sweet (continuous scale from 0 to 10). (More information here).
  • Acid (continuous scale from 0 to 10). (More information here).
  • Bitter (continuous scale from 0 to 10).
  • Alcohol sensation (continuous scale from 0 to 10).
  • Alcohol integration (Yes:0 / No:1)
  • Aroma intensity on the palate (continuous scale from 0 to 10).
  • Global persistence of the detected aromas (continuous scale from 0 to 10).
  • Tactile sensations (on the palate): (more information here).
  • Astringency (continuous scale from 0 to 10).
  • Fluidity (scale of 5 points: Low/Low-Average/Average/Average-High/High)
  • Volume (scale of 5 points)
  • Weight (scale of 5 points)
  • Grease sensation (Yes:0 / No:1)

Results

After analyzing the results of each wine we note that as temperature increases, the ratings of the analysed characteristics increase or decrease, in the majority of cases, gradually. Due to this we decided to speak about trends.

We explain in detail the characteristics which have had a significative variation according to its serving temperature, as follows.

WHITE WINES

White Wine 1. D.O. Rías Baixas

The perception of the alcohol sensation and the tactile sensation of weight increases gradually at higher temperature. Regarding the alcohol sensation we observe the most significative difference between 5 ºC and 19 ºC, with a difference of 7%. We can confirm it with a percentage of confidence of 99.6%. (Figure 1)

Figure 1

The trend of perceiving more intensively the weight characteristic can be seen starting from 8 ºC. The most significant difference can be quantified between this temperature and the highest temperature, 19 ºC. We can confirm it with a confidence of 90%.

Aroma families with a higher percentage of mentions according to the serving temperature.

White Wine 2. D.O. Catalunya

The astringency perception is globally light, but it increases gradually at higher temperature. There is a significant difference between the lowest temperature (5 ºC) and the highest (19 ºC), being more intense at higher temperature. We can confirm it with a confidence of 99, 7%.

The perception of alcohol sensation increases gradually at higher temperature, with a significant difference between 5 ºC and 19 ºC where it varies up to 1 point. The level of confidence with which we can confirm it, is of 99. 9%. (Figure 2)

Figure 2

Aroma families with higher percentage of mentions according to the serving temperature:

White Wine 3. D.O. Rueda

We note that the obtained ratings for the bitter characteristic are inferior when we deal with the lowest temperatures (5 ºC and 8 ºC), if we compare them with those of higher temperature (11 ºC, 15 ºC and 19 ºC). We can confirm it with a percentage of confidence of 90%.

The alcohol sensation perception of wine increases gradually at higher temperature. The biggest difference is of 1 point (10%) and it can be found between the lowest temperature of 5 ºC and that of 15 ºC, with a confidence percentage of 99,6%. Even so, there are not significant differences between the highest serving temperatures (15 ºC y 19 ºC) considering that there are obtained the same ratings.

The aromatic intensity both at still glass and swirled glass is more intense at lower temperature. We observe that there are obtained the highest ratings for the two characteritics, at lower temperature, if we compare it with the others. In both cases we can confirm it with a confidence percentage of 99.9%. Even though there is a rise at the obtained ranking for the 11 ºC temperature regarding the aromatic intensity at still glass (as we can see in figure 3), we note a downward trend.

Figure 3

Aroma families with a higher percentage of mentions according to the serving temperature:

RED WINES

Red Wine 1. D.O. Vinos de Madrid

We note that starting from the temperature of 8 ºC the perception of alcohol sensation of the wine increases gradually and sifnificantly at higher temperature. We confirm it with a confidence precentage of  99.2%. (Figure 4)

Figure 4

The perception of volume of the wine is generally light at each serving temperature with an average value located in the low part of the scale (2 over 10). However, we note a gradual increase, showing a more intense perception of the characteristic at higher temperature. We confirm it with a confidence of 99.0%.

Aroma families with higher percentage of mentions according to the serving temperature:

Red Wine 2. D.O. Catalunya

The aromatic intensity at still glass slightly increases with the temperature. The most significant difference we find it between 8 ºC and 15 ºC. We can confirm it with a confidence of 92.9%.

The weight sensation of the wine on the palate is decreasing as we increase the temperature.The trend can be observed starting from 8 ºC being the most significant difference between this temperature and the highest (19 ºC). We can confirm it with a confidence percentage of 92.9%.

Aroma families with higher percentage of mentions according to the serving temperature:

Red Wine 3. D.O. Ca. Rioja

The alcohol sensation perception of the wine increases gradually at higher temperature. This trend can be observed starting from 8 ºC. The most significant difference has a confidence percentage of 94.4%.

Both volume and weight increase their intensity as higher the temperature is. Both sensations find their most significant differences between the lowest temperature (5 ºC) and the highest (19 ºC). In the volume case we confirm it with a 90% of confidence and in the weight case with a percentage of 99.7%.

Contrary to the observed trends at the majority of characteristics, in this case we note what it seems to be a downward trend starting from 8 ºC, the fluidity of the wine decreases when the serving temperature increases. We can confirm it with a confidence percentage of 90%. (Figure 5)

Figure 5

Aroma families with higher percentage of mentions according to the serving temperature:

Conclusions

To sum up, the characteristics where there have been found significant differences – at a higher frecuency- between the evaluated serving temperatures are: at olfactive level , the aroma intensity – at still glass or swirled glass- as well as at the tactile sensations on the palate, the weight, volumen and alcohol sensation.  

Only in isolated cases there have been noted differences between the characteristics bitter, astringency and fluidity.

In the volume characteristic there have been noted a higher intensity as the serving temperature increased. 

Alcohol sensation is the characteristic which in the majority of cases (in 5 of 6 evaluated wines) has incremented when its serving temperature has increased, with an average confidence percentage of 99%. It is the only characteristic which has showed such a clear and repeated trend in each evaluated wine. (Figure 6).

Figure 6

There is not identified any trend after evaluating aromatically the presence of the most mentioned families by the panellists, of each wine and for each serving temperature. The different families are mentioned indiferently of the temperature, so we can conclude that, widely, the serving temperature of the wine doesn´t vary on a standardised manner the aroma profile of the wines.

For information, we have noted that regrding the white wines the tertiary aromas -developed during the aging- are becoming more present as we increase the serving temperature (especially at 15 ºC and 19 ºC). We refer to the following aroma families: lactic, pastry, dry vegetal and wood

The red wines have proved to have an aromatic profile less variable according to the serving temperature, as a result of finding present aromas of different families irrespective of this one.

Finally, comparing the obtained results of a same characteristic between the different evaluated wines we can confirm:

  • The alcohol sensation of a wine increses if we increase its temperature (*)

(*) It is a trend which has been noted clearly at 5 of the 6 evaluated wines.

  • In the majority of cases the temperature does not exercise an influence over the intensity and the aromatic persistence of the wines (*)

(*) We have only noted that the White Wine 3 was turning more intense when it was served at higher temperature and , reversed, the Red Wine 2 experimented the contrary trend, higher was the temperature, more intense were its aromas. White Wine 2 became more persistent at higher temperature. These observations do not allow us to sustain that serving temperature affects systematically and widely the aroma characteristics of the wine.

  • Both the bitterness as the astingency do not vary considerably in changing the temperature (*)

(*) Biterness and astringency have been affected by the temperature in one occasion during this study. One, when the White Wine 3 registered higher ratings for biterness when it was served at higher temperature compared to those of lower temperature, and two, when the White Wine 2 registered a gradual increasing of astringency characteristic as its serving temperature was increasing. As a conclusion the temperature does not create repeatedly, differences in the perception of these two characteristics. 

  • The volume sensation of the wines can vary according to the temperature (*)

(*) Someone could think that the voume on the palate of the wines- both whites and reds- increseases as the serving temperature increases as a general rule. This is the conclusion, however, that we can affirm only for two of the three evaluated wines (Red Wine 1 and Red Wine 3), and for one of the White Wines (White Wine 1). This fact, gives us reason to believe that the tannic ability of a wine plays an imortant role on its volume sensation and that low temperatures can diminish its volume sensation. However, it isn´t a phenomenon widely noted.

  • The wine weight varies irrespectively with the temperature (*)

(*) Another preconceived prediction about the weight is that it seems it has to increase as the wine is served at higher temperature. What we could note is that in three cases the temperature varied the weight sensation, but not in the same way. For White Wine 1 and Red Wine 3 this characteristic got more intense as the temperature was increasing and, unlike the Red Wine 2, it was diminishing.  

  • The aromas of the evaluated wines vary according to the temperature (*)

(*) As we have noted comparing the most mentioned aroma families for each wine temperature, they vary. As a result, we can sustain that some of the aromas which a wine contains can be more perceived according to the temperature at which they are served. In case of the red wines any clear trend has been noted, even if the white wines showed that when they were served at a higher temperature prevailed aroma as lactic, wood or pastry, that many times are obtained during its fermentation or aging.

  • The sweetness, acidity, grease sensation or aroma intensity on the palate are not affected by the temperature in the majority of cases. (*)

(*) Another of the many times preconceived ideas is that the sweetness perception diminishes at lower temperature or that the perception of acidity increases. After analyzing the results of our study we only can deny this phenomenon, as none of the evaluated wines has shown a variation in the perception of these characteristics.

We can usually conclude that the serving temperature can vary the organoleptic perceptions of a wine, but there cannot be considered some global trends excepting one characteristic, alcohol sensation. It was noted how was increasing its intensity, as serving temperature was increasing for 83.3% of the studied cases.

Over this study we could affirm or deny some of the ideas or general preconceived trends about the serving temperature effect on the wines. 

(*) It is important to remark that the presented results are only fruit of the resulting values of variance analysis and Tukey test. This analysis allows comparing values with the goal of determinating if there are significant diferences between them or not. Tukey test identify these particular significant differences and gives a validity percentage to each observed difference, the named confidence percentage. As higher is this percentage more accurate will be the conclusion. In this case is 90% and any noted difference with an inferior percentage to this values wasn’t taken into account.     

Concerning the aromas, an analysis of the percentage of mentions of aromas presence has been done. In other words, from all the named aromas by the panellists have been taken into account those who had a mention superior to 20% over others.

Evaluated wines:

Whites:

White Wine 1: El Jardín de Lucía 2018

White Wine 2: Idoia Blanc 2017

White Wine 3: El perro verde 2018

Reds:

Red Wine 1: El Hombre Bala 2016

Red Wine 2: L’Equilibrista 2015

Red Wine 3: Paisajes Valsalado 2013

As in all the projects at the Tasting Panel of Vila Viniteca, during the evaluations none of the panellists has had a precise knowledge of trials, the wines, the service conditions, the vintages, the varietes or any other inforation about the performed nature of the studies.

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