Public Release: 

Research describes characteristics of young red Rioja Alavesa wine

Elhuyar Fundazioa

This release is available in Spanish.

Purple tones and an intense colour in appearance while, on the palate, it has medium acidity and it is dry, balanced and with a hint of bitterness. Thus is the young red wine from the Rioja Alavesa, concluded Mr Iñaki Etaio, researcher at the Pharmacy Faculty of the University of the Basque Country, in his PhD. In his research, Mr Etaio undertook a sensorial description of this kind of wine, at the same time as defining the stages to be followed when evaluating it.

Wines from the Rioja Alavesa are of very good quality and known throughout the world. However, nobody to date has organised a panel of experts previously trained in being able to scientifically define a sensorial description of it. With his PhD thesis, Sensorial analysis of young red wine from the Rioja Alavesa: description and evaluation of quality, Mr Etaio has opened the way to this. On the one hand he carried out a sensorial description and defined the characteristics that differentiate this wine from others. On the other, he has drawn up a method to evaluate the organoleptic (taste, aroma, colour, and so on) quality of the wine in question.

Nine months seeking distinguishing features

In order to carry out the sensorial description, a panel was formed of 14 tasters who had been previously trained to evaluate 19 wines from 12 bodegas (wine producers). The research lasted nine months, during which time the wines were evaluated at four different stages and tasted three times at each of these stages. In all, 40 tasting sessions were carried out.

Mr Etaio concluded that the characteristics that differentiate young Rioja Alavesa red wine from all the others are its appearance and the sensation in the mouth. Particularly notable was the purplish hue and the high intensity of the colour of this wine, as well as its medium degree of acidity, dryness, balance, body, aftertaste and its touch of bitterness. Its aroma and taste, on the other hand, are not so intense or characteristic. On the nose, traces of blackberry, red berries and fruit trees are worthy of mention. Amongst all the elements in evaluating the wine, it is the taste that is the least distinctive; nevertheless, the presence of alcoholic and herbal aromas is notable.

The sensorial development of young Rioja Alavesa red wine occurs above all during the first six months of being bottled. During this period, the fruit aroma, taste, body, balance, purple tones and the intensity of colour increases, while the aroma and taste of alcohol and dryness diminishes. This process is what brings out the wine's own characteristics.

Balance, essential for measuring quality

In his PhD thesis Mr Etaio also devised a method for evaluating the organoleptic qualities of wines, and which, in the future can be used by any previously trained panel of experts. To draw up this method 12 experts were used (enologists, proprietors of bodegas and culinary experts) and 15 sessions of discussion were needed.

In his thesis the researcher concluded that, in order to measure the organoleptic quality of young Rioja Alavesa red wine, eight parameters have to be taken into account: the balance-body relation (of the greatest importance), the complexity of the aroma, the complexity of the taste, the intensity of the aroma, the intensity of the taste, the aftertaste, the tone of the colour and the intensity of the colour (of the least importance). This method was approved by ENAC (Entidad Nacional de Acreditación-National Accreditation Body) in February 2008.

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About the author

Mr Iñaki Etaio Alonso (Vitoria-Gasteiz, 1976) is qualified in Human Nutrition and Dietetics and a graduate in Food Science and Technology. He undertook his PhD thesis under the direction of Mr Francisco José Pérez Elortondo and Ms Marta Albisu Aguado, from the Department of Pharmacy and Food Sciences at the UPV/EHU's faculty of Pharmacy. He is currently a lecturer and researcher contracted by the University of the Basque Country. In the course of his research, he stayed for six months at the (Davis) University of California and another three at the Centre Européen des Sciences of Goüt in France. The thesis was presented in European (mention Doctor Europeus) format.

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