Month: October 2018

Pepper your wine with rotundone: yes, but until when?

By Olivier Geffroy

Wine is a complex matrix which contains more than 800 aroma compounds. Most of the contributors to the varietal aroma of white wines such as monoterpenols responsible for floral notes in Muscat varieties or varietal thiols imparting grapefruit and tropical fruit notes to Sauvignon blanc wines, have been widely studied. Knowledge on odorants accounting for the varietal character of red wines especially free aroma compounds, were limited to vegetal and undesirable aroma compounds named methoxypyrazines before the discovery of rotundone (Wood et al. 2008).
This oxygenated sesquiterpene (Figure 1) still relatively little studied across the world, is responsible for pepper aroma in grapes and wine. It has a detection threshold of 16 ng/L in red wine and was described as one of the most impacting volatile molecules in wine (Ferreira et al. 2012). Specific anosmia to rotundone has been reported with 20-30% of the panelists being unable to detect it even at very high concentration levels (Wood et al. 2008, Geffroy et al. 2018)

Figure 1. Chemical structure of rotundone.

In most cases, rotundone is positively perceived by consumers (Geffroy et al. 2018) and those who appreciate peppery wines are generally wine connoisseurs who pay more money for a bottle of wine than the average consumer (Geffroy et al. 2016). This makes rotundone aroma highly desirable in cultivars in which it has been identified such as Syrah, Pinot noir, Gamay or Duras. Two key polymorphisms in a newly discovered allele of the V. vinifera TPS24 gene may explain the differences in rotundone expression observed between cultivars (Drew et al. 2016).
As other sesquiterpenes, rotundone could be involved in plant defense mechanisms (insect repellent or attractant, inhibitory effect against fungi). In this regard, Geffroy et al. (2015) identified a positive logarithmic correlation between rotundone concentration and the severity of powdery mildew on bunches (Figure 2) which suggests that the compound could be produced in response to the fungal infection.

Figure 2. Relationship between rotundone in Duras wines and powdery mildew severity on bunches – 2014 data (Geffroy et al. 2015).

Rotundone concentration increases with the ripening of the fruit (Geffroy et al. 2014) and is highly impacted by vintage conditions and environmental factors. Cool and wet vintages promote the production of red wines with a higher rotundone concentration (Caputi et al. 2011). Bunch zone air and surface temperatures (Zhang et al. 2015) and vine water status over the veraison–harvest period (Geffroy et al. 2014) were identified as key variables to explain differences in rotundone between vintages and within one single vineyard. In accordance with these findings, rotundone was lowered by bunch exposure through leaf removal performed on both sides of the row and enhanced by water supply through irrigation (Geffroy et al. 2014).
In an attempt to optimize rotundone in wine during grape processing, Geffroy et al. (2017) studied the impact of winemaking techniques and fermentation variables on the molecule. None of the studied treatments including the use of macerating enzymes and the increase of temperature or time of maceration resulted in enhanced rotundone concentration. This is not an uninteresting conclusion as it means that efforts to maximize rotundone in wine have to be undertaken in vineyards.
Climate change is already affecting wine production and induces a large variability in wine aroma composition between vintages and notably in rotundone concentration as illustrated by Figure 3. In most cases, climate change may take the form of altered precipitation regime and higher temperatures during the grapes ripening. These conditions are not favorable to obtaining high levels of rotundone in wines and this is exactly what we have been going through in the South West of France since 2015. Particularly in 2018, we experienced one of the warmest and driest August and September on record. One of the main issues for researchers in the future will be to provide the wine industry with levers for action to enhance rotundone in wine in this context.


Figure 3. Impact of vintage on rotundone concentration in wines made from grapes collected on the same Duras plot between 2008 and 2015 (PDO Gaillac). The dotted line indicates the detection threshold of the molecule.

If irrigation has shown its efficiency, it is certainly not a sustainable practice in the long term. To allow winegrowers and winemakers to keep peppering their wine with rotundone, the most promising adaptation strategies could come from plant material. On the one hand, new rootstocks resistant to drought might allow to mitigate these depreciative impacts by enhancing vine vigor and limiting the penetration of solar radiation through the bunch zone in extreme climatic conditions. On the other hand, all the studies on rotundone have been conducted on early ripening cultivars such as Syrah, Gamay or Duras. Existing genotypes or new developed genotypes which can produce rotundone and ripen late in the season under cool climatic conditions, could also prove to be an interesting approach.

Olivier Geffroy is assistant professor in viticulture and enology at Ecole d’Ingénieurs de Purpan in Toulouse, South West of France. His researches aim at helping winegrowers and winemakers to produce high quality wines. Main topics of investigation includes the impact of viticultural practices (nitrogen spraying at veraison, leaf removal, irrigation...) and enological techniques (fermentation conditions and yeast strains, maceration techniques) on wine aroma. Since 2011, his researches have been focusing on rotundone in red wines.


Caputi, L., Carlin, S., Ghiglieno, I., Stefanini, M., Valenti, L., Vrhovsek, U. and Mattivi, F. (2011) Relationship of changes in rotundone content during grape ripening and winemaking to manipulation of the 'peppery' character of wine. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 59, 5565-5571.
Drew, D.P., Andersen, T.B., Sweetman, C., Moller, B.L., Ford, C. and Simonsen, H.T. (2016) Two key polymorphisms in a newly discovered allele of the Vitis vinifera TPS24 gene are responsible for the production of the rotundone precursor alpha‐guaiene. Journal of Experimental Botany 67, 799–808
Ferreira, V. (2012). Bases moléculaires de l’arôme du vin. In Proceedings of the international symposium on wine aroma (VINAROMAS project), 20 November 2012, Toulouse, France (IFV Sud-Ouest: Lisle Sur Tarn, France) pp. 5–6.
Geffroy, O., Descôtes, J., Serrano, E., Li Calzi, M., Dagan, L., & Schneider, R. (2018). Can a certain concentration of rotundone be undesirable in Duras red wine? A study to estimate a consumer rejection threshold for the pepper aroma compound. Australian journal of grape and wine research, 24, 88-95.
Geffroy, O., Siebert, T., Silvano, A., & Herderich, M. (2017). Impact of winemaking techniques on classical enological parameters and rotundone in red wine at the laboratory scale. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, 68, 141-146.
Geffroy, O., Buissière, C., Lempereur, V., & Chatelet, B. (2016). A sensory, chemical and consumer study of the peppery typicality of French Gamay wines from cool-climate vineyards. Journal International de la Vigne et du Vin, 50, 35-47.
Geffroy, O., Yobrégat, O., Dufourcq, T., Siebert, T., & Serrano, É. (2015). Certified clone and powdery mildew impact rotundone in red wine from Vitis vinifera L. cv. Duras N. Journal International des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin, 49, 231-240.
Geffroy, O., Dufourcq, T., Carcenac, D., Siebert, T., Herderich, M., & Serrano, E. (2014). Effect of ripeness and viticultural techniques on the rotundone concentration in red wine made from V itis vinifera L. cv. D uras. Australian journal of grape and wine research, 20, 401-408.
Wood, C., T.E. Siebert, M. Parker, D.L. Capone, G.M. Elsey, A.P. Pollnitz, M. Eggers, M. Meier, T. Vossing, S. Widder, G. Krammer, M.A. Sefton, and M.J. Herderich (2008) From wine to pepper: rotundone, an obscure sesquiterpene, is a potent spicy aroma compound. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 56, 3738-3744.
Zhang, P., Barlow, S., Krstic, M., Herderich, M., Fuentes, S., & Howell, K. (2015). Within-vineyard, within-vine, and within-bunch variability of the rotundone concentration in berries of Vitis vinifera L. cv. Shiraz. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 63, 4276-4283.

Posted by in Chemistry, Enology

Wine cooperatives as a vector of social entrepreneurship

By Mário Franco and Vitor Figueiredo

In many European countries and elsewhere in the world there is major renewed interest in cooperatives, as this type of business organisation seems to more resilient (and can achieve better performance than capitalist firms, principally at times of prolonged financial and economic crisis, such as the one experienced recently.
In a global market with constantly evolving technology, only cooperatives with the capacity to exploit new opportunities, allied with correct management of their current resources, can reduce uncertainty and manage change in a balanced and sustainable way. Therefore, the cooperative phenomenon has been studied in various regions of the world and several contexts, for example in wine sector. These agriculture cooperatives have multiple impacts on their members and are considered an organizational format able to promote society’s development. A report asked for by the US Department of Agriculture concluded that a cooperative only reaches success if it provides the necessary and desired services for its members to feel satisfied.

The national and international wine market faces major challenges, either due to political and economic instability, or the great competition and decreasing world consumption of this type of drink. Therefore, wine cooperatives have been seen as representing sustainability in this sector in particular and present a certain impact on the society they are part of. Wine cooperatives seek to provide necessary services to their members and communities, so that they can become more self-sufficient and prepared for times of economic crisis. Cooperatives are more resistant to crises, mainly as regards job protection, as they tend to protect their employees and co-operators, preferring to reduce prices/salaries paid than to dismiss. Moreover, as the policy of distributing surplus is much more rational, cooperatives tend to stand up better to the impacts and lack of liquidity at times of crisis, compared to firms that focus on maximizing profits. In addition, wine cooperatives are considered potential organizational vectors for society’s development due to their multiple objectives and diverse roles.

Despite the difficulties in improving their competitiveness, wine cooperatives are seen as important vehicles for mobilization of local resources into a critical mass and their cooperators can achieve significant economic and social benefits from participation. In this sense, social entrepreneurship plays a vital role in the process of society/community development as well as making a significant contribution to cooperators. Social entrepreneurship can be understood as a way entrepreneurs adjust their businesses to create social value.
The wine cooperatives are economically oriented to be included in the non-profit sector and too socially oriented to be considered as an economic for-profit organization. This type of cooperatives must constantly innovate their ways to obtain income, to ensure their sustainability and viability, principally those whose aim is to fulfil a mission of a social, non-profit-making nature.
Social entrepreneurship is also fundamental when thinking about local development. This entrepreneurial phenomenon has positive impacts on local development through wealth creation, contributing to GDP, employment, social inclusion, reducing poverty and increasing levels of social well-being. This type of organisation creates stronger, more resilient communities that can achieve economic, social and environmental benefits.
In this context, wine cooperatives as form of social organizations are solutions for local development, instruments of cooperation between citizens, local, regional, national and European organisations and representatives, through business organisations and practices. Wine cooperatives are a viable way to build stronger and more sustainable local economies, oriented towards the social utility and the reinvestment of surplus in social purposes. They are nevertheless compelled to pursue economic strategies, without forgetting their mission and the social values of cooperativism: self-help, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.

On the other hand, wine cooperatives are an important dynamizing factor of rural and disadvantaged regions, given their contribution to job creation, population retention and increased social well-being, as well as contributing to preserving the landscape and natural resources. Being organized into agricultural cooperatives is among the alternative strategies suggested to agrarian families to overcome some challenges, which can also help them solve agriculture-related production problems. Therefore, wine cooperatives play an important role, which is also recognized about wine-producing cooperatives, despite the difficulty and turbulence of this market where competition is fierce.

It is therefore justified to say that wine cooperatives are a way for small farmers to achieve a scale to sell their grapes and weather to some extent the turbulence of the market, avoiding having to close their operations or the need to negotiate on unfavorable terms with large economic groups.

Social entrepreneurship is also fundamental when thinking about local development. This entrepreneurial phenomenon has positive impacts on local development through wealth creation, contributing to GDP, employment, social inclusion, reducing poverty and increasing levels of social well-being. This type of organisation creates stronger, more resilient communities that can achieve economic, social and environmental benefits.

In conclusion, social entrepreneurship emphasizes innovative and social enterprises (i.e. wine cooperatives), with the goal of achieving sustainable development and social missions of common prosperity. In fact, wine cooperatives are good examples of profit-driven businesses working for society/community development and operating in a competitive economic market environment. Thus, managers and cooperators should provide internal transformations in cooperatives, through the implementation of innovative production processes, quality assessment of grapes and wine, cooperative mergers and premium prices paid for high quality grapes.

These agricultural social entrepreneurs (managers and wine cooperators) could be vulnerable to market competition and risk-taking could sometimes lead to personal sacrifice. Thus, they need both institutional and community support during the process of social entrepreneurship development in terms of policy initiatives, resources, financial and even emotional support from other stakeholders. We also observed that the cooperative support given to these social entrepreneurs during difficult times is crucial for their survival.

It is also important to point out that community partnership with external public and private institutions and cooperative unions is a very important element in order to gain capital and investment, capacity building, education and training, and technical, business and financial advice and support. In this sense, social entrepreneurship plays a vital role in the process of society/community development as well as making a significant contribution to wine cooperators.

Those interested in a longer length report can download the working paper at:

Mário Franco is a Professor of Entrepreneurship and Management of SME at the Department of Management and Economics, University of Beira Interior, Portugal. He received his Ph.D. in Management from Beira Interior University in 2002. In 1997, he was a doctoral candidate and participated in the European Doctoral Programme in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management in Spain and Sweden. His research focuses on strategic partnerships, business networks, innovation and business creation. He is also a research fellow of the CEFAGE-UBI Research Center and currently involved in several research projects.

Vítor Figueiredo is an enterprise Consultant and Invited Professor of Marketing, E-Business and Web Marketing at the Department of Management and Economics, University of Beira Interior. He received his Ph.D. in Management from Beira Interior University in 2017. He studied Tourism Management and received his MSc in Tourism Management and Development, from the Aveiro University in 2010.

Posted by in Economy | Marketing

Wine and cardiovascular health: To drink or not to drink?

By Sohaib Haseeb, Bryce Alexander, Ricardo Lopez Santi, Adrian Baranchuk

Wine has been consumed for years as a social drink, attracting great interest during recreational and personal occasions (Haseeb et al., 2017; Haseeb et al., 2018). In 2017, global wine consumption was 243 million hectoliters (mhl), with the United States being the largest global consumer (32.6 mhl) followed by France (27.0 mhl) and Italy (22.6 mhl) (International Organisation of Vine and Wine, 2017). Despite the wide accessibility of wine, its excessive intake is an established risk factor for premature death and disability. The excessive intake of wine and alcohol has been found to contribute to liver cirrhosis (Rehm et al., 2010), sudden cardiac death (Wannamethee & Shaper, 1992), alcoholic cardiomyopathy (Lazarević et al., 2000), and cardiac rhythm disorders, namely atrial fibrillation (Voskoboinik et al., 2016). However, wine has historically garnered attention as a healthy beverage. Epidemiological evidence has accumulated in support of a negative correlation between the light-to-moderate consumption of wine and ischemic heart disease (IHD) mortality. Despite many epidemiological studies reaching similar conclusions, the causal nature of these findings remains an open question. Some studies have observed similar effects with the consumption of beer and spirits, while others have reported that alcohol as a whole is protective and that the type of drink is not of importance (Roerecke & Rehm, 2014). This post highlights the most important aspects of wine and cardiovascular health, relevant metrics of calculation, current guidelines and discrepancies, and attitudes and perceptions of healthcare practitioners.

The French Paradox
Wine became a drink of scientific intrigue in the late 20th century after studies found that its sustained intake at light-to-moderate amounts may possibly confer cardioprotective effects (Baranchuk et al., 2018b). A negative correlation between the light-to-moderate intake of wine and IHD mortality was described using epidemiological studies, first appearing in the 1960s. This phenomenon was eventually coined the French Paradox after epidemiologists Serge Renaud and Michel de Lorgeril who observed a relatively low rate of IHD mortality in France despite a consumption of a diet rich in cholesterol and saturated fats (Renaud & de Lorgeril, 1992). The authors attributed the cardioprotective effects of this phenomenon to the moderate intake of alcoholic beverages, especially red wine, which was highly consumed in the area. Drinking patterns, lifestyle characteristics, and dietary intake are all important factors that need to be considered in order to obtain a healthy cardiovascular profile.

Bioactive constituents of wine
Wine is composed of >500 constituents. The major constituents by weight are water and ethanol. Other constituents of importance are sugars, acids, other alcohols, and phenolics (Haseeb et al., 2018). The detailed chemical composition of wine can be viewed in Figure 1. The ethanol and polyphenols are considered to be the bioactive constituents of wine with regards to cardiovascular health. They are of particular interest for their potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Wine phenolics can be divided into two categories: the flavonoids and non-flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant-based compounds that are naturally present in grapes and wine. Flavonoids from red wine have been found to inhibit low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation (Nigdikar et al., 1998), prevent endothelial dysfunction (Perez-Vizcaino et al., 2006), and reduce atherosclerosis development (Mano et al., 1996). Non-flavonoids in wine include hydrolysable tannins, hydroxycinnamates, carboxylic acid derivatives, and resveratrol. The cardiovascular effects of resveratrol have largely been reported in animal models, with limited but increasing studies in humans. Several animal studies have shown that the intake of dietary resveratrol lowers LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, but increases HDL cholesterol (Ahn et al., 2008; Do et al., 2008; Penumathsa et al., 2007). Clinical studies have been more variable, finding that the effect cannot be attributed to resveratrol alone. In general, preclinical and clinical studies have shown interesting results with regards to resveratrol and cardiovascular health.


Figure 1. The chemical composition of wine. Reproduced with permission from Haseeb et al. (2017).

What constitutes a “standard drink”?
Alcohol guidelines are reported in units called standard drinks (SD) in order to quantify alcohol intake, monitor associated risks, and encourage safe drinking practices. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) defines 1 SD to equal 10 g of pure ethanol (Babor & Higgins-Biddle, 2001). The US Dietary Guidelines define 1 SD to equal 14 g of pure ethanol (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2015), and the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse and Addiction (CCSA) define 1 SD to equal 1 g of pure ethanol (Butt et al., 2011) (Table 1). The definition of 1 SD is highly variable and discrepant between countries (Baranchuk et al., 2018a).

Drinking guidelines: What do the cardiovascular societies say?
Various societies have introduced drinking guidelines for current drinkers to promote a safe drinking culture. The WHO recommends low-risk alcohol intake of ≤ 2 SD per day with at least 2 non-drinking per week (Babor & Higgins-Biddle, 2001). The American Heart Association recommends alcohol in moderation; an average of ≤ 1-2 drinks/day for men, and ≤ 1 drink/day for women (American Heart Association, 2015). The US Dietary Guidelines recommend ≤ 2 SD per day for men and ≤ 1 SD per day for women (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2015). The CCSA recommends ≤ 3 SD per day (and ≤ 15 SD per week) for men, and ≤ 2 SD per day (and 10 SD per week) for women (Butt et al., 2011) (Table 1). Low-risk recommendations of alcohol intake have been defined in at least 37 countries. Despite the increased awareness of alcohol and its adverse effects on health, drinking guidelines are not well-known to general consumers (Buykx et al., 2018).

Attitudes and recommendations of healthcare providers
There are many misconceptions regarding the risks and benefits of alcohol intake in the public arena (Baranchuk et al., 2017; Haseeb et al., 2018). Healthcare providers are well positioned to counsel their patients regarding appropriate levels of alcohol intake and its risks and benefits of consumption. However, there is little direct evidence to ascertain their attitudes and recommendations towards alcohol and cardiovascular health. Our group conducted a national study in Argentina to investigate this question (Lopez Santi et al., 2018). The results showed that Argentine physicians had variable perceptions of alcohol as it relates to cardiovascular health. Argentine physicians were not satisfied with their knowledge of the drinking guidelines or its reported metric units, particularly SD. The existence of these knowledge gaps suggests a need to optimize educational resources for healthcare providers.

Despite the excessive intake of wine being a risk factor to general and cardiovascular health, it is a popular beverage among drinking adults. There are noted beneficial effects of a controlled and sustained light-to-moderate intake to be beneficial for the cardiovascular profile, although this evidence is inconsistent. Drinking guidelines for current drinkers are in place to promote safe drinking.


Table 1. Low-risk consumption guidelines of selected organizations. Reproduced with permission from Haseeb et al. (2018).

Sohaib Haseeb

Bryce Alexander

Ricardo Lopez Santi

Adrian Baranchuk

Sohaib Haseeb is a student at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada studying Life Sciences.
Dr. Bryce Alexander received his M.D. from Queen’s University in 2018. He is currently a first year internal medicine resident (PGY-1) at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
Dr. Ricardo Lopez Santi is a native of La Plata city, Argentina. He obtained his M.D. from La Plata University in 1980 and is currently a consultant cardiologist and specialist in health systems and social security at ISALUD University
Dr. Lopez Santi served as the Director of non-communicable diseases at the Health Ministry of Buenos Aires from 2007 to 2012. He was the President of the scientific committee at the XXVII Congress of the Argentine Federation of Cardiology in 2009. He served as the President of the Argentine Federation of Cardiology (FAC) from 2010 to 2011, and is currently a member of the consultant board of the FAC. In 2015, Dr. Lopez Santi was promoted to the Chief of promotion and prevention at the Italian Hospital of La Plata city. He is the Chair Professor of Cardiovascular prevention, Medical school, Santiago del Estero. He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology (FACC), Chair of the Community council of the Interamerican Society of Cardiology, and the elected Governor of the International Society of Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy (ISCP) for Argentina. Dr. Lopez Santi has participated in more than 20 national (EMECO, Raices) and international research projects with support from organizations such as NIH (WARCEF) European Economic Community (FOCUS regional coordinator) and various pharmaceutical industries (Origin, Value, Navigator, Shift, Atmosphere, Rewind, Compass, Fourier, Prominent). He is a co-author of the book "Cardiometabolism, from the physiopathology to the therapeutic" 2nd edition. For 12 consecutive years, Dr. Lopez Santi has spearheaded a national campaign of promotion called “One hundred thousand hearts”.

Dr. Adrian Baranchuk, a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, obtained his MD from the University of Buenos Aires in 1990. After qualifying in Internal Medicine and Cardiology (1995), he completed a Clinical Fellowship in Cardiac Electrophysiology (1997). In 2002 he immigrated to Spain for a Research Fellow. Dr. Baranchuk was appointed as a Clinical Fellow in Electrophysiology at McMaster University in September 2003. Dr. Baranchuk was appointed as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Queen’s University (2006), promoted to Associate Professor in 2010 and to Full Professor in 2016 (with Tenure). He has founded the EP Training Program in 2007. He is a member of numerous editorial boards (Europace, Annals of Noninvasive Electrocardiology, etc.) and reviewer of several journals. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Electrocardiology. The recipient of a teaching award (Outstanding Contribution in the Core Internal Medicine Program 2009) and 2014 awarded with the prestigious “Faculty of Health Sciences Education Award”. Dr. Baranchuk was awarded with the “Golden Caliper Award” from the SOLAECE (Latin American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology) for his outstanding contributions to science in 2014 and with the “ISHNE Junior Investigator Award” in April 2015. In 2016 he was distinguished with the “10 Most Influential Hispanic-Canadian Award” from the Hispanic and TD Bank. He was recently awarded with the “David Ginsburg Mentorship Award” in December 2017. His first book, Atlas of Advanced ECG Interpretation (REMEDICA, UK) represents a big collaboration effort from well-recognized electrophysiologists of all around the world. His second book Left Septal Fascicular Block was released by SPRINGER in 2016 and his iBook “Electrocardiogrpahy in Pracitice: What to do?” has been number 1 in iTunes for several weeks and downloaded more than 1100 times in about 6 months (2016). His last book “Interatrial Block and Supraventricular Arrhythmias: Clinical Implications of Bayes’ Syndrome” was released in January 2017 by CARDIOTEXT. His last book “Clinical Arrhythmology 2nd Edition” was released in July 2017 by Willey. His next book, “Brugada Phenocopy: The Art of Recognizing the Brugada ECG Pattern” was released by ELSEVIER in March 2018.
He has published more than 520 articles in well-recognized international journals (463 in Pubmed), 50 book chapters and presented more than 225 abstracts. He is the President of the International Society of Electrocardiology (ISE) for the period 2017-2019. He is currently serving as Canadian Vice President of the Interamerican Society of Cardiology (2017-2019). He has mentored more than 100 students and residents and his publications usually include a Med Student or resident as first author. He is the current Director of the Critical Enquiry course at Queen’s University. He has been elected Member of the Electrophysiology Section Leadership Council of the American College of Cardiology (2017-2020). He is in charge of organizing the ECG module for the trainee day and the ECG Workshops during the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress. He chairs the Annual Cardiovascular Symposium at Queen’s University. He lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada with his wife Barbara and his daughter, Gala.

Those interested in a longer length report can download the working paper at:


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Posted by in Health

Give artificial taste and olfactory intelligence for automatic wine analysis

Figure 1. The basic structure of E-Tongue.

By Lei Zhang

Taste and olfactory are the important biological sensory organs, which play a vital role in our life. In many areas, human experts have been trained with high-level taste and olfactory perceptron for wine and tea tasting, who can help improve the quality of wine and tea. In recent years, electronic tongue (E-Tongue), as a kind of promising bionic system for five basic biological tastes including sourness, saltiness, bitterness, sweetness and umami, is playing an increasingly important role in automatic wine, tea, food and pharmaceutical assessment, etc. (Tahara and Toko, 2013). The first type of voltammetric E-Tongue proposed by Winquist et al. 1997 employed an array of noble metal working electrodes with small amplitude pulse voltammetry (SAPV) or large amplitude pulse voltammetry (LAPV). Tian et al. 2007 developed a voltammetric E-Tongue system by combining working electrodes with multifrequency large amplitude pulse. A general E-Tongue is actually a multi-sensor system, comprising of an array of nonspecific, low selective and high cross-sensitive sensors, and a multivariate data analysis module.
Electronic olfactory system constructed with a model nose was proposed for the first time to mimic the biological olfactory mechanism as early as in 1982 (Persaud and Dodd, 1982), which presented two key assumptions of mammalian olfactory system: (1) there is no requirement for odour-specific transducers; (2) odor signals from the transducers can be learnt. One key characteristic of model nose is that the odorant detectors (i.e. the primary neurons) respond to a wide range of chemicals. In 1994, Gardner et al. (Gardner and Bartlett, 1994) showed a new definition for artificial olfactory system: “An electronic nose (E-Nose) is an instrument, which comprises an array of chemical sensors with partial specificity and an appropriate pattern recognition system, capable of recognizing simple or complex odours”. The bionic techniques of E-Tongue and E-Nose have been widely used in wine analysis and achieved acceptable precision (Cetó et al. 2016; Varnamkhasti et al. 2011).

Figure 2. The basic structure of E-Nose.

In our group, a long-term research on E-Nose and E-Tongue technique for developing intelligent systems toward automatic analysis and recognition of odor and liquid by using machine learning and pattern recognition models has been employed (Zhang et al. 2017; Zhang and Zhang, 2017; Zhang et al. 2018). A detailed description of the developed E-Tongue for automatic tea, wine and drink analysis is presented (Zhang et al. 2018).

(1) System development. The E-Tongue system developed in our lab is based on the MLAPV (multi-frequency large amplitude pulse voltammetry) principle. The experimental platform includes E-Tongue system, personal computer (PC), and electrochemical cell. The pulse signal excitation and acquisition modules are controlled by a microcontroller unit. The response (perception) signal (output) is then transmitted to the computer by a blue-tooth module. The sensing module includes five working electrodes, such as gold, platinum, palladium, tungsten and silver, one auxiliary electrode (pillar platinum) and one reference electrode (Ag/AgCl). MLAPV is adopted as the measuring technique. The pulse signal (excitation) comprises of three individual frequencies: 1 Hz, 3 Hz and 5 Hz, and five amplitudes of voltage: 4.10V, 3.85V, 3.60V, 3.35 and 3.10V for each frequency.

Figure 3. The developed E-Tongue system (left) and the sensing output signal (right).

(2) Dataset development. The data measurement process includes sample preparation, signal perception, signal acquisition and electrodes cleaning. All the measurements were performed at room temperature (25 ± 1 Celsius) and the electrochemical cell was exposed to ambient air without any treatment. Each liquid sample is measured by the E-Tongue system with 5 electrode sensors. For each sensor, 2050 points are observed, and results in a 5 × 2050 data matrix for each observation. For further denoising, a sliding window based smooth filter is considered. The signal fragments with respect to three frequencies are self-contained, with each frequency five sub-pluses of different amplitudes are shown. For feature selection, the maximum and minimum values in the 1st filtered sub-pluse are extracted. Therefore, 5×2×3×5 = 30×5 = 150 points are extracted as features for each sample. Totally, 114 samples of 13 kinds of liquid including beer, red wine, white spirit, black tea, Mao Feng tea, Pu’er tea, oolong tea, coffee, milk, cola, vinegar, medicine and salt are acquired in the developed dataset for E-Tongue research in algorithms.

(3) Algorithm development. The multivariate data analysis module is composed of data processing, analysis and recognition. Generally, due to the random perturbation of electronic devices, the acquired sensing data usually contains noise and distortion, that causes clutter background and inseparability. In data analysis and recognition, a local discriminant preservation projection (LDPP) model is used for feature representation and support vector machine is used as classifier. The LDPP pursues neighborhood structure preservation and local discrimination. The former inherits the manifold assumption that neighbor data points are with similar labels and tends to find a low-dimensional affinity structure embedded in the raw data space. The latter aims to enhance the local discriminative property which is not sensitive to implicit outliers. The model is motivated by two intuitions: geometric intuition and attribution intuition. Geometric intuition is that if the interior data can be distinguished well, exterior data should be naturally distinguished. Attribution intuition is that exterior data has a higher probability to be abnormal or outlier data. Therefore, we modify the Fisher criterion by imposing locality constraint which is important for small sized E-Tongue data. Additionally, manifold regularization is also used for local similarity preservation

Figure 4. Illustration of the LDPP model. The circles denote the local part of each class, which show the between-class overlap and within-class outliers. After LDPP, the local discrimination with implicit outliers excluded and the locality structure preservation are expected to be achieved.

(4) Evaluation test. After training of the feature representation and classifier by using 5-folds cross-validation strategy, the testing recognition accuracy using a number of algorithms are tested. 4 folds are used as training set and the remaining 1 fold is used as test set. The average recognition performance of 13 analytes achieves 98%. A number of research has fully confirmed that bionic E-Tongue can be used in industrial quality control, food quality analysis, etc.
I do believe that E-Tongue and E-Nose will be an optimistic start for revealing the biological taste and olfactory mechanism in the course of development of world artificial intelligence.


Figure 5. The pipeline of training and testing phase.

Table 1. The recognition accuracies of 13 analytes by using different algorithms.

Lei Zhang received his Ph.D degree in Electronic Science and Technology from the College of Communication Engineering, Chongqing University, Chongqing, China, in 2013. From 06/2013 to 08/2013, he worked as a research associate in Tsinghua University (Shenzhen). From 08/2013 to 10/2013, he worked as a research associate in Harbin Institute of Technology (Shenzhen). He was selected as a Hong Kong Scholar in China in 2013, and then worked as a Post-Doctoral Fellow with The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, from 10/2013 to 09/2015. From 12/2017 to 05/2018, he worked as a visiting professor in University of Macau. Since 10/2015, he is currently a Professor and Distinguished Research Fellow with Chongqing University. He is now the deputy director of Chongqing Key Laboratory of Bio-perception & Intelligent Information Processing, and he is also the founder and head of Learning Intelligence & Vision Essential (LiVE) Group. He is an IEEE Senior Member. His research interests focus on machine learning, pattern recognition, computer vision, bionic intelligence and intelligent systems. He has authored more than 70 scientific papers in many top journals including IEEE Transactions journals (e.g. T-NNLS, T-IP, T-CYB, T-MM, T-SMCA, T-IM), Information Sciences, Information Fusion, Neurocomputing, Expert Systems with Applications, and Cognitive Computation, etc. Also, 3 papers are selected as ESI Highly Cited Papers and 2 papers are selected as ESI Hot Papers. He is a recipient of the Best Paper Award in CCBR2017, the Outstanding Paper Award by Chongqing Association in Science and Technology in 2017, the Outstanding Reviewer Award of Sensor Review Journal in 2016, Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award of Chongqing, China, in 2015, Hong Kong Scholar Award in 2014, Academy Award for Youth Innovation of Chongqing University in 2013 and the New Academic Researcher Award for Doctoral Candidates from the Ministry of Education, China, in 2012. More info at




Those interested in a longer length report can download the working paper at:


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