Electronic ‘tongue’ could identify types of Cava

An electronic ‘tongue’ device is being developed by Spanish researchers in order to help identify different types of Cava wines.

The aim is to give automatic read-out classifications similar to those used by a human sommelier.

Cava varies in type according to the amount of sugar added with the expedition liqueur after secondary fermentation (which produces carbonic gas). It is therefore useful to know the exact amount of sugar added, since this is what determines the type of Cava that will be produced.

Looking for new automated methods, a team of researchers from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, led by Prof Manel del Valle, turned its attention to so-called electronic tongues. These are bio-inspired systems created with the aim of reproducing human perception.

The current prototype device contains a sensor matrix (with differentiated, broad and complementary response) to obtain chemical information from samples — akin to those obtained by the human senses.

The perception of taste is based on the generation of sensory patterns of the nerves activated by the brain and nerve print recognition. This is achieved artificially with the use of computerised systems that interpret data obtained by the sensor matrix.

As in biological mechanisms, a learning and training process is needed so that the electronic tongue can become capable of recognising the properties that must be identified.

The electronic tongue can currently identify three types of Cava: Brut, Brut Nature and Medium-Dry. However, with proper training, it will be able to identify all types available on the market, according to the team.