Scientists have developed an electronic sensor that may prompt sommeliers to question their job security: it can identify different types of cava wine, the champagne-like sparkling wine from Spain.
Cava varies in type according to the amount of sugar added for the second fermentation, which produces the bubbles in the bottle as well as increasing sweetness.
The electronic tongue, as the sensor developed at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona is called, combines chemical measurement systems and advanced mathematical procedures, including an "artificial neural network," that mimics the human tongue and brain to parse levels of sweetness.
The digital sommelier is already able to differentiate between three types of cava and additional training should allow it to distinguish between all seven varieties sold, ranging from Brut Nature (no sugar added) to Sweet (more than 50 grams of sugar per liter).
Like all biological systems, the researchers note, a learning and training process is needed so that the electronic tongue can recognize the properties that must be identified in order to make proper classifications.
The tongue, for now, is envisioned as a tool that wine makers can use to detect defects as cava undergoes the second fermentation. But maybe these tongues someday will prove the perfect companion on a wine-tasting trip to Spain.