OSU-trained taste testers evaluate experimental wines

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James Osborne, an enologist with OSU Extension, trains people to describe how wine tastes and smells. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)
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As they sniff and sip, they can use words like black pepper, forest floor and struck match

The Oregon State University Extension Service has trained 60 Oregon winemakers and vineyard managers to analyze wine in an effort to help the state’s wine industry better understand how what it’s doing in its vineyards and tanks affects the final product.

The unpaid volunteers learned to use a sensory method called free-choice profiling that allows them to use their own vocabulary to describe the color, aroma, taste and mouthfeel of wines.

They’ll gather several times a year for refresher trainings and to evaluate experimental wines made by OSU and Oregon’s wine industry. In 2012, they evaluated Pinot noir made from an OSU fruit thinning trial at Stoller Family Estate’s vineyard in Dayton.

An Extension enologist is now analyzing the ballots to see if differences were detected. The aim is to correlate the results with how the fruit was thinned.

Oregon was home to 463 wineries and 870 vineyards in 2011. Growers produced 46,000 tons of wine grapes worth $94 million in 2012.

Sources: James Osborne, an enologist with OSU Extension; Southern Oregon University Research Center's 2011 Oregon Winery Census Report; U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2011 Oregon Vineyard Report.

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