Older people are better wine tasters

by | Sep 18, 2020 | South Africa Wine Scan

It was found in Spain that younger people under the age of 35 only drink 4.5% of the total litres of wine consumed in the country. In contrast, people over the age of 55 account for 73.5% of all wine consumed. The aim of this research was to determine if this phenomenon has anything to do with differences in saliva composition and flow of the different age groups.


  • Twenty-two individuals were recruited and trained for the study.
  • Eleven people were between 18 and 35 (5 women, 6 men) and 11 between 55 and 71 (6 women, 5 men).
  • The individuals were trained over six training sessions to be able to recognise and score the intensity of smoky and black aroma notes.
  • A commercial wine, containing 84% Tempranillo was selected for the study based on its marked smoky and pepper aroma notes previously determined by a focus group.
  • Before tasting saliva was collected from all individuals taking part in the study. The people had to chew a piece of Parafilm TM* and spit their saliva into the tube as many times as they wanted for 5 minutes.
  • Total protein content, pH, protease activity and amylase activity of the salivas were determined.
  • After tasting the wine for 5 seconds and then spitting it out, the intensity of the two aroma attributes was recorded over two minutes using Compusense software.


  • Older people perceived the aroma attributes of smoky and black pepper more intensely and for a longer period.
  • Older people had significantly lower salivary flow (1.20 ml/min) compared to younger individuals (1.66 ml/min).
  • Younger people had a lower protein content (796.08 mg/ml) in their saliva compared to the senior group (1009.31 mg/ml).


The researchers hypothesize that the differences in saliva composition and salivary flow between the age groups, contributed to the measured observation that the older people perceived smoky and peppery aromas more intensely. The limitation of the study is that it was done on a small group of people and only for two aroma attributes. The possibility exists that different aroma compounds might have a different outcome. Various other factors can also contribute to older people consuming more wine than younger people. However, the saliva composition and flow results for different age groups are consistent with previous research results.


Celia Criado, Carolina Muñoz-González, María Ángeles Pozo-Bayón (2021). Differences in salivary flow and composition between age groups are correlated to dynamic retronasal aroma perception during wine consumption. Food Quality and Preference, Volume 87, 104046, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2020.104046.

Image copyright: www.healthshots.com

*Parafilm is a semi-transparent, flexible film composed of a proprietary blend of waxes and polyolefins. It is a ductile, malleable, non-toxic, tasteless and odorless, and self-sealing thermoplastic. The name Parafilm is a registered trademark of Bemis Company, Inc, headquartered in Neenah, WI. Wikipedia

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