In Vino Veritas: Find out What Characteristics Make Award-Winning Wines

New research has shed light on what makes good wine.

If you've ever wondered how to make an award-winning bottle of wine, the answer lies in high levels of ethanol as well as sugar. 

The findings are part of a Washington State University research project. They are published in the Journal of Wine Researchand led by Carolyn Ross, professor, and director of the Sensory Evaluation Facility at the university. 


How did the researchers come to this conclusion?

Curious about what similarities delectable award-winning wines have in common, the researchers set out on their quest to test these winning wines from an international wine competition.

A test many people would jump at the opportunity, we're sure!

In Vino Veritas: Find out What Characteristics Make Award-Winning Wines
Bottles of red wine. Source: Marco Verch/Flickr

However, the researchers did not guzzle liters of wine for this paper. Instead, they scoured through years of data from the world-renowned Mundus Vini Challenge, held twice yearly in Germany. 

What did the researchers discover?

There is a difference between award-winning white and red wines, however. Both require high levels of ethanol and sugar

In white wines, scents and flavors closely linked to sweetness and exotic fruits are chosen. Whereas in red wines, dried fruits and spicy tones were the usual winners. 

Contrastingly, if white wines hinted notes of acidity and astringency, and red wines depicted vegetative and red berries, they did not come close to the top. 

That said, it takes a bit more than just creating a sweet, or less acid wine in order to bring home an award. 

Author of the paper, Carolyn Ross, said, "Complexity and harmony are hard to define. According to the data, you may want to add more exotic fruits or spiciness. But that may have an impact on the broader attributes of the wine."

In Vino Veritas: Find out What Characteristics Make Award-Winning Wines
Carolyn Ross from Washington State University. Source: Washington State University

Ross continued, "The fact remains it will always be very impressive to make a wine that wins an award at a prestigious competition."

If a wine wins an award, it can change its popularity. Just by having an 'award-winning' label on the bottle will steer many consumers to choose that bottle over another.

As Ross said, "Some people will decide between two different wines just because one has an award sticker on it. There's a major positive impact for a winery."

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