Thursday, August 28, 2008

Can You Taste Calcium in Wine?

Blame the mice.

I recently discussed Umami, the fifth flavor, that accompanies the original four taste flavors of sweet, sour, bitter and salty. But could there be a sixth flavor? Fox News is reporting a story that such a new flavor may have been discovered, based on studies done with mice.

This potential sixth is calcium. It is hard to pinpoint an actual description of what calcium tastes like, but it does have some elements of bitterness and sourness. We might detect it in water, though too much calcium can make it taste bad. Some high-calcium veggies, like collard greens, bok choy, and kale may be bitter due to a high calcium content. Yet in some products, such as milk, you cannot taste the calcium despite its high content. This is because calcium binds to fats and proteins and stops you from tasting it.

Research now will pursue whether humans, like mice, have calcium receptors on their tongues. Could this affect how we taste wine?

You may not realize it but there is often calcium in wine. For example, calcium may be found in vineyard soil or calcium carbonate may be used during the fermentation process. If calcium is found to be a sixth flavor, then maybe the calcium content within a wine could have an impact on its taste. So, measuring the amount of calcium in a wine might be very important, especially if certain calcium levels "taste" better than others. Could we eventually see wine reviews talking about the calcium taste of the wine?


Joe Roberts, CSW said...

It's probably *not* a significant taste factor for most people drinking their wine.


One thing is for sure - if it can be tasted, then someone, somewhere has the palate chops to be able to pick it out of a wine.

Taster B said...

I'm guessing that picking up chalk flavors in wine would be pretty much akin to tasting the calcium, no?

Catie said...

I doubt that many will be able to taste calium in wine. First of all, they have to know what they're tasting first. Also considering there aren't a lot of people with low sensory thresholds that can even detect small amounts of TCA.