Travel bursary helps Shaoyang present local research on world stage

RD&E News | March 2020
13 Mar 2020
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On the eve of Wine Australia’s Travel Bursaries opening in March, we spoke to University of Queensland third-year PhD candidate Shaoyang Wang – a 2019 bursary recipient – about his experience.

Shaoyang Wang loves what he studies – astringency in wine.

So he was thrilled to be able to share with others in the international wine world what he has discovered through his research to date.

Shaoyang Wang received a 2019 Wine Australia Travel Bursary, which allowed him to present a poster at the 13th Pangborn Sensory Science Symposium held in the United Kingdom 28 July – 1 August 2019; along with oral presentations at seminars organised by the UK’s University of Nottingham and Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands.

‘I find astringency in wine a fascinating topic, because getting the balance just right is requisite for high quality wines,’ Shaoyang said. ‘As a complex mouthfeel experience, astringency can be also described into different sub-qualities – for example, drying, rough, pucker and grippy. Generally, these sub-qualities can only be quantified by sensory evaluations, as their componential drivers remain unknown.’

In his oral presentations, Shaoyang described how he and his research colleagues used a physical tool – tribology – to investigate the saliva-wine interaction and the change of salivary lubrication. Tribology, the study of friction, mimics the wine tasting experience and helps explain the development of different astringency sub-qualities.

‘We have been able to successfully demonstrate that these sub-qualities are driven differently by ethanol, tannin, acidity or polysaccharide.  We also found the different ways that wine interacts with saliva can bring about different sub-quality sensations.’

Shaoyang said the outcomes of his research could help winemakers better manage the wine ‘mouthfeel’ quality for their target markets in the future.

Shaoyang also presented a poster entitled ‘Discerning wine astringency sub-qualities – what is the role of saliva?’ at the Pangborn Sensory Symposium. 

The poster detailed the tribology methods Shaoyang and his colleagues used to ‘pick up’ the drivers of different wine astringency sub-qualities. 

‘Our important findings are that "drying" sub-qualities are elicited by tannin and linked to the high friction of the lubricity change of bulk saliva. Differently, the “pucker” sub-quality is elicited by acidity and linked to how quickly the salivary layer breaks out under the influence of wine. The “rough” is a secondary sub-quality which can be elicited by either “drying” or “pucker”’, Shaoyang said.

The poster also pointed out a gap in research focusing on wine consumers and their individual perception of wine astringency.

‘As a PhD student with Chinese ethnicity and previous wine tasting experience in China, I understood that Asian consumers are far more sensitive than Australian consumers to astringency. 

‘We are eager to know if there is any role that saliva or oral physiology can play to influence the astringency perception and wine acceptance among ethnicities and Western–Eastern cultures.’

Finding the answer to this question could ultimately help further boost the export and value of Australian wine in the rapidly growing Asian market, Shaoyang asserts.

Shaoyang recommended others apply for a Wine Australia Travel Bursary.

‘This travel bursary provided me with the benefits of professional development by receiving feedback and ideas on my own research. I discussed my experiences with leading wine sensory scientists during the conference, which helped me optimise the palate cleansers and sensory protocols – thus minimising the effects of panel fatigue during the wine sensory evaluations.

‘I was also able to make some professional connections with international researchers, who I may possibly collaborate with in the future.’

Applications for Wine Australia’s travel bursaries for travel commencing 1 July 2020 to 31 June 2021 will close on 24 April 2020. Click here for more information. 

Shaoyang Wang received a travel bursary from Wine Australia, where he presented his research into astringency to peers in the UK and the Netherlands


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