NPJ Sci Food. 2023 Sep 16;7(1):51. doi: 10.1038/s41538-023-00222-1.
The preferences of consumers for different flavours and aromas in wine are varied and may be explained by inherent factors such as cultural background, wine education and personal taste of the wine consumer. Wine flavour, as perceived in the mouth, includes aroma compounds released through the retronasal pathway, which are shaped by interactions with saliva. Saliva and wine interactions could provide an explanation as to why wine tasters express different preferences for wine. To test this hypothesis, 13 Western and 13 Chinese experienced wine tasters were recruited. Sensory evaluation was performed in formal surroundings to acquire free description-based and perceived sensory intensity data using the Pivot® Profile and continuous scale assessment, respectively. Participants’ saliva samples were collected before the sensory evaluation and spiked into a wine sample to investigate the impact on the wine’s volatile release using comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC × GC-MS). Saliva samples were subjected to enzyme activity assays and protein composition profiling by Tandem Mass Tag (TMT) quantitative proteomics. The wine tasters showed differences in wine flavour perception, which was supported by the difference in wine volatile release resulting from the addition of saliva. The two groups of participants did not have significant differences in total salivary protein concentrations or the amounts of esterase and α-amylase. However, statistically significant variations in the concentrations of specific proteins (proline-rich proteins (PRPs) and lipocalin-1 (LCN-1); p < 0.01) were found between the two groups. Significant correlations between perceived intensities of wine attributes and concentrations of PRPs and LCN-1 were observed. These results indicate that the composition of proteins in saliva is a factor that influences wine perception and preference. Our results provide a biochemical basis for understanding preference for food based on interactions between aroma compounds and salivary proteins and could be used to suggest foods or beverages to particular cultural groups.