Ensuring zero blood alcohol levels in professional wine tasting

A study by the Union of French Oenologists and the ICV reveals best practices


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In the realm of winemaking, wine tasting is an indispensable practice for evaluating and classifying wines throughout their production process. However, this activity carries the inherent risk of accumulating a significant level of alcohol in the bloodstream, especially for oenologists who are required to taste frequently and, in many cases, a large number of wine samples. This raises a critical question: How can the wine tasting process be conducted in such a way that the blood alcohol level remains at zero?

A collaborative study by the Union of French Oenologists and the ICV (Institut Cooperatif du Vin) has shed light on a series of best practices aimed at achieving this goal. Employing an original methodology that measures both the volume of wine introduced into the taster's mouth and the volume spat out, the study has demonstrated that a measurable blood alcohol level at the end of a tasting session is directly proportional to the quantity of wine ingested (i.e., the volume consumed and/or absorbed through vascularization).

Interestingly, the study found that the physical build of the taster, their gender, or the duration of the tasting session do not significantly influence the blood alcohol level. Instead, the quantity of wine ingested stands out as the almost exclusive cause, directly correlating with the measured blood alcohol level. The challenge, therefore, is for tasters to spit out all the wine they take into their mouths.

Through an analysis of practices adopted by oenologists who finish their tastings with negligible or zero blood alcohol content, the study identified key best practices for conducting wine tastings:

  1. Introduce a Small Volume of Wine: Limiting the amount of wine introduced to the mouth (about 10 to 12 ml or less) makes it easier to spit out completely and allows the wine to be kept on the tongue.
  2. Keep the Wine on the Tongue: Avoiding circulating the wine under the tongue, around the gums, or in the back of the throat minimizes the risk of "accidental" swallowing and absorption through the highly vascularized sublingual areas.
  3. Make an Effort to Spit Everything Out: This practice is crucial to ensure that no wine is ingested.

By adhering to these practices, all oenologists participating in the study were able to complete their tastings with a blood alcohol content that was either negligible or nonexistent. This study not only provides a practical guideline for professionals in the wine industry to conduct their work safely but also offers valuable insights for wine enthusiasts who wish to enjoy wine tasting without the effects of alcohol consumption.

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