The overall objective of my research and graduate education program is to understand the theoretical basis underpinning the sensory perception (aural, oral, and tactile) of foods and wines and to correlate these psychophysical attributes with quantifiable characteristics. This research is focused in three major areas: 1) the influence of agronomic and environmental conditions on the chemical and sensory profiles of foods and wines; 2) the application of innovative analytical and sensory techniques to increase understanding of fundamental physical and chemical properties of food and wine quality; and 3) the enhancement of food quality through studies of consumer perception.
My team is currently developing foods with modified texture for people with texture sensitivities resulting from illness or disability. Texture-sensitive individuals, particularly children, often do not receive adequate nutrition because they are physically unable to masticate or swallow food because of associated pain.
In other research areas, my research examines changes in flavour and odour profiles, and the relationship between sensory data and chemical data. Past research has addressed environmental impacts, including the effect of pest pressure and integrated pest management strategies, on fruit quality particularly for grapes. A new research project, in collaboration with engineers and plant breeders, is determining the effects of long-term ozone exposure on the nutritional composition, post-harvest handling, and processing techniques for lentils that could increase the bioavailability of protein in lentils, thus increasing food value. This work could have implications for food security worldwide, particularly in South Asia where lentils are one of the most important sources of dietary protein. This research will also evaluate changes that might be necessary for industrial processing and consumer preparation. Other past research projects include studying changes in sensory profiles of foods as a result of advanced processing techniques, and the interaction of flavours and aromas with packaging material.
In both red and white wine, past research has focused on the perception of aroma and flavour compounds and how the perception of these compounds, along with taste compounds, varies with the composition of the wine (for example, differences in alcohol or tannin concentrations). We have also conducted extensive research into red and white wine finish, including the identification of specific compounds that contribute to finish, how the finish of the wine varies with the composition of the wine and the perception of finish by consumers. Sparkling wine has also provided another avenue of research, examining the influence of processing decisions on the final quality of the wine. Within this sparkling wine research, carbonation has become an area of interest, with studies pursuing its perception and changing temporal qualities. Other research projects have included the study of effectiveness of different palate cleansers, the effect of serving temperature on sensory perception in red and white wine and the examination of off-odours.