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Ethanol is one of the major components of wine, which has a substantial impact on its sensory characteristics. However, data concerning consumer response to ethanol or changes in ethanol remains limited. The aim of this study was to determine the threshold ethanol concentrations beyond which ethanol lowering becomes undesirable in Chardonnay and Syrah wines using the consumer rejection threshold (CRT) methodology. Base wines from these two cultivars were first dearomatised and fully dealcoholised using spinning cone column technology. Then, control wines with a similar ethanol content to the base wines (13.8 and 13.5 % v/v for Chardonnay and Syrah respectively) and wines with lower ethanol contents were reconstituted by mixing the final beverage, the aroma fraction, food grade ethanol and distilled water. CRT values were determined as 2.8 % v/v for Chardonnay and at 7.0 % v/v for Syrah. These particularly low and unexpected concentrations indicate that consumer sensory liking might not be necessarily driven by ethanol concentration, especially for white wines. However, the post-evaluation questionnaire showed that consumers were expecting a high minimal ethanol content for quality wines (10.9 % v/v ± 1.2 and 11.7 % v/v ± 1.5 for white and red wines respectively) and had a limited experience with low and dealcoholised wines. Overall, our data, which are still preliminary and deserve to be validated using different base wines with a larger number of consumers, show that consumers would not necessarily be refractory from a sensory standpoint to the consumption of low ethanol beverages made from wine. Our findings strongly encourage professionals from the wine industry and public authorities to raise awareness about the increase in quality of such products and their benefits for human health.
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