Dispatches from Nespresso Coffee Conversation Symposium, Portugal

Coffee to concentrate, wine to unwind? Nespresso symposium looks at the similarities - and the differences

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Coffee and wine under the spotlight at the Nespresso Coffee Conversation this week
Coffee and wine under the spotlight at the Nespresso Coffee Conversation this week

Related tags: Coffee

Coffee and wine are both complex drinks with strong followings among their respective connoisseurs, but wines tell a stronger tale - connecting better with consumers, say industry experts.

Coffee and wine are revered both as a science and as an art, and the two beverages often attract comparisons but there are marked differences as well. Coffee and wine have separate consumption occasions and consumers make different connections with the beverages, the Nespresso Coffee Conversation Symposium heard in Aveiro, Portugal this week. 

Taking place on the eve of the Third International Congress on Cocoa, Coffee and Tea, the Conversation’s theme was 'the quality of the experience'. 

Panelists took on the comparison of wine and coffee, discussing the similarities and differences. Wine has a better chance of creating a connection with drinkers, whereas consumers know less about what’s in their coffee cup, they observed. 

‘The differences are as important as the similarities’

Georg Riedel pioneered the development of wine-friendly and varietal-specific glasses: his contribution as the 10th generation of the Austrian Riedel Glas company. 

“To me, the greatest difference [between wine and coffee] is the ageability of wine,”​ he said. “100+ years… this makes an experience, you’re drinking history. This kind of pleasure has to be shared. You need to have someone you love to share this. This, to me, is the greatest differentiator.” 

Silvia Rocha is professor of chemistry at Aveiro University, Portugal. Her research has considered the aromas of wine. 

“When I buy a wine I know the producer, variety, year of production,” ​she said. “It’s possible to know a lot about wine and that creates a connection between product and consumer. With coffee, the connection is not so strong. Maybe coffee companies will think about this.”

Studying wine needs to consider what varieties are used, the geographic origin and terroir, agricultural practices, etc. Coffee aroma chemistry should also consider similar aspects.

“From an analytical point of view - coffee is more complex than wine,”​ she said. “We detect more compounds in coffee than wine. The difference: in wine, we have a lot of different classes of compounds with very different aroma descriptors.” 

Peter Giuliano, director of the Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Symposium, pointed out that consumption occasions and emotions are different.

“They [wine and coffee] both have a deep and complicated sensory aspect,” ​he said. 

“But coffee is drunk in the morning, wine is not. Coffee is drunk at work, wine generally isn’t. Meeting somebody to share some wine has a different meeting to sharing a coffee. The differences to me are as important as the similarities. 

“Coffee is about energy and industry and communication; wine is about luxury and indulgence and camaraderie.”

Organised by Elsevier and hosted by the University of Aveiro, The Third International Congress on Cocoa, Coffee and Tea is on in Portugal this week, from Monday 21 to Wednesday 23 June. The Nespresso Coffee Conversation Symposium was held as part of the event. 

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