Secret behind making cheap wine taste like fine vintage revealed

December 18th, 2008 - 4:09 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Dec 18 (ANI): ”Wine tastes better with age” goes the saying, but now scientists have come up with a new process to shorten the ageing process to bring the wine reach perfection - electric field.
For many, nothing can replace genuine quality plus long, slow ageing in an oak barrel and years of storage in cool, cobwebby cellars, but scientists now claim that a quick blast with an electric field can improve lower-quality wine and shorten storage time.
The use of electric current for maturing wine is a technique that is backed by a decade of research, and has even passed the ultimate test- blind tasting by a panel of wine experts. In fact, almost five wineries have already invested in the technology.
All one needs to do to get a taste of vintage wine, in just a matter of minutes, is to pass an undrinkable, raw red wine between a set of high-voltage electrodes and it becomes pleasantly quaffable.
“Using an electric field to accelerate ageing is a feasible way to shorten maturation times and improve the quality of young wine,” New Scientist quoted Herve Alexandre, professor of oenology at the University of Burgundy, close to some of France’’s finest vineyards, as saying.
Fresh wine is undrinkable and can have horrible after-effects, including an upset stomach, a raging thirst and the world’’s nastiest hangover. The youngest a wine can be drunk is six months.
Especially, especially red wines take longer to achieve the required balance and complexity. The finest can take 20 years to reach their peak.
During ageing, wine becomes less acid as the ethanol reacts with organic acids to produce a plethora of the fragrant compounds known as esters. Unpleasant components precipitate out and the wine becomes clearer and more stable.
Red wines mellow as bitter, mouth-puckering tannin molecules combine with each other and with pigment molecules to form larger polymers, at the same time releasing their grip on volatile molecules that contribute to the wine’’s aroma.
The reactions take time and need a small but steady supply of oxygen. In barrel-aged wines, oxygen leaks through the wood, while microscopic oxygen bubbles are introduced to help wine mature in steel tanks.
The new speedier alternative to mature wine would allow wine-makers to get their wines into the shops faster to meet ever-increasing demand, and cut the cost of storage.
Ten years ago Xin An Zeng, a chemist at the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, used electric currents to see the effect on wine. Depending on promising results in the beginning the researchers decided to develop a prototype plant in which they could treat wine with fields of different strengths for different periods of time.
They pumped the wine through a pipe that ran between two titanium electrodes, fed with a mains-frequency alternating supply boosted to a higher voltage. For the test wine, the team selected a 3-month-old cabernet sauvignon from the Suntime Winery, China’’s largest producer. Batches of wine spent 1, 3 or 8 minutes in various electric fields (see diagram).
The team then analysed the treated wine for chemical changes that might alter its “mouth feel” and quality, and passed it to a panel of 12 experienced wine tasters who assessed it in a blind tasting.
The researchers came across striking results-after undergoing the gentlest treatment, the harsh, astringent wine grew softer. Longer exposure saw some of the hallmarks of ageing emerge- a more mature “nose”, better balance and greater complexity.
The improvements reached their peak after 3minutes at 600 volts per centimeter, which left the wine well balanced and harmonious, with a nose of an aged wine and, importantly, still recognisably a cabernet sauvignon.
Analysis revealed some significant chemical changes as well.
While Zeng cannot yet explain how exposure to an electric field alters the wine’’s chemistry, his results show that under the right conditions the technique can accelerate some aspects of the ageing process.
“Not only can it shorten a wine’’s normal storage time, it can also improve some lower-quality wine. It works just as well with other grape varieties such as merlot and shiraz,” he said. (ANI)

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