Talk Colorado Wine & Colorado's Wine Country: Could Scientists Cook Up 'Instant' Vintage Wine?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Could Scientists Cook Up 'Instant' Vintage Wine?

Meek Doctor Jeckyll could swallow a magic elixir and turn into Mr. Hyde. Cartoon hero Underdog popped a pill to gain his superpowers. But what if a mild mannered wine could instantly yell "Shazam" and morph into "Superwine" ? According to the blogosphere, it's possible. The rumor has been circulating around the Internet for weeks. But unfortunately, the story had all the feelings of a con, urban legend or hoax:

Here's a typical posting, this one by The Pitch of Kansas City. Under the headline, "Coming Soon: Vintage Wine Over Night," Owen Morris wrote:

"Scientists have stumbled across a way to make the cheapest of cheap wine taste like a vintage pinot grown in the heart of Burgundy."

"It's an outlandish claim and people have been hawking various gizmos that promise to do the same thing for years, but this time it's respected scientists who have figured out a method that works -- and to prove it, they fooled wine-experts."

"Xin An Zeng of South China University was experimenting with electrical fields' effect on food when he decided to try it with wine. The electrical field acts as a catalyst in turning various acids into esters. Esters are the pungent compound that give aged wine that unique mouth feel and taste. As a wine matures, it gains more esters and becomes less acidic, but it takes years for oxygen to turn the acids into esters."

"Zeng found that by using electrical fields he could speed the acids-into-esters process into minutes. He presented his work to Hervé Alexandre, a professor of oenology at the University of Burgundy who was impressed, delcaring it a "feasible way" to shorten maturity. As strong of a vote of confidence as you're going to get from a French wine professor."

"Zeng published his work in volume nine of Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies, a scholary journal that, in the same volume, included such breezy articles as "Comparison of hydrostatic and hydrodynamic pressure to inactivate foodborne viruses."

You can read the rest of the article here.

To the authors credit, he doesn't swallow the claim wholesale.

Here's our line of thinking. We've had electricity since the 18th century, tons of scientists, research labs, both public and private, as well as the ultra competitive multi-billion dollar food and wine industries. Add into that the extreme nationalism that surrounds wine regions the world over --and with all these factors, no one ever thought to generate an electrical field around wine? All those researchers and tinkerers never hit upon this fairly obvious idea? It strains credulity. Either that, or Zeng's a genius.

So are the media and bloggers being suckered? Is this a "cold fusion" or "perpetual motion machine" kind of claim? Only time will tell. Until then, we are extremely skeptical. Don't look for your $10 box wine to turn into Château Lafite any time soon.

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