Wine economics

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Electricity improved wine: News or old hat?

Last week a "news hog" was dricen through the media: Improving wine by means of an electric current. Among other media the New Scientist wrote:

How to make cheap wine taste like a fine vintage

"Researchers at the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou
treated wine with fields of different strengths for different periods of
time. ... The results were striking. With the gentlest treatment, the harsh,
astringent wine grew softer. ...."

Jim Lapsley of UC Davis commented the news with:

Dear All,

This is fairly old news, although interesting that the Chinese are trying it.
During wine aging various oxidative reactions occur (slowly), as well as increased tannin polymerization, which reduces the perception of astringency as the new (larger) molecules no longer fit in the tongue receptors that signal "bitter" and don't react with proteins in the same way.

Almost any method that will put energy into the system will speed these reactions. In the past heat has been tried, radio and micro waves, electricity in other forms, and radiation. (About 20 years ago University Extension and Food Science hosted a conference on food irradiation--"ion kissed"--and Manuel Lagunas-Solar irradiated some wine for the banquet. It did reduce tannin, but also gave a cooked taste to the wine).

All these methods will speed aging, but they also lead to excessive oxidation and loss of wine complexity and aroma.

I leave it to you economists: If a method that could increase the value of the wine more than the cost of the treatment existed, wouldn't it be in use?

Anyway, old news.