Saturday, February 23, 2008

Does Wine Age Under Screw Cap?

It is not my intent in this post to rehash all the arguments for and against cork or screw caps. All I know is that at the present time, I do not have any wines aging in my humble little cellar that are under screw cap. While each side has put forth strong arguments, some proponents have taken an almost religious do or die approach. Its black and white and the other side better wake up. After all, says New Zealand we are mostly under screw cap, so we must be right. Others are taking a more reasoned approach and have an ongoing evaluation wine program. Most of these evaluations have not been very scientific and it is difficult to keep subjectivity out of the picture. And the power of suggestion plays its role as well. After all, recently a group of tasters chose a cheap wine, which they were told was expensive, as the best and the expensive wine which they were told was cheap as their least liked wine. So can tasting wines with cork and screw cap closures for evaluation, even when done blind, be anymore believable? Amorim believes that more research will lead to the development of an improved cork closure that every one can be happy using.
When I cellar my wines it is with the intent on having them develop and mature. And if a closure prevents that from happening and gives me a wine with all its fresh, lively fruit just like the day it was bottled, then why would I cellar it?
So I was happy to read that Nomacorc and UC Davis are conducting research into how oxygen
influences the evolution of wine and hopefully determine what constitutes the optimum closure(s). Chemical markers will be used to evaluate the evolution of key wine molecules exposed to different amounts of oxygen. All very scientific and very objective.
We will just have to wait till August 2009 for the results. In the meantime when I am in the mood for a fresh, zippy, fruity wine I will buy that delicious New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and when the mood strikes me for a serious mature rich red I'll take my chances and dig up something I have been aging for a while. Happy drinking to all of you out there!!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Rinse Your Mouth with Wine!

Following up on my last post and my reference to drinking wine and preventing tooth decay, some further research is now pointing to the possibility of a mouthwash to do just that.Now that sounds exciting. Polyphenols in pomace point to promising protection for our teeth. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Cornell University have found that polyphenols may "significantly reduce the ability of bacteria to cause cavities". Research continues into the development of a mouthwash containing the beneficial polyphenols. Now click on the bottle to the left to enlarge it and see this couple with beautiful white teeth. They know that at the end of this wonderful dinner with a health bestowing red wine they can count on their mouthwash to protect their teeth as well. So don't you see this as a huge marketing possibility for Pepsodent or some other toothpaste maker? Toothpaste may in fact become obsolete. Remember Kodak being the giant of film? Smart marketing has seen them move into printers and digital cameras.
Many of you may remember the smart and catchy ad shown
on TV in the 1950's making you wonder where the yellow went. Just for the fun of it see it here on YouTube.
So any of you toothpaste makers out there, jump on this great
opportunity. You'll be able to bring back that ad only this time
it will be: "You'll wonder where the yellow went when you rinse
your mouth with Chardodent"
By the way, all the lab animals used in this research were well
fed and seemed to enjoy the experiment. Click on the mouse.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

To Sniff or not to Sniff...Diacetyl in Your Wine!

Ah.. that wonderful process called malolactic fermentation (MLF) may be in trouble with health authorities. Grapes grown in cool climates typically produce high-acid wines. MLF was originally developed in Burgundy to smooth out and make their high acid Chardonnays more palatable. Lactic acid bacteria(LAB) convert tart malic acid into a softer lactic acid. However in warm grape growing regions in the "New World" such as California and Australia wines tend to be low-acid and when a wine maker employs MLF, magically Diacetyl turns up. Diacetyl is a chemical byproduct that produces the typical aroma of real butter, so prized by New World Chardonnay lovers. Producing this chemical cocktail with LAB
is not without risks and sometimes undesirable results show up. The Iowa State University's Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute has a good description of possible problems.
But it is Diacetyl itself that is potentially a health hazard. Ever heard of "popcorn lung"? It turns out that workers in popcorn factories are in danger of getting this condition. Bronchiolitis obliterans (popcorn lung) is caused by exposure to Diacetyl. Currently the FDA is "carefully considering the safety and regulatory issues raised by the use of Diacetyl". Can't you just see it now? Compulsory warnings on the back of all Chardonnay labels stating that "sniffing this Chardonnay may cause more than just sniffles". Of course wine makers could skip the whole MLF process by just adding Bell's butter flavors to their wines.
It seems no matter how many wonderful health benefits wine bestows upon us mere mortal wine drinkers, some misguided bureaucrat has to justify his job by creating another ridiculous regulation. I guess we will never see a label stating that "drinking wine can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease and sore throats".
What next? Would not be surprised that British pubs and restaurants will soon be required to serve wine in glassware with etch marks indicating the "units" of alcohol. Why is everybody picking on wine? Is this a new form of creeping prohibition? Time to sign off and just enjoy another glass of the fruit of the vine.