Searching for the Wine World’s Walter White

3 Dec

We need the next Walter White. But not the meth lab’s Walter White. We need that character’s ‘Heisenberg’ of the wine world…perhaps, our own reinvented Jean-Antoine Chaptal! (Never heard of him? He was an 18th Century chemist who added sugar to wine prior to fermentation to increase the alcohol content. But we digress!)

It’s time. It is time, my friends. We are ready to open that bottle of 1949 Latour, have a half glass, re-cork it, and not worry about the air that gets into the bottle being enough to turn the wine into vinegar. It is time because we want to be able to do that, but in reality, we simply can not at this time. Even by removing air from the bottle and refrigerating, a wine will only keep for so long.  But, we are now on the precipice of a new possibility!

Bethany Brookshire of The Science Times reported on Dec 2, 2013 in her article, “Keeping Wine Fine for a Longer Time” about studies done at Penn State and UC Davis in which tests were done a model wine with the intention of adding a metal chelator, ferrozine, to wine, to slow or reduce oxidation in wine. As we all know from experience, oxidation and reduction happen naturally in the process of opening a bottle and extracting wine,  which allows both the poured wine as well as the rest of the wine still in the bottle to be exposed to air, eventually discolor, and spoil.

Wouldn’t you like to be able to open a bottle and have it LAST? Of course you would.

Now, if you’re inclined, I suggest you click the links and read the article, and then the actual study on which the article is based to understand the scientific perspective. While still in the early stages, the ideas are incredibly exciting. BRAVO to these programs at Penn and UC Davis, and to the paper’s authors Kreitman, Cantu, Waterhouse, and Elias for their forward thinking and commitment to oenological development!

So what if the concept isn’t ready for primetime at the moment. It happens to be good work on a great idea! Yes, it’s got problems at the moment. It was simply a study, perhaps the first (or even the twenty-first) attempt. But that didn’t stop Edison, and nor should it stop this movement. The successful reality is probably years off. There are obvious concerns: yes, we actually want fewer additives in our wine, and prefer organic wines simply because we know intrinsically that mother nature knows best. We don’t want hormone-induced anything in our bodies or, heaven forbid, our children’s bodies. Yes, it has to be FDA approved. Yes, it can’t be bad for either the human or the wine. But those concerns are simply minor framework in the big picture.

Imagine being able to put a spray of something FDA approved in a glass before you pour wine in it, and once you pour, have that wine NOT change. Imagine having a glass of wine, and putting a single drop of a chemical in the bottle to retain its perfection, so you can come back to it in a week, a month, a year, a decade. It’s a cool concept. Would it be even better if you buy a bottle of wine that has been re-corked with a specific additive so that whenever you open it, it should be good? What if your beaujolais nouveau, instead of turning to salad dressing, could really stay nouveau indefinitely? What if you could open that ’49 Latour every New Year’s Eve and drink an once, enjoying the perfection, year after year?

It is very exciting news. While not ready for our use at the moment, it IS very promising! And that’s how I feel when I look at the tons of grapes on a hillside. I can’t drink them now, but imagine how wonderful they might be to enjoy in a decade or more, assuming we find the wine world’s Walter White or JeanAntoine Chaptal, to make the perfect connection and concoction. It’s something to consider: The Possibilities of What May Come!

Chaptal? We’re ready for you!  

à votre santé!


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