Grape Nuts

grape“Even after 9,000 years, there is still plenty of scope for technological innovation in winemaking," reports The Economist (11/30/13). While most wine drinkers enjoy the artisanal image of the winemaker, in reality the process is more automated than ever. This has long been true of "low-end wineries that could not afford traditional artisanal methods," but is now a fact among more elite vintners. The goal is no longer "just to make bad wine decent, or to make good wine more cheaply, but to make already-great wines greater still."

Tools include optical sorting, which compares each grape’s "shape, size and color with the winemaker’s guidelines." The terrior itself can be analyzed with "infra-red and ultraviolet light," and then adjusted to match grape varieties with the soil. Closures are another area of innovation, given the well-known problems associated with natural corks. Screw caps provide an alternative, but some say they block the oxygen that’s essential to aging a fine wine. VinPerfect offers a screw cap that "allows the winemaker to choose precisely how much oxygen should enter the bottle over time," without tainting.

Others use reverse osmosis, which is also used to purify water, to remove unwanted compounds and adjust the alcohol level. A "thermal dot", meanwhile, can be applied to labels that "changes color irreversibly when exposed to dangerous temperatures. And a $270 device called Coravin inserts a needle to liberate a stream of wine without removing the cork; once removed the cork expands and re-seals. A gas apron is injected to protect what’s left. Greg Lambrecht of Coravin says he has "a magnum of 1988 Bordeaux" that he’s "been drinking for ten years."


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