More on Science or Art

Further to my last post about research at Auckland University, I’ve had my attention drawn to research being undertaken by scientists in China. They believe they can turn “plonk” into good wine by passing the wine through an electronic field to soften and age it.

According to New Scientist magazine, chemists at South China University of Technology have discovered that a few minutes of exposure to an electric field “can soften harsh red wine and produce the hallmarks of ageing – a more mature nose, better balance and greater complexity”.

And in our local newspaper covering this story, Auckland University wine scientist Paul Kilmartin states he’s been doing similar work for a while, but putting carbon electrodes and low electrical charges into barrels of wine for 12 weeks to accelerate the maturing of the wine. However, Kilmartin sounded a warning about putting in too much oxygen “or something where things change too rapidly” because of the risk of imparting to the wine an “off” flavour.

The article concludes with reports of an Australian doctor who claims he’s creating “the world’s healthiest wine” by putting one hundred times more veratrol into each bottle. This, he says, makes the wine a “pipe cleaner”, clearing the arteries and blood vessels, and lowering the risk of heart attacks.

After my last post, on “dial a sauvignon”, I received a great email from Brian Clark, editor of Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resources Science newsletter, called “Voice of the Vine“, in which he defends the role of science in filling the gaps in our knowledge. You can read his comment, which I approved to the post, and any more contributions to this debate are gratefully received.

I suppose, in one way, the Chinese scientists research could make wine less expensive to buy, and therefore turn on more drinkers to good wine, rather than wasting their money on rubbish which makes them ill and puts them off red wine altogether. Maybe it’s the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber effect – critics call their compositions “opera for the masses” but I say, at least it introduces people to the joy of musicals.


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