New Scientist gives us a recipe for converting cheap wine to the good stuff:
It is backed by a decade of research, the results have been published in a peer-reviewed journal and the end product has passed the ultimate test- blind tasting by a panel of wine experts. No fewer than five wineries have now invested in the technology.
The secret this time is an electric field. Pass an undrinkable, raw red wine between a set of high-voltage electrodes and it becomes pleasantly quaffable. “Using an electric field to accelerate ageing is a feasible way to shorten maturation times and improve the quality of young wine,” says Hervé Alexandre, professor of oenology at the University of Burgundy, close to some of France’s finest vineyards.
During ageing, wine becomes less acid as the ethanol reacts with organic acids to produce a plethora of the fragrant compounds known as esters. Unpleasant components precipitate out and the wine becomes clearer and more stable. Red wines mellow as bitter, mouth-puckering tannin molecules combine with each other and with pigment molecules to form larger polymers, at the same time releasing their grip on volatile molecules that contribute to the wine’s aroma.
The results were striking. With the gentlest treatment, the harsh, astringent wine grew softer. Longer exposure saw some of the hallmarks of ageing emerge- a more mature “nose”, better balance and greater complexity. The improvements reached their peak after 3minutes at 600 volts per centimetre: this left the wine well balanced and harmonious, with a nose of an aged wine and, importantly, still recognisably a cabernet sauvignon.