How to give your cheap plonk a boost

21 December 2008


The festive season is upon us, many of us will no doubt be raising a glass or two of wine in celebration. And this week there is news of a novel way that scientists have found to give a boost to a bottle of cheap plonk. A revolting young table wine can be transformed into a refined tipple simply by zapping it with electricity.

red wineYou might expect it would be the French, the Chileans or perhaps the Californians who have come up with this new bit of wine trickery, but in fact this study was the brain child of Xin An Zeng and colleagues from South China University of Technology in Guangzhou in China, a relative new-comer to the world of fine wine making.

Zeng and his team have been experimenting with Chinese cabernet sauvignon wine, passing it through a pipe with two titanium electrodes hooked up to a electric field and found that the optimum time to do this was for just three minutes - no more, no less.

They can't yet explain just how applying an electric field alters the wine's chemistry but it seems that just this short exposure is enough to make a new wine quaffable. A three month old wine would normally be undrinkable, but after Zeng and his team ran it through an electric field, it passed a taste test with a panel of wine experts.

Normal wine can't be drunk for at least six months, and of course the finest wines keep getting better and better for decades.

Somehow, zapping the wine changes its chemical make up in a similar way that happens slowly over time as wine ages. These changes include the reaction of ethanol with bitter-tasting organic acids in the wine, creating fruity flavoured compounds called esters. Proteins also breakdown to form amino acids, which also contribute to the taste of a good wine and the researchers also measured a reduction in the concentration of nasty-tasting aldehydes.

Just whether or not wine connoisseurs will embrace this new technique remains to be seen, but wine producers in China are already rolling out large scale trials of this new electro-wine treatment. And if you are feeling a bit impatient for a tasty glass of wine this Christmas, please, don't try this out at home.


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