Posted in Science & Nature

Wine Aging

One of the (many) defining features of a “great wine” is the aging of the wine. The complex chemical reactions between the wine’s sugars, acids and tannins can produce a much deeper, sophisticated aroma and taste that stays in the mouth for longer. For example, the tannins break down to give a softer mouthfeel. Acids and alcohols combine in the wine to form esters – chemical compounds that produce very unique smells. This also reduces the perceived acidic taste of the wine, making it less sour. The longer the wine has aged, the more of these chemical reactions occurs and the wine typically improves in quality.

Of course, the problem with wine of excellent quality is the price and the time required to age the wine. Is there any way to artificially “age” wine? The solution lies in something that sounds like science fiction: irradiating the wine.

If you expose a bottle of wine to radiation (about 500 rads) for an hour, it can greatly improve its maturity. In a simple experiment, blind-tasted sommeliers could not believe that the two glasses of wine – one before irradiation and one after – were exactly the same. In fact, they valued the irradiated wine at almost five times the market price of the original bottle. The reason for this is that radiation accelerates the esterification process of the acids in the wine, producing a much deeper and smoother taste.
There are also other experiments that have shown that magnetism, ultra-sonic waves and high-voltage electricity can all be used to artificially age wine.

Although radiation does not turn people into superheroes, it turns out it can for wine.