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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 190, December 2019   
Wine from the Abyss to the StarsWine from the Abyss to the Stars  Contents 
Issue 189, November 2019 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on Twitter 

Wine from the Abyss to the Stars


 It is always interesting, as well as pleasant, to read and learn about the research carried out on wine and in all its productive aspects, from the vineyard to the glass. Likewise, certain experiments attempting to make – and reproduce – the wines of the past are equally interesting,trying to use, not least, the same techniques, with the aim of understanding the history of wine and what made it as we know it today. Anyone who knows me knows I do not have any nostalgia about certain wines of the past and certain methods or criteria now considered obsolete – of course, a wine when it is good it is so no matter the production method – but it is certainly interesting in terms of historical knowledge and personal culture. Likewise, I also find interesting the research and experiments towards the opposite direction, that is the research, development and progress of wine science and technology, as I am convinced that in wine there is still much to be discovered and to understand, despite the extraordinary developments that have occurred since the discoveries of Louis Pasteur until today.


 

 Recently two events about wine have made news and, in some respects, are opposed regarding their enological purposes: one aimed to the understanding of certain wines of the past, the other one looking to the future and decidedly “very high” and up above. In the first one, in fact, wine has been produced by following a technique used by the ancient Greeks and which involves immersing the grapes in the sea; in the second one, wine bottles have been sent to space in order to study aging and evolution in a gravity-free environment. In the past it has already happened someone immersed wine bottles in sea water, not least, even reaching the bottom, however immersing the grapes to be later used for making a wine, I do not think it has been done before, at least in recent times. It must be said, in fact, there have already been conducted other experiments about the aging of wine in sea water, properly sealed in bottles, and then to make them re-emerge after a certain period of time. Instead, sending the wine to the exact opposite side of the earth, not only in the sky, but even in space, it is the first time.

 The experiment of immersing the grapes in the sea was conducted near the Elba Island (Italy) by Arrighi winery with the collaboration of Prof. Attilio Scienza – a figure of primary importance in the world of wine and professor of Viticulture at the University of Milan – Professors Angela Zinnai and Francesca Venturi, in addition to Dr. Naomi Deaddis of the Viticulture and Enology class of the University of Pisa. To carry out this interesting experiment, have been used bunches of Ansonica grapes – a white berried grape typically found on the Elba Island – and considered similar to two ancient Greek varieties common in the Aegean territory: Rhoditis and Sideritis. Ansonica was chosen for the thickness of its skin and that allowed it to remain in the sea without suffering any damage. The experiment wanted to replicate an ancient Greek winemaking technique and used 2500 years ago in the Isle of Chios, which provided for the immersion of whole bunches in the sea, therefore recovered and crushed, thus obtaining the must to be transformed into wine.

 The wine made in this experiment, belonging to 2018 vintage, is called “Nesos” and is produced in 40 bottles by Arrighi Winery in Elba Island. The process began by filling wicker baskets with Ansonica grapes and then leaving them immersed in the open sea – at a depth of about ten meters – for five days. This has allowed the salt water of the sea to wash the skin of the grape, in particular, removing the superficial layer of pruina (notoriously made of, among other things, from waxy substances) and allowing a small quantity of salt to penetrate inside the grape due to osmosis. The grapes were then dried in the sun, then pressed and the must fermented in terracotta amphorae – that is, like the ancient Greece did – then aged in bottle. The presence of salt, thanks to its antioxidant and disinfectant effect, made it possible to avoid the use of sulfur dioxide. The chemical-sensorial analysis carried out in this wine revealed the total phenol content is twice as high as a “conventional” wine and, from a sensorial point of view, a higher sapidity and a lower acidity can be perceived because of higher quantity of ashes in the wine. Moreover, the experiment was filmed and made a documentary entitled “Vinu Insulae” directed and produced by Stefano Muti.

 Of completely different scientific purposes, the experiment that is being carried out above our heads, that is, in the remarkable heights of space. The experiment has been promoted by a Luxembourg company which sent 12 bottles of French wine to the International Space Station (ISS). The goal is not to let the astronauts who are currently in the ISS to have some wine – I can understand their disappointment – indeed to study the effects of microgravity on the development of organoleptic qualities of wine. The 12 bottles will remain in orbit for 12 months and will then be compared – when they return to the earth – with 12 other bottles of the same wine, aged in our planet. Before reaching the space, the bottles have been properly inserted in special metal canisters, in order to avoid accidental breakage, and they will be kept at a temperature of 18 °C. The purpose of the experiment is to evaluate the effect of microgravity in the sensorial qualities of wine, with the aim to apply the same technique to foods.

 It is therefore a preliminary experiment and having much wider aims than wine, however it is interesting to note the first “element” object of the investigation was the drink of Bacchus. The organizers of the experiment are in fact convinced the wine aged in space can develop different organoleptic qualities compared to those kept in the ground, also assuming the development of a better taste and aroma. The organizers of the experiment also assume the development of sensorial qualities impossible to obtain on earth, thus obtaining new aromas and flavors. All this is supposed, because of the effect of microgravity and space radiations on the organoleptic qualities, as well as on the bacteria and yeasts present in the wine, conditions absent in the earth's surface. There is no precise information on the wine that was chosen for the experiment: it is said to be quality French wine, specifically Bordeaux. Two different destinations – the depths of the sea, the heights of space – both aimed to get a better knowledge about wine, between past and future. Although imagining the disappointment of the ISS astronauts who, by seeing as many as 12 bottles of wine arriving on board, they cannot even taste it. All in the name of the noble purpose of science. Look, but don't touch. Bon voyage, wine: your history – which is already long, noble and prestigious – does not end today and not even tomorrow. Of course, it does not end he

Antonello Biancalana

 




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  Editorial Issue 190, December 2019   
Wine from the Abyss to the StarsWine from the Abyss to the Stars  Contents 
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