Jan 2, 2007

Machine To Age Wine In Minutes

FOR those who yearn for a well-aged, full-bodied vintage wine but lack the funds to feed the habit, the solution may lie with a Japanese boffin, a zany-looking contraption, a couple of meters of latex tubing and a few hundred volts of electricity.

Squirreled away in his chemical engineering laboratory in rural Shizuoka, Hiroshi Tanaka has spent 15 years developing an electrolysis device that simulates, he claims, the effect of ageing in wines. In 15 seconds it transforms the cheapest, youngest plonks into fine old draughts as fruit flavors are enhanced and rough edges are mellowed, he says.

Reds become more complex, and whites drier. A wine costing $10 a bottle could taste the same as one costing twice that, which "will create huge changes to the global wine industry".

It may sound far-fetched, but the ultra-competitive wine industry is taking no chances. Wineries in California, South America and other parts of the wine world are taking a close interest in Mr. Tanaka's machine.

The machine works by pumping wine and tap water through a specially designed electrolysis chamber equipped with wafer-thin platinum electrodes. The water and wine are separated by an ion exchange membrane -- the key component, for which Mr. Tanaka holds the patent.

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