Magazine article Science News

Instrument Can Sniff out Vinegar in Sealed Wine. (Wine Tasting)

Magazine article Science News

Instrument Can Sniff out Vinegar in Sealed Wine. (Wine Tasting)

Article excerpt

It's an unpleasant surprise when newly opened wine tastes like vinegar. It's particularly distasteful if you spent thousands of dollars on it.

Now, chemist Matthew Augustine of the University of California, Davis claims he can tell buyers or sellers of wine when a bottle's gone to vinegar. Bacteria or yeast can make acetic add, alias vinegar, from ethanol using oxygen that has seeped through a defective cork.

Augustine and graduate student April Weekley devised an apparatus that holds an entire bottle of corked wine inside a nuclear magnetic resonance machine. Most laboratory NMR machines are used to determine the chemical constituents in a small tube of liquid.

With their adapted instrument, the researchers could detect acetic acid's chemical signature in sealed bottles even at concentrations below the official limit at which vinegar spoils wine and when the corks appeared normal, Augustine says.

UC Davis and the researchers just filed a patent on the technique.

Augustine suggests that a company specializing in wine analysis might use such a machine to examine expensive bottles put up for auction. The system might also indicate whether wine in a sealed bottle found, say, in a shipwreck, is any good. …

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