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Corks and wine oxidation

Corks and wine oxidation

Maybe corks are more magical than we thought, and as they change in time they preserve the wine. UC Davis University will study them for 100 years

Cork - Fattoria del Colle infernotto-

Cork – Fattoria del Colle infernotto-

By Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Montalcino, Brunello, Casato Prime Donne

<<An experiment that maybe will last more than life on earth>>commented  W. Blake Gray while talking to Wine searcher about the study going on in the major US agriculture university, the awesome UC Davis from where the majority of great American winemakers come out from.

To carry our an experiment that lasts 100 years is in fact something very difficult to understand in our society based on rapidity and now. It actually quite reminds one of the empiricism of the 18 hundreds, but that might be why it is well suited to a type of closure, that in the XVIII century, was perfected: the closure for glass wine bottles .The experiment starts from a mystery: why the oxygen that penetrates through the cork, one milligram per year, does not oxidize the wine?

cork-and-old bottles

cork-and-old bottles

We might think that it is the sulphur dioxide that gets inserted in the bottle (generally 20-25 milligrams per litre) that protects the wine, but it is in fact the oxygen that uses it up during 5-6 years, and so 10 years and more later there is nothing left to defend the nectar, as explained by professor Andy Waterhouse author of this intrepid research project regarding cork closures and wine oxidation.

Waterhouse has a theory to explain why bottles that are 50-60 years old are still drinkable against all winemaking chemistry logics: in his opinion cork too changes becoming impermeable to oxygen. In the long run scientist will discover that in ancient times they had chosen the right material to close wine and even the right way to make it work. In fact keeping the bottles lying down the cork stays wet and this blocks oxygen. How many times have we heard our grandparents say <<don’t let the cork dry out, leave the bottles laying down otherwise the wine oxidizes>>. Today science seems to confirm what the elders have always known, only that they use the ……. To understand what happens exactly. Apparently the canals between the cells allow the oxygen to pass only if they are full of air, whereas this does not happen if the cells are wet.

In 100 years time it will be confirmed that the great cellar masters from long ago were right but here is one doubt that  professor Waterhouse has rightly emphasized <<We’re going to have to rely on the integrity of many institutions for the wine to survive>> . Let’s hope that the bottles stored for the experiment don’t get drunk!!

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