Blog: Chris Brook-CarterYou're only as old as the wine you drink

Chris Brook-Carter | 12 October 2005

The scientist who discovers the secret to eternal youth will be a very rich man. In the meantime, a Japanese scientist looks set to do very nicely out of discovering the exact opposite.

Hiroshi Tanaka claims to have developed an electrolysis device that simulates the effect of ageing in wines. For those interested in cheap short cuts, it sounds like a dream come true. Tanaka says that in 15 seconds it can transform cheap, young wines into well-rounded, aged classics. To traditionalists out there, it no doubt sounds closer to a nightmare.

The science of the device works by pumping wine and tap water through an electrolysis chamber equipped with wafer-thin platinum electrodes. The water and the wine are separated by an ion exchange membrane, which apparently is the key component. The electrolysis causes a rapid rearrangement of the hydrogen and oxygen atoms around the alcohol molecules. If the wine was left to age naturally, this reaction would normally take years. The wine is not diluted by the process.

The device is apparently generating a great degree of interest, and , if it works, its commercial potential looks extensive. The UK's Times newspaper reported this week that a Chilean producer will arrive in Japan within days with 12 gallons of its finest red for further testing. Furthermore, Tanaka wants to develop a small version of the machine for on-site use in restaurants, so customers can order wine to their particular taste. He also believes it has uses in the coffee and spirits industries. 

Now, if he could just find a way of reversing that ageing process...


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