To become wine, grape juice needs to ferment, a time-consuming process that science wants to optimize.
Daniel Attinger, professor at Iowa State University is the proud inventor of an “experimental micro-cellar”. This small device should make it possible to produce a few centiliters of wine in just a few hours. Today, to produce wine, winegrowers need grape juice and yeast.
The pressed fruit is mixed with the latter, which then transforms the sugar in the grapes into alcohol. But all this is not done with a wet finger. The quantity, quality and origin of the yeast are crucial factors in the success of wine production. However, as Daniel Attinger explains very well, the situation is changing.
Adapt to change
With global warming, the harvest is coming earlier and earlier in the year. The grapes are also increasingly sweet (because they lack water) and the alcohol content of the wine is no longer the same. To keep the recipe that has made the success of a house or an estate, it is therefore necessary to succeed in offsetting the effects of climate change.
Thanks to the work of Attinger it is now possible to “test” new yeasts or in other quantities. With its small cellar of a few centilitres, you only have to wait 15 hours to drink a glass of wine, compared to one to three weeks with a classic fermentation process. This saving of precious time should make it possible to multiply the trials and errors in a profession where one often advances tentatively.
“If a winemaker discovers that one yeast works better than another, or at higher temperatures, he can quickly try it to form an opinion” explains Daniel Attinger, in an interview. If the method does not yet make it possible to change water into wine, it impresses specialists.
A simple “gadget” for now
This micro-cellar, built in collaboration with Professor Philippe Renaud, director of the Microsystems Laboratory at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne in Switzerland, should not, however, end up on the market immediately. “It’s just a gimmick at the moment.”
In the long term, the two scientists hope to be able to offer their invention to produce “wine machines” just as there are coffee machines today. The general public would only have to buy their own grape juice (or produce it for those who already have a few vines) then the machine would take over ensuring express fermentation of the grapes to transform it into wine.