Micro-Oxygenation’s Impact on Wine Quality and Consumer Preferences

Courtesy of The Academic Wino
www.academicwino.com

An example of modern winemaking discovering different technologies to improve upon wine quality is the use of micro-oxygenation during the red winemaking process.  This technique allows red wines to be released to consumers at a young age while still possessing the desirable characteristics of a wine that has been aged for many months.

Micro-oxygenation works by the addition of oxygen into red wine at a controlled rate and flow to stabilize color and improve astringency and aromatic components of the final wine.  A difficulty with this technique is that each grape variety behaves differently when exposed to micro-oxygenation, thereby making it hard to know exactly how much oxygen and how quickly the oxygen should be injected into the wine.

It is well known that adding oxygen changes the chemical and sensory components of a wine, including changes to phenolics, sulfur compounds, and oxygen consumption.  Exposure to too much oxygen causes problems such as the oxygenation of phenolic compounds, increases in astringency, color, mouthfeel, and bacteria populations.

Determining the right amount of oxygen to add to red wine will benefits the quality and economy of the winery, in that if the “right” amount of oxygen is added, wine quality would improve which would theoretically increase the consumer “liking” of the wine and ultimately increase consumer purchases.

The goal of this study was to determine how micro-oxygenation of red wine at different rates affects the sensory characteristics of the wine (specifically, Cabernet Sauvignon) and also how micro-oxygenation of Cabernet Sauvignon affects consumer preference.

Methods

Cabernet Sauvignon wine was made using grapes picked in 2007 from a vineyard in Mornington Peninsula in Australia.  Micro-oxygenation was applied after alcoholic fermentation was complete but prior to starting malolactic fermentation.

Two 5000L stainless steel tanks were filled with wine, with one tank receiving a micro-oxygenation treatment of 25mL oxygen per liter per month and the other tank receiving a micro-oxygenation treatment of 50mL oxygen per liter per month.  One 500L stainless steel tank was filled with wine and used as the control (no micro-oxygenation treatment).  After micro-oxygenation treatment, malolactic fermentation was allowed to commence in all wines.

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