Nanotechnology ‘key to removing wine faults’, researchers find

The use of tiny magnetic nanoparticles may be key to removing faults such as smoke and cork taint from wine easily and safely, researchers in Australia have said, after success in removing proteins and unwanted aromas.

Merlot under the microscope. Credit: Caters News Agency

According to Wine Australia, researchers in the country said that nantechnology – a branch of technology that studies and manipulates individual atoms and molecules – could have a substantial impact on the wine sector and be used to solve a range of problems “at the molecular level”.

A team at the University of Adelaide successfully used nanotechnology last year to develop a polymer that could remove a methoxypyrazine, the compound known to produce the ‘green capsicum’ aroma, from Cabernet Sauvignon wine.

The team attached magnetic nanoparticles to the polymers which were then extracted using magnets.

Although lead researcher, Associate Prof in Wine Science David Jeffery, said the polymers needed fine-tuning and further testing, especially to develop the process at scale, they could conceivably be used for smoke or cork taint removal.

The research built on the work done by a team at the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) who last year successfully developed a method of magnetic separation that could separate haze proteins from wine quickly and efficiently by getting them to bind to an acrylic acid plasma polymer coated with magnetic nanoparticles, without affecting the phenolics.

The AWRI’s Dr Agnieszka Mierczynska-Vasilev said the benefits of the process was that it was fast, solvent free, could be applied at low temperature, and required no surface activation or pre-treatment. It could also be used to provide a wide range of surface functionalities, she said in her research, adding that it had a “bright future” in the wine sector as it enabled the management of wine “at a molecular level”.

“I am convinced that nanotechnology will have a substantial impact on the wine sector in the future in areas such as adjusting the sensory properties of wine to achieve better taste or texture or modifying nutritional value, potentially offering benefits for both the sector and the consumer,” she said.

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