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Wine scanners to detect spoilage without opening the bottle

American scientists have invented two devices that can detect cork taint and oxidation in wines without having to open the bottles. These could, in theory, end the risk involved in wine investing because, for a fee, even very old bottles can be checked to ensure that the wine inside isn’t spoiled.

The scanners, which operate on nuclear magnetic resonance to check the chemical composition of a wine, consist of two technologies. The first was
developed by chemist Dr Matthew Augustine and his co-workers at University of California, Davis to detect oxidation, while the second was invented by a physicist, Dr Joe Broz, to detect cork taint. They were brought together by Gene Mulvihill, a serious collector in Vernon, New Jersey, with a cellar of around 75,000 bottles. He saw the potential of the devices and provided funding.

Dr Joe Broz told ThirtyFifty that they don’t plan selling the machines individually because they’d be far too expensive. Instead, through the company they’ve set up – Wine Scanner Inc – they are planning to develop a franchise-type service where people can go to have bottles tested.
At the moment people can pay around $50 for one bottle of wine to be certified, but when you think about the sort of money collectors pay for rare wines, it seems a small price to guarantee the condition. For example, last week a case of 1967 Romanee Conti went for nearly £59,000 at Sotheby’s.

With collectors in mind, they also intend to open an online wine auction website that sells only certified wines, ie those that have been through the scanning process.

Dr Joe Broz said, ‘Zachys auction house’s most recent catalogue trialled eight bottles that were certified and our evidence is that people will pay a 10 – 20 per cent premium for wines that are certified.’

Joe added that the scanners are not trying to replicate the human palate.
Rather they just help people know that a wine is free of three spoilages - cork taint, oxidation and acetaldehydes – and can detect when a wine is ready to drink.

‘We’d like to enhance the pleasure people have when they drink wine,’ he said.