Winemaking is a complicated process that requires skill, good ingredients, and time. But Iowa State University professor Daniel Attinger and a team of researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) are developing an approach that bends a little more toward instant gratification—all in the name of science, and better wine.
Their technology is aimed at helping winemakers test fermentation processes more quickly by producing a continuous stream of wine at the rate of 1 ml per hour. That's not quite enough to keep your glass full all day, but it will aid the experts in better understanding the conditions and steps required to make their wines taste better, which in turn benefits us all.
"Climate change is having an impact on the quality of grape crops around the world," Attinger said. "Due to the heat, some crops ripen too quickly, the harvest takes place sooner and the wines end up with a higher alcohol content or a different taste. We need to find ways to analyze and adapt how the wine is made." According to the EPFL, the winemaking process typically involves experimentation with commercially available yeasts (of which there are hundreds). After a yeast is added to a large batch of grape juice, it can take between one and three weeks to ferment.
The device speeds up the process and reduces the amount of liquid needed, combining the grape juice with yeast in small compartments that are separated from the main channel by a thin membrane that the EPFL describes as being like small tea bags. The device's size makes for faster heating and cooling, and fermentation happens at a quicker pace because the sugar from the grapes and the yeast are together in a tighter space. What typically takes weeks can be done in an hour.
We know what you're thinking: Are they selling this continuous wine-stream machine to the masses? Philippe Renaud of EPFL said, "… that’s more of a gimmick. It uses a simplified process and the result is currently not as good as normal wine."