Nomacorc and Davis Collaborate on Research

Post-bottling research in California, France and Australia will study how closures affect wine evolution

by Tina Caputo
Nomacorc and Davis Collaborate on Research
Olav Aagaard
Zebulon, N.C. -- Nomacorc, producer of synthetic wine closures, announced Dec. 4 that it has initiated a comprehensive, multi-year project with the UC Davis department of viticulture and enology, along with INRA Montpellier, France; and the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI). The study will focus on how oxygen transfer through closures influences the evolution of wine after bottling.

"There is a very limited body of credible research data on post-bottling chemistry and oxygen's role in wine development," said Dr. Olav Aagaard, director of global research for Nomacorc. "Since oxygen management is a critical consideration throughout the winemaking process, we are making a significant investment in better understanding it." Nomacorc is spending several million dollars on the project, worldwide.

UC Davis enology professor Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, an expert on oxidation chemistry, will supervise the U.S. study.

Nomacorc and Davis Collaborate on Research
Andrew Waterhouse
According to Malcolm Thompson, Nomacorc's vice president of quality and technology, the project's researchers hope to define the correlation between wine's chemistry and sensory attributes with varying amounts of oxygen. The information will be used not only to benefit the wine industry as a whole, but to help drive Nomacorc's future product strategy. "We want to help winemakers determine the optimum oxygen transfer rate" for achieving the desired characteristics in their wines, Thompson said.

Experiments have been designed to identify desired oxygen ingress rates for particular varietals and winemaking styles. Using a variety of chemical markers, researchers can track the evolution of key molecules under differing amounts of oxygen.

"By quantifying the effects of post-bottling oxygen management in winemaking and the role of the closure, we hope to provide key insights that influence optimum closure design and selection, ultimately improving the winemaker's control of wine development and quality after bottling," said Dr. Stéphane Vidal, enological research manager for Nomacorc.

Nomacorc and Davis Collaborate on Research
Malcom Thompson
Since different types of closures--whether synthetic stoppers, natural cork or screwcaps--have varying oxygen transfer rates, the results of Nomacorc's study could play a critical role in helping winemakers choose the best closure for their wines.

The initiative, which began in September 2007, will end in August 2009. Experiments will be performed on wines made specifically for this program and on wine-like model solutions, the latter permitting close examination of the effect of oxygen on the chemistry of specific components under accelerated aging conditions.

Both white and red wines will be involved in the UC Davis research, specifically California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. All winemaking and aging will be performed in the UC Davis experimental cellar. INRA Montpellier's research will focus on Grenache and Grenache rosé, while AWRI's will focus on Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz.
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