Ozone may banish need for sulphur

23 February, 2007

Scientists have discovered a grape preservation technique which uses ozone instead of sulphur, and could be adapted for the winemaking industry.

New research, carried out by the Technical University of Cartagena in Spain and unveiled in Chemistry & Industry magazine, has found that treating grapes with ozone instead of sulphur dioxide is 90 per cent as effective in preserving them.

Although wine grapes are rarely stored for long enough to benefit from this form of preservation, it is thought that winemakers may be able to tweak the process to replace the use of sulphites.

Andrew Waterhouse, chair of the department of viticulture at the University of California told C&I that the process could be adapted in winemaking to eradicate the need for sulphites, which can cause allergic reactions in some people, such as shortness of breath, rashes and faintness.

Simon Roberts, winemaker at Sussex sparkling wine producer RidgeView said it was an interesting idea and would be useful for makers of still wine.

He said: "Because we only make sparkling wines we use less sulphur than other wines, but we could use the process to protect grapes during transportation as we have got vineyards around the south east and grapes need to be transported for two or three hours. I think the less chemicals you have to add to anything is more beneficial in the long run."

However, Chris Foss, head of wine studies at Plumpton College, East Sussex said he could not see how the process would work in creating wine.

He said: "I can see how it would work with table grapes, but I am not sure how it would work in wine production. If the grapes are damaged at all and they were subjected to ozone they would lose flavour and colour, especially the reds."

The study also revealed that the ozone technique may boost polyphenols in wine grapes, creating a healthier wine.

Polyphenols are natural compounds believed to help prevent a number of diseases including cancer.

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