Scientists have created a machine capable of making non-stop wine.
Researchers at Iowa State University and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland created a “micro winery” to help winemakers analyze and alter their wine production process. It can produce one milliliter of wine an hour and will be initially used to identify the ideal temperatures and yeasts for the wine fermentation process.
Daniel Attinger, creator of the device, professor at Iowa State University, and alum of EPFL, created the prototype to address the ways environmental issues are affecting the quality of grapes internationally, which can greatly change the wine production process.
"Climate change is having an impact on the quality of grape crops around the world," Attinger explained. "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."
Winemakers invest a great amount of time just in the fermentation process alone, as they choose different yeasts to include in their batches of wine. After one to three weeks, the winemakers can compare and contrast the characteristics and tasting notes of the time. However, if none of the wines are satisfactory, then another one to three weeks need to be invested into the next batches.
Attinger’s device would bypass the fermentation process completely. As the sugar of the grape juice and the yeasts are kept in a small space, this new process does not take a long time, much less than the typical one to three weeks.
"Let’s say a winemaker in the Lavaux region of Switzerland finds that a certain type of yeast or a certain fermentation temperature leads to an overly bitter wine," Attinger said. "We could quickly test alternatives."
Although wine lovers could possibly use this to produce their own wines, it would be "more of a gimmick," said Philippe Renaud, the head of EPFL’s Microsystems Laboratory. "It uses a simplified process and the result is currently not as good as normal wine."
However, the device may also have other applications beyond the wine industry.
"Pharmaceutical companies are also interested in this type of process, and by the same type of yeast, in order to produce certain substances," Renaud explained. "So the real-world applications are actually much broader."