Wine's Secret Weapon

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Wine Tester confirms integrity of prized bottles.

Buying and collecting wine has always been full of uncertainty because there is no way to determine the condition of the wine without invading the bottle and compromising the wine.

Now, a unique machine, the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Wine Spectroscope (NMR), is changing that. This one-of-a-kind machine tests the condition of a wine without opening or inserting probes. The wine is unaffected by the testing.

Created by Dr. Matthew Augstine and his team at UC-Davis, the NMR measures the ethanol and acetic acid content of a bottle of wine. (As alcohol is exposed to air, it turns to acetic acid—vinegar—spoiling the wine.)

Standing about 8 feet high, NMR contains superconducting magnetic coils cooled to near absolute zero. This creates a magnetic field that can detect hydrogen nuclei in acetic acid. Work is underway to expand its repertoire to other wine elements, as well as flavanoids and aldehydes that develop as a wine ages.

The sole NMR is owned by Restaurant Latour at the Crystal Springs Resort in Hardyston, NJ. Says Crystal Springs' owner, Gene Mulvihill, "NMR could revolutionize wine buying. In the future, purchasers of fine wine will look for the NMR certification as a guarantee of the wine's condition."

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