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30 October 2006

Adulterated?

Doc Vino brings up a question near and dear to my heart as it involves Austrian wine.  Weingut Leth, along the Danube in Austria's Donauland region (not too terribly far from the Wachau), follows an unusual practice with its well-aged wines:

"Franz personally uncorks all of the older vintages as they are withdrawn from the winery's cellar. If they are bad, he discards them. If they are good, he tops them up with the current vintage, adds a shot of SO2 and recorks them.

On the one hand, this is amazing for the consumer since it brings the risk of buying an older vintage of Leth to near zero. This is as close as you get in the wine biz to a guarantee. Buyers would no doubt be willing to pay a premium for it. And Leth probably demands it since they must pour lots of wine down the drain that other wineries might be happy to sell to cnosumers who didn't know any better."

The comments on this post begin with..."it is adulteration"  But, is it?  I would imagine that the topping up adds less than 5% to each bottle's volume.  Thus, for example, a wine that is 97% 1989 and 3% 2006 is still by any definition an '89 vintage.  Or is it?

Weingarten_donau_1

Bonus photo: Vineyards along the Danube, May 2006

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Comments

Mitravinda Sripada

Wine is the fermented juice of grape and is oldest and most important of alcoholic beverages. It is mainly adulterated with hazardous chemicals. Ancient Romans used lead to blend with wine to add sweetness to wine. These hazardous chemicals i.e. lead; diethylene glycol and methanol are added to increase the sweetness and alcohol content. Some chemicals are added to mask the other wine faults and unpleasant aroma. Twenty-three people died in 1986 because a fraudulent winemaker in Italy blended toxic methanol (wood alcohol) into his low-alcohol wine to increase its alcohol content. Some practices like mixing of other type of inferior grapes with superior ones in wine production is considered as a type of adulteration earlier. But now it is accepted as a general practice because it is mainly done to increase the color and some specific characters. Other winemaking techniques that have been at various times considered "fraudulent" or being too manipulative of the wine include capitalization, fermenting and aging in oak barrels, using oak chips, stirring lees, racking, clarification and filtration, reverse osmosis, cold maceration, the use of cultured instead of wild yeast, cryo-extraction, micro-oxygenation and the addition of enzymes, anti-oxidant agents, acids or other sugars that may be used to "balance" the wine.

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