Zapped wine

Science has contributed much that is good to the improvement of wine, but it has also opened doors for mischief to slip in, much like its role in the field of genetics. Advances in methods of viticulture and cellar technology have certainly improved the everyday wine we drink today, allowing a modestly-priced wine to be a great deal better than it would have been a few decades ago.
Speaking of age, one of the beautiful characteristics of wine is its ability to improve with time. It tells a story over time, and a good wine actually has a life-line, this similarity to humans probably one of the reasons it is such a popular drink. But science wants to eliminate this.
Meet Hiroshi Tanaka, a Japanese techie with a whiz-bang machine that transforms a freshly bottled wine into a mellow, aged one in the matter of a few electrically-charged seconds. His electrolysis machine instantly transforms the molecular structure of the wine the same way that the slow chemistry of years in the bottle does – or so he claims.
His motivation is clearly commercial and not the improvement of general wine quality. “Think of the savings we’ll make. Shorter production time, no need for storage, no need to invest in barrels,” he is quoted as saying.
Now I am all for wine being affordable, but I also want to allow for less mathematical factors like the grace of tradition and the difference in quality dictated by where a wine is grown. Reducing all wines to liquids that can be made instantly market-ready is anathema to the mystery of fine wine.
Another factor that this machine ignores is that any bottle of wine evolves after it is opened. Many wines that are “too young” in the first glass, are balanced by the third. Some that start well in the first glass are stale by the fourth. His machine may well create a Rider Haggard-like “She” effect, prematurely ageing the wine as you drink it.
Science has brought more decent wine to more people, it’s democratised the drink. In the process, through the cellar techniques, wines have already been created to be mellower and more drinkable at an early age. So this machine – perhaps one day standard in bulk wine cellars – is only a part of this process. Yet I suspect that the more of these machines, the more people will celebrate wines made in the time-honoured tradition.
The beauty of wine has always been that it can be made on a small scale by dedicated people. As big commercial brands thrive, so the “small revolution” grows, and when you do it small, you are forced to do it the inexpensive, low-tech way.