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Ozone May Produce “Healthier Wine”

A study from Spain has just been released that reveals a new technique for preserving grapes that may produce healthier wine. The process involves blowing ozone gas over grapes in cold storage. The treatment not only retards decay, but “supercharges” the grapes with antioxidants. Ozone-treated grapes have up to four times more of polyphenol compounds than untreated grapes. Because ozone replaces sulfur dioxide, another benefit may be a reduction in severe allergic reactions.

The ozone technique was developed by a Spanish team of scientists at the Technical University of Cartagena and published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. The lead researcher was Francisco Artes-Hernandez.

Ozone was found to be 90 per cent as effective as a preservative as sulfur dioxide. It is not clear why ozone causes increased polyphenol levels, but one mechanism proposed is that ozone acts as a biochemical irritant and the polyphenols are created in response to the stress from that irritation.

Andrew Waterhouse, PhD, Professor of Viticulture and Enology at University of California Davis, and a speaker at the 4th International Wine and Heart Health Summit, said, “The problem is that it might take too long for the ozone to have its effect. The treatments were for 60 days, and in the crafting of wine, grapes are not picked and stored for that length of time.” An interesting side note to ozone is that vineyards which are near cities or busy highways might be exposed to higher than normal ozone levels on a chronic basis throughout the season and may developed elevated polyphenol levels. Stay tuned for further research.

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