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03.22.2006

Waiter, I'd Like The Vitamin Fortified Cabernet

Let me say straight off the bat that I'm a fan of modern science and medicine. We're doing some amazing things when it comes to understanding many aspects of the world around us. I'll even go so far as to say I'm not entirely against genetically modifying some foods, especially when it's done with humanitarian or critical health goals and is absent the draconian, ahem, corporate politics of folks like Monsanto.

But sometimes, science just seems stupid.

This little experiment seems like it started with the best intentions: an effort to understand the genetics of tannin production in wine. A byproduct of the experiment seems to be an understanding of which genes are responsible for the creation of vitamin C in grapes. Instead of just saying, "Oh, that's interesting" and going back to figuring out useful stuff about tannins, these researchers seem to have been possessed with the ghost of Linus Pauling, and are now off trying to see if they can genetically engineer wine grapes to produce large quantities of vitamin C.

Um. Hello? I'd prefer to get my vitamins ANY other way than from wine. Most of the things I really enjoy eating and drinking are bad for me and I'd prefer to keep them that way. OK, so there are some health benefits already from drinking wine, but for pete's sake, there are a lot of things that grape scientists could be figuring out instead of this.

What could those be you ask? In case there are any grape scientists reading I'd like to now present Vinography's Top Five Areas for Scientific Inquiry into Wine:

1. Do the Biodynamic preparations and voodoo like mystical practices like stirring 50 times in one direction and 50 times in another direction actually do anything that can be measured or quantified?

2. What are the physio-chemical manifestations of terroir when it comes to the chemical composition of the grape?

3. Do corks really let oxygen into the bottle and does that oxygen really play a role in aging a wine?

4. Based on trends in global warming, where in Norway will be the best place to grow Cabernet in 30 years?

5. How can we make Carmenere actually taste good?

Spend some time on those, please. And leave the vitamins to the Flintstones.

Elsewhere in the world, scientists have decoded the entire genome for the Pinot Noir grape, a task which promises to have many more beneficial effects than increased vitamin content in the wine. The useful prospects of knowing the entire genetic blueprint for Pinot Noir include the possibility of developing more disease resistant varietal clones as well as better understanding how to make lower impact pesticides that will be better for the grapes and for the environment.

Now THAT's real wine science. Read the full story.

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