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08.13.2006

Wine Worms and Bottled Laser Beams

I love this industry. People are wiling to try anything once. And after a few glasses they seem to be willing to try anything a few more times, just for good measure. This past week has been an especially choice week for news about the cutting edge of high technology us in the wine world. And what does it involve? Worms and laser beams. Two of my favorite things in the world.

When I was eight years old.

But the researchers of the world don't let adolescence get in the way of some really good science. If they did, how would we have ever come up with Silly Putty or Post-It Notes? No, real science involves mucking about with just about anything, including, especially creepy crawly things.

This month researchers announced that they're using the sensory apparatus of a common worm to develop a "cybernose" to help detect wine faults and do other sensory analysis. Wait a minute. Wasn't it just last week that scientists were announcing that they had done this with bug noses? Yep. Well they couldn't leave well enough alone, I guess, and had to take a few steps down the evolutionary chain just for grins and chuckles. As an upside, worms are generally better behaved than your average bumblebee, and I dare say easier to keep track of in the lab.

The only thing cooler than worms to my eight year old self were laser beams, and I'm happy to say that the wine world is finally discovering the benefits of high powered beams of agitated photons.

Not only are some European producers using lasers, but they're also using holograms, invisible ink, and all sorts of other spy-like technology -- all in service of making bottles of wine harder to forge. Yes, that's right, wine forgery is increasingly a problem. Especially with some of the high prices that top Bordeaux and Barolo wines are fetching, people can make a pretty penny pouring grape juice into dark bottles and doctoring them up to look like the good stuff.

So in response, winemakers all over the globe are resorting to all sorts of interesting measures to make sure that the only wines that get sold under their name are genuine. It's all enough to make any adolescent boy swoon.

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