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Diamonds are a girl’s best friend…unless they’re in your wine

Synercore scientists have developed a unique winemaking adjunct that will be surely be a boon for local producers: more effective, less costly wine stabilisation.

Dubbed ifaCEL SW10, it is a 10% carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) solution, with a low viscosity and high degree of substitution, used for tartrate stabilisation of still and sparkling wines.

But first some background to this: Synercore is a science-led investment company, based in the Western Cape, focused on ingredient innovation within the food & wine industry in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Synercore supports R&D initiatives through its subsidiary, Innovative Research Solutions (IRS), a company with topnotch scientists and dedicated academic researchers, where their focus is on applied research and breakthrough products and technologies.

The relevant people that carried out the research and created this product were Dr Tertius Cilliers, CEO of Synercore, Dr Stefan Hayward of IRS and Prof Pieter Swart.

ifaCEL SW10: The what, why and how of wine stabilisation – by Stefan Hayward (PhD Biochemistry)

A well-made and cared for bottle of wine is a perfect marriage of different chemical components and flavours to yield a harmony of balanced flavours. However, irrespective of the care taken by the winemaker, every now and then a bottle of perfectly fine wine can develop small crystals which resembles shards of glass.

Immediately you think, “I’m sure this bottle was just fine the other day?” and due to its appearance, the bottle of wine is swiftly disposed of. But what are these mysterious crystals and why are they in your wine?

Affectionately known as “wine diamonds”, these crystals are formed by crystallisation of potassium bitartrate in wine during storage. Potassium bitartrate is a naturally occurring compound in wine grapes, however, it is poorly soluble in alcoholic solutions (<8g/L @25°C).

Although harmless, upon precipitation potassium bitartrate crystals have the appearance of shards of glass resulting in a decrease in customer appeal.

To prevent the formation of tartrate crystals, wines have traditionally been cold stabilised. In this process the wine is cooled to -4°C and stored for 1-2 weeks which promote crystal formation. The crystals can then be removed by filtration prior to bottling.

However, cold stabilisation and additional filtration is expensive, especially for large volumes of wine. It may also affect the colloidal stability of the wine, resulting in taste variations.

An alternative to cold stabilisation is treatment with CMC that prevents crystallisation of tartrate crystals by exchanging the sodium on the CMC backbone with potassium from potassium tartrate.

This method of ion exchange results in an increase in the solubility of the natural tartrates. Sodium tartrate is extremely soluble (up to 779 g/L @25°C) when compared to potassium bitartrate (<8g/L @25°C), and therefore remains in solution during storage.

Since the tartrates are not removed, treatment with CMC does not affect the flavour of the wine.

ifaCel SW10 is a locally developed and produced low viscosity solution of CMC (10%) which can be used for optimal stabilisation of rosé and white wines.

Key benefits of IfaCel SW10

  • Improving wine quality
  • Ease of use
  • Cost effective
  • Reduction in energy cost
  • Reduction in processing time
  • improving cash-flow

Source: Synercore