Micro-Oxygentation

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Micro-Oxygentation

MicroOX can help mellow the taste of wines from a poor crop of grapes, for example, as it softens harsh tannins.

Tay Jnr/Photodisc/Thinkstock

Wine fermentation has gotten a lot more scientific, and techniques like micro-oxygenation are changing the taste of our wine. After it's in the bottle, oxygen is wine's enemy, but adding oxygen during key parts of the fermentation process can actually improve a wine's flavor.

The first experiments with micro-oxygenation took place in the 1990s, but it really started catching on in early 2000s in France, the U.S. and South Africa [source: Work]. Called microOX for short, this process adds oxygen to the wine as it ferments to help control the taste. MicroOX can help mellow the taste of wines from a poor crop of grapes, for example, as it softens harsh tannins.

It's very much a "feel it" method. You start adding a bit of oxygen after fermentation, then taste and adjust for weeks -- sometimes up to three months -- until the wine's flavor is just how you want it [source: Work].

Critics say that microOX is a scourge on the world of winemaking, and that wines made using this technique lack "character," while wine experts argue that the technique actually mimics the same process that happens naturally when you age wine in an oak barrel or in a bottle with a cork stopper. Oxygen comes in naturally through tiny openings in the wood or cork [source: Crosariol].

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