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DonnyDarko19

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Hello all,

So I have some red wine that will be bottled soon. I found a few threads discussing the topic of using wax seals on wine bottles. However, there was usually one question asked that never seemed to get a straight answer or was ignored altogether. My hope is to get that questioned answered more thoroughly here. And that question is:

"Does using wax to seal wine bottles have any effect on the aging process of the wine?"

From my understanding, wine corks allow micro oxygenation that aids in the aging process. Shrink capsules and foil caps don't appear to make a true air-tight seal that would prevent oxygenation. However, dipping the neck of a corked wine bottle in thick wax would appear to create a more air-tight seal, which would, in theory, halt oxygenation and the aging process. Is this an accurate assumption?

I have used shrink caps in the past, but am curious about trying wax as I think it looks pretty cool and would add a little something different to my final product. My fear is that whatever state my wine is in at the time of sealing is the state that my wine will remain in, and leaving bottles to age for years will have no benefit and the wine will not improve with age. I should note that I already bulk age my reds for 12-15 months before bottling, but would like to reap the benefits of further aging in the bottle.
 

balatonwine

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The answer is it depends. On how long you plan to age the wine, and if you actually want micro-oxygenated aged wine (some wine makers do not want extra O2 to be part of the aging process -- so, no, excluding O2 does not "halt" the aging process, it simply creates a different aging process) etc. Also, if you reuse bottles, cleaning off wax can an issue to consider.

See for example, the brief discussion why one wine maker seals with wax (to prevent O2 ingress by design) in this article:

 
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bstnh1

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I tried wax sealing a few years ago and was not impressed. It didn't look as neat as I thought it would. But maybe that was just my sloppiness in applying it. And, as Balatonwine said, it's not the easiest to deal with if you reuse your bottles.
 

Rice_Guy

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I like @balatonwine answer, it depends, ,,, what is your goal to have oxygen?
If I was trying to reduce oxygen I would use synthetic corks, not use wax.
 

DonnyDarko19

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The answer is it depends. On how long you plan to age the wine, and if you actually want micro-oxygenated aged wine (some wine makers do not want extra O2 to be part of the aging process -- so, no, excluding O2 does not "halt" the aging process, it simply creates a different aging process) etc. Also, if you reuse bottles, cleaning off wax can an issue to consider.

See for example, the brief discussion why one wine maker seals with wax (to prevent O2 ingress by design) in this article:

Thanks for the response!

That makes sense. As with many other choices a winemaker must make, it seems to be a stylistic choice. Thanks for the article. I did further research on the topic and read several other articles as well. From what I gathered, it appears the experts can't totally agree on the need of oxygen for the aging process. For every article I found (including the one you provided) that says oxygen is not needed for aging, I would find another that says it is needed and preventing micro-oxygenation will stop the aging process. I guess the only thing to do is to test it out for myself! And thanks for the note about removing wax from bottles. That is one thing I had not considered, especially since I do reuse bottles. I found a hybrid wax online that is "supposed" to be easy to remove from bottles. I might try it out on a few bottles to test it out before I use it on a whole batch!
 

DonnyDarko19

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I tried wax sealing a few years ago and was not impressed. It didn't look as neat as I thought it would. But maybe that was just my sloppiness in applying it. And, as Balatonwine said, it's not the easiest to deal with if you reuse your bottles.
Thanks for the heads up! I had not considered the ease of removal when reusing bottles. That is definitely something I had not thought about. I found a wax on MoreWine called VintageSeal that is a "hybrid compound" that is supposed to be easy to remove from bottles. I think I might test it out on a few bottles before diving in and waxing the whole batch!
 

DonnyDarko19

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I like @balatonwine answer, it depends, ,,, what is your goal to have oxygen?
If I was trying to reduce oxygen I would use synthetic corks, not use wax.
Well, as I mentioned, it was my understanding that the micro-oxygenation you get through the cork over time has a part in the aging process. After reading several articles, some say oxygen through micro-oxygenation is necessary for the aging process while other articles say it is not. The experts can't seem to agree. And my desire to use wax is totally for esthetic purposes, not to reduce oxygen. My fear is that, if oxygen is truly needed for aging (as per half of the articles I read), then using a wax seal would prevent the necessary gas-exchange from occurring. It seems like the only way to decided if using wax seals is the right choice for me is to test it out!
 

balatonwine

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For every article I found (including the one you provided) that says oxygen is not needed for aging, I would find another that says it is needed and preventing micro-oxygenation will stop the aging process. I guess the only thing to do is to test it out for myself!
O2 is indeed needed in the aging process that is traditional and historical since corks (and wood barrels) have been used, and most familiar to those who like this style.

I am rather the type that argues that is simply "one way" of aging a wine as aging is a complex process that can happen even sans O2 interactions, which is why "aging" happens even without O2. If one wants to call it "complex molecular alterations" rather than "aging", that is okay with me to avoid conflict. :)

And I also experiment a great deal, with new techniques, to see if I prefer a different way than "what is traditional" (often I do actually.... but that is just me). Hope this helps.
 

stickman

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A solid natural cork contains air in the cellular structure (current estimates are around 1.5 to 2 ml), so even if you seal over the top, the oxygen contained in the cork will find its way to the wine over the period of a year or so. After a year the oxygen ingress through a solid natural cork is very low, maybe a few tenths of an ml annually depending on what research you trust. I honestly don't know how much of a difference you would see with wax. Just about every plastic/elastomer is gas permeable to some extent, so I personally would be skeptical that the wax would provide a perfect seal to oxygen ingress. The screw cap manufacturers had to use a saran-tin liner to get near zero oxygen ingress, and even that liner is not zero.
 

bstnh1

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"A dozen bottles of fine French wine arrived at the space station Monday, not for the astronauts, but for science. The red Bordeaux wine will age for a year up there before returning to Earth. Researchers will study how weightlessness and space radiation affect the aging process. "
That was Nov. 2019. No word on how it made out!
 

Rocky

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"A dozen bottles of fine French wine arrived at the space station Monday, not for the astronauts, but for science. The red Bordeaux wine will age for a year up there before returning to Earth. Researchers will study how weightlessness and space radiation affect the aging process. "
That was Nov. 2019. No word on how it made out!
They should have given the astronauts a blood test.
 

Rocky

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This thread got me to remembering all the precautions we took when making wine at home many years ago (before either sodium or potassium metabisulfite was available). We would keep the wine in barrels from early December to around Easter when the first barrel was opened and then "bottled" in one gallon jugs. Then the fun began, i.e. to find the best way to keep air out of the jug. The jugs had a cork pounded down about a quarter of an inch below the surface of the top rim, molten wax was poured into the cavity at the top of the jug, a cap was screwed on and plastic electricians tape was applied around the cap. A one point, olive oil was poured into the jug to float on top of the wine just under the cork but this always lead to olive oil globules in the glass so the practice was discontinued. We would then place the jugs upright in an underground, outside corner of the basement, with concrete blocks stacked to form an enclosed area, to keep them cool and pack sand around them for insulation. There were usually two layers of jugs, maybe 40 or 50 gallons. The remainder of the 53 gallons was consumed as part of the "bottling party" or sent home with helpers. It seemed a lot of effort to expend at the time but it worked.
 

balatonwine

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find the best way to keep air out of the jug. The jugs had a cork pounded down about a quarter of an inch below the surface of the top rim, molten wax was poured into the cavity at the top of the jug, a cap was screwed on and plastic electricians tape was applied around the cap.
As an American Expat living in Hungary, I can say, most of those were done when I first came here over two decades ago, and some of those things some people still do today here... :)

Interesting side note... I was the first on my "wine hill" here to use a refractometer (I had to import it from Switzerland where I was living at the time as they were not commonly available in Hungary -- Hungary was not even in the EU then).
 

patrikthehun

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As an American Expat living in Hungary, I can say, most of those were done when I first came here over two decades ago, and some of those things some people still do today here... :)

Interesting side note... I was the first on my "wine hill" here to use a refractometer (I had to import it from Switzerland where I was living at the time as they were not commonly available in Hungary -- Hungary was not even in the EU then).
Nice to see fellow Hungarian on this forum.
Cheers!
 

Rice_Guy

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After reading several articles, some say oxygen through micro-oxygenation is necessary for the aging process while other articles say it is not. The experts can't seem to agree. . . It seems like the only way to decided if using wax seals is the right choice for me is to test it out!
what we think we know
* flavor is a learned preference, some drink sherry which is oxidized and like it, tannins as the plant produces them are harsh tasting but a lot of folks drink reds, acceptability is a bell shape curve not an all or none issue, complexity is good so a little oxidized character makes it more complex, ,,, A LOT IS BAD
flavor also has an emotional component as everything tastes better with friends or a bigger price tag or more advertising about class or an evocative emotional label
* with time compounds in wine will naturally change from a reduced energy level to an oxidized energy level due to light/ gamma rays etc without added micro-oxidation. Oxidation is like a wallet, once reduced compounds are gone we can’t get them back, once pigments are brown they get more brown, etc with aroma, ,,,,, ie there is a time component in your experimental setup
* red wine has a pretty good slug of antioxidants so the average survives for a period of time, white and country wine don’t have the antioxidants therefore the general assumption has been drink in a year
* the food industry actively works to reduce the exposure to oxygen, the best barriers are glass and metal which we assume to be zero, we measure the oxygen transmission of plastics, oak barrels, metalized pouches, corks
we rent bottling lines which nitrogen flush wines as they are packed and larger brands vacuum pack their product
each of these treatments add cost to the product so we have to justify the step arguing improved quality

it warms my heart to read that you will take this as a learning task,,, your limiting conditions are different than the commercial world . . . note the experts probably never will agree since there are variables beyond scope,,, as the university prof is funded by a closure company and the economics are such that a bottle line running fifty per minute can’t do a wax treatment
 

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