Modified atmosphere packaging has been a game-changer for many foods and beverages, though until now the technology was the domain of industrial users. No longer, however, thanks to a partnership between the Linde Group and a French startup company.
About three years ago, Wikeeps technicians perfected the design of their two-piece system to keep oxygen out of wine bottles after they’ve been uncorked. One piece is outfitted with a hand-operated pistol nozzle and houses a gas cartridge; the second piece is the spout, equipped with a shut-off valve and airtight seat. To dispense the wine, the user squeezes the pistol, releasing gas into the bottle and evacuating the wine.
“Dispensing wines is a nice thing, but preserving wine is the real purpose,” explains Steve Finley, global segment head of beverages for Linde North America Inc., Murray Hill, NJ. Linde partnered with Wikeeps, the Langon, France firm that developed the injection hardware as a way to evacuate oxygen so fine wines could be enjoyed a glass at a time, rather than drinking the entire bottle before oxygen degrades the wine.
Wikeeps worked with another gas company when it developed its system three years ago, but it shifted to Linde about a year and a half ago because of the gas supplier’s expertise in working with wineries. “The dissolved gas within the wine is part of the [wine-drinking] experience,” says Finley. Both the gas mixture and the amount of pressure must be balanced to ensure the modified atmosphere does not adversely affect the wine. Different gas mixtures are used for different types of wine.