Saturday, March 17, 2007


~MOX: a new wine term. Well, not really.
~First, MOX is the initials for a process known as micro oxygenation.
~Second, the term is quite hot in wine circles.
~Third, some producers seem shy about admitting that they employ the winemaking process, and that makes me wonder.

Briefly, MOX is a method of slowly releasing oxygen under controlled conditions into a stainless steel tank of wine.

The reason for the oxygen is, essentially, to do what oxygen and time normally do—change the chemical chain structure of tannin (and maybe other components) thereby altering, usually softening the wine on the consumer’s palate.

The reason for this process: to make the wine approachable sooner than nature would were the wine subjected to rest in wooden barrels where oxygen passes through its pores, slowly. Oh; I forgot; the tanks that the wine is in and to which the MOX process is applied may be lined with oak staves or they may have oak chip teabags dipped into them.

In short, wine producers want both the softening and the taste of oak that barrels usually give to wine, but they don’t want to wait for that to happen over too long a period of time—so they MOX it!

~Before you raise your eyebrows and think, “Aha, Now I know why producers want to hide the process from us.” Not so fast.
~Sure, mostly producers who have no trouble waxing poetic on their back labels about oak and malolactic fermentation and their lack of investment in filtration equipment don’t care to talk about MOX, but not because they are trying to fool us; they likely don’t know what to say to us.
~MOX is a technical process, a manipulation in a long line of wine production manipulations that also comes with some controversy.
~The people who sell MOX equipment of course think it is the answer to every wine producer’s prayer for quick release and speedy profit.
~Producers who use the process seem to agree with the salespeople, as do so-called wine consultant experts, especially the ones who advise MOX on wines as a way to make the wine “better,” and you know how I hate the word better...
~Some wine people however, this one included, understand the short term goal of MOX but we would like to know its long term effect on wine, especially on wine’s aging potential. It seems to many of us that if MOX works to soften tannins, and softening tannin is one of the things that happens over time as wine ages, then MOX might very well cut the time necessary to age specific wines—or worse, MOX might mess up the schedule, making it more unpredictable than wine aging already is for us.

In a recent back and forth on a wine-oriented bulletin board I tried to determine if any studies are under way to try to figure out MOX’s effect on how wine will age, but I was unsuccessful.

My questioning did however bring to light that while some wine industry people claim that MOX is used mainly on low end wines—the wines that weren’t meant to age in the first place—many producers of high end wines may be using the process to make their wines more quickly available for consumption, especially for consumption of those wine critics who tell us what we should consume; but these producers will not admit to it.

At that piece of information I threw out another question: if MOX is considered a perfectly legitimate and non-intrusive manipulation with no particular negative affect, why would high end producers be afraid to admit to employing the winemaking process?

~Obviously, high end producers don’t want their fat wallet patrons to get scared and think that the expensive wines they buy are being purposely designed to keep them coming back for more.
~It is a particularly hilarious revelation to me that people spending lots of money on wine still seem to forget that the industry is a business to make a profit by selling wine, and by keeping the customer coming back for more. All it takes for a food/wine business to meet that goal is to strike the so-called “sweet spot” of tastebuds. How that goal is met is anybody’s guess, especially if the wine producer won’t divulge. But to think that they won’t do it if they can…might as well put your head in that sandbox.

In business, purity is green and it has pictures of presidents on it.

~Anyway, I never got a straight answer from people in the wine business whether or not a study is or will be under way to find out if there are any effects on aging wine after it has been MOXed.
~I also never got an answer to my question concerning why high-end wine producers are afraid to admit to using the process. My suspicion is that they may not know for sure but, like me, they may suspect that if MOX softens tannins, it likely alters a wine’s aging window.
~For the benefit of all wine consumers, I do hope that someday someone comes up with the answer. In the meanwhile, I believe that consumers should ask direct questions like “did this wine go through a MOX process?” Unless they are great poker players, even captains of industry display facial and other tics when they lie.

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Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
March, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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