Imagine toting your Chateau Petrus Pomerol on a weekend trip without ever popping its cork. You might do this if you were visiting the Crystal Springs resort in Vernon, N.J., 47 miles from New York City. The resort owns a unique device that can test if a wine is pristine. Since 2006, guests have brought wines for free testing.
Chemists at the University of California at Davis--the Harvard of enology--invented the machine with funding from the resort. The machine can test if oxygen has leaked past the cork and allowed the wine to become vinegary. The machine uses nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy--the technology behind MRI scans at hospitals--to test the level of acetic acids in your wine. It's a bad sign when the machine finds a lot of acetic acid.
Guests staying at the resort can test one bottle for free, says a spokeswoman for the hotel. To test more than one bottle, guests pay a fee of 10 percent of the value of the wine, with a minimum $50 charge. That's the same fee you'll pay if you're not a guest of the resort but you drop by anyway and request that one of your bottles be tested.
Some studies estimate that one in eight bottles of premium wines (meaning wines costing $8 or more) are spoiled. The machine has not been subjected to rigorous independent testing, and it may not be foolproof. High levels of acetic acid or only one of the many possible signs and causes of damage to wine.
Learn more about the machine and the resort by calling Crystal Springs at 973/827-5996.