CORVALLIS- White wine, often sipped as the perfect accompaniment to an elegant entrée, may soon be available as a natural anti-bacterial spray for the kitchen.
Mark Daeschel, an Oregon State University food scientist, is a microbial safety specialist. He and OSU research assistants Jessica Just and Joy Waite have completed research indicating that wine kills bacteria when it is consumed with a meal. That means those who take wine with their entrée are less likely to come down with food poisoning.
"Simply put, the wine kills the bugs," Daeschel said.
Something in the grape has anti-bacterial properties that kill germs that cause common types of food poisoning, such as E. coli and salmonella. It also kills Staphylococcus aureaus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Klebsiella pneumoniae, all of which can contaminate food and cause illness.
The wine appears to have some benefits that might be attractive to consumers as well, Daeschel said. It's environmentally safe.
"That appeals to people concerned about the environment, and also to people who are concerned about their exposure to chemical residues," he said. The spray has additional environmental - and economic - benefits. "It's made from waste wine," Daeschel said.
Although winemakers don't like to get specific, wineries can generate considerable amounts of waste wine before producing a batch that meets all of their quality and flavor standards.
"Waste wine is a reality," Daeschel said. Because of environmental regulations, "you can't just dump it down the drain anymore."
That isn't to say that Daeschel now can just have a tanker truck deliver waste wine, put it in a spray bottle, and sell it.
There is still much to be done in development. For one thing, it is illegal to pour an alcoholic beverage in a spray bottle and then sell it as a kitchen disinfectant to people under 21, as this runs counter to laws enforced by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
The wine-based spray must be denatured by the addition of enough salt to render it undrinkable. It is similar to the process by which cooking wine is made suitable for commercial use.
Only certain types of wine are suitable.
"Well, you don't use red wine, obviously," Daeschel said, "unless you want to stain surfaces." Sweet wines like Rieslings aren't suitable, he added, since they have so much sugar that they would leave a sticky residue.
However, dry white wines work very well. "A nice Sauvignon blanc or Chardonnay are best for a formulation like this," he said.
What about that "Eau de skid row alley" bouquet wine gets when it oxidizes?
Fragrance neutralizers could render that a moot point, with possible natural freshening scents added so that no trace of wine smell lingers.
Ongoing tests will determine the product's shelf life and effectiveness over time, Daeschel said.