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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Neil Beckett

Most of the reverse osmosis practised in the EU is illegal as well as unnatural, according to maverick new-wave Chianti Classico superstar Sebastiano Castiglioni of Agricola Querciabella. Speaking at a tasting organised by his new UK agent, Pol Roger, in London on 23 January, Castiglioni, who recently converted to biodynamics, said that after the generally wet 2002 vintage, reverse osmosis (RO) would be a Godsend' for many tricksters'. Regarding the already widespread use of RO in the EU as a whole, he alleged that most of it is illegal, as it is performed not on must (which is permitted) but on wine. He insisted the membranes that are now used clog instantly' when used with must. To the argument often used by defenders of RO - that it takes out only water - Castiglioni responded that many other manipulations were often necessary as a result. You take out the water, but then the alcohol may be too high [up to 16% ABV or higher], so you need to take some of that out. Then the VA may be too high, so you need to take some of that out, and adjust the balance again.' Deception is also being perpetrated, Castiglioni said, in that RO may be used to add things as well as to take them out. The membranes now allow you to add almost anything in solution, such as colour or tannin, and it's far more difficult to detect [than powder].' Going beyond the argument that RO diminishes vintage variation, Castiglioni complained that it is as much a trick as adding powder', and that it is producing Frankenstein wines'. Manipulated wines die in the glass,' he said. But most critics don't let the wine breathe for even half an hour.'