An Interesting Mix
effects of red wine in helping protect against radioactivity), but I have just found yet another connection between nuclear science and wine. A technical paper reports on the work of a nuclear center in the Bordeaux region of France (the Centre d'Etudes Nucleaires de Bordeaux-Gradignan, or CENBG) in using measurements of gamma decay to date wine. Although this work seems far removed from their main mission, which was to measure the mass of the neutrino, I guess it was only natural for a nuclear research center in the middle of one of the most famous wine regions in the world to try to apply their tools to the main industry of the area.
The paper notes that wine contains very small, but measurable, amounts of cesium 137 from weapons testing. Thus, the amounts of the isotope in wines can be used to determine the vintage of fine wines and to protect against fraudulent claims about the vintage. For example, a 1930 vintage wine should not contain cesium 137. Since the gamma radiation from the decay of cesium 137 passes through glass bottles, the test is has the additional advantage that it is a nondestructive one and doesn't require tampering with expensive, old vintage wines. (The article emphasizes that the amounts of cesium 137 in the wine are negligible, so wine lovers need not worry on that account either.)
The authors of the study point to other possible applications in the future. The gamma spectrometer used is very sensitive and may be able to detect a range of isotopes. Since soils in different regions vary in composition, the distribution of isotopes in a given bottle of wine may be able to identify whether it is from Bordeaux or Burgundy--or Napa Valley. However, the paper concludes that the work has not yet been done to validate this concept.
It sounds like an area of research that I would enjoy--in more ways than one!