Wine consumption is an important ingredient in the lifestyles of many Americans who continually search for ways to enhance how they drink their favorite varietal.
To meet this continued demand for products from consumers, a host of unique items have been designed and are now in the marketplace all with the goal of enhancing the wine drinking experience.
One such company is Üllo and its Wine Purifier. Developed by James Kornacki, Ph.D., the Wine Purifier is designed to be placed on top of various wine glasses, carafes and decanters. It also doubles as a wine purifier and aerator and the Selective Sulfite Capture technology selectively removes sulfites from wine.
Recently, Kornacki spoke with Kitchenware Today about the Üllo Wine Purifier, the issue of sulfites in wine and what’s next for his company.
KITCHENWARE TODAY: Where did the idea from Üllo come from?
JAMES KORNACKI: After attaining my doctorate in Chemistry at Northwestern, I focused the next three years on creating Üllo. I had a love for organic chemistry but wanted to make it fun. When I came home from the lab one evening I saw a box of chardonnay on top of the fridge and realized I could use chemistry to take sulfites out of wine. I had set up a small lab in my apartment and worked nights and weekends developing the polymer that ultimately became Üllo’s Selective Sulfite Capture filters. After getting my Ph.D., I assembled a small team to bring the concept of Pure Wine to life.
KWT: How is your product different than other similar products on the market?
JK: Üllo’s wine aerator is unique because it aerates the wine after sulfites have been removed. Sulfites are a chemical compound that are produced by yeast in small amounts but are added mainly by winemakers to preserve wine. Sulfites protect a wine by binding to compounds that result from oxidation. When the goal is merely to preserve wine, this is a fantastic benefit. After you open a bottle to enjoy, however, you want some of the oxidative changes to occur. With that in mind, Üllo developed a patent-pending Selective Sulfite Capture technology that removes sulfites while letting the rest of the wine flow through unchanged. By eliminating the sulfites and then aerating the wine, Üllo gives you a fuller aeration process and the opportunity for the wine to open.
KWT: How big of an issue are sulfites in wine for wine drinkers?
JK: Sulfites are a very reactive chemical which helps explain why they are an excellent preservative. They are a known allergen for a small percentage of the population. For the rest of us, looking at the mechanism of action for sulfites will shed some light on why wine lovers may not agree with sulfites despite being allergy-free.
One way that sulfites help to preserve a wine is through enzymatic deactivation. One form of sulfites, HSO3–, can inactivate a whole range of enzymes. The most noticeable is polyphenol oxidase (PPO), which helps slow wine turning brown (similar in concept to how lemon juice will stop an apple from browning). While enzyme deactivation is great in some instances, it is not necessarily something you want happening to your digestive system when drinking wine.
Sulfites also inhibit the growth of a wide range of microorganisms, including yeast and bacteria. Researchers don’t quite know the mechanism for this, but it is likely multitarget. It may include the reduction of vitamins (NAD+, thiamin) and the reduction of disulfide bridges in proteins. Again, these are great when the goal is to keep something preserved with no bacterial or fungal growth. Still, we know that our digestive system is full of good bacteria. People may have adverse reactions to wines with sulfites if they are disrupting their microbiome. Combine these two aspects of sulfites along with the harsh effects of alcohol, and you start to get a picture of why people complain about wine headaches and issues with sulfites.
KWT: How do your products help purify wine?
JK: Üllo doubles as a wine purifier and aerator, and its Selective Sulfite Capture technology selectively removes sulfites without other components in the wine (it’s the only product on the market that is selective like this). One percent of Americans are known to suffer from sulfite sensitivities (with symptoms such as rashes, itchy eyes, headaches), so whether you are looking to enjoy a glass of wine without the consequences or are looking for a smoother tasting wine (since sulfites can give a bitter taste), this is a great tool to have on hand.
KWT: Given the company’s focus on wine quality, what should consumers watch for in terms of new products?
JK: At Üllo, we are always working to find new and innovative ways for our customers to enjoy wine exactly how the winemaker intended while creating an enjoyable wine experience wherever you are. We have an exciting new product launch coming out this fall, so I look forward to sharing more details soon!