A European research team has engineered a new process that drastically reduces the time required to remove waste yeast from sparkling wine.

The traditional method of producing sparkling wine — Méthode Champenoise — uses yeast to create a secondary fermentation to produce carbon dioxide and the characteristic bubbles associated with sparkling wine.

To remove the spent yeast traditional methods use a rotate and elevate technique — often done by hand — to allow the yeast to settle in the bottle neck. The neck is then plunged into freezing liquid and the frozen waste yeast plug removed. The whole process can take up to 60 days.

However, researchers at the University of Ljubljana have found a way to attach magnetic nanoparticles to the surface of yeast. With the use of magnets, waste yeast extraction takes just 15-20 minutes — over 4,000 times faster than the traditional method.

The yeast remains unaltered by being magnetized, even after fermentation, and sensory tests suggest the wine’s bouquet, mouth feel, body, taste, bubble size and overall drinking experience is unaffected by the process.

“As the global population grows there is pressure on food and drink manufacturers to become more efficient. Saving time and energy is fundamental to this if we are to maintain adequate food supply," said Dr. David Brown, the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) chief executive.

“Quality of life is important too and wine is enjoyed by millions of people. Although many wine connoisseurs will stay loyal to traditional manufacturing methods, the inventiveness of chemical and biochemical engineers demonstrates that even wine production, which has been made for millennia, can be made more efficient with clever nanotechnology combined with simple magnets.”