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Dear Dr. Vinny,
What is micro-oxygenation? Does it help make red wine more accessible at an earlier age?
—Cedric C., Honolulu
Micro-oxygenation (sometimes referred to as “MO” or “Mox”) is a way to add oxygen in small, measured quantities to a wine. It adds a level of control to the winemaking process, because when it comes to wine, oxygen requires a delicate balance—too much oxygen can lead to the nutty, tired characteristics of oxidation, while with too little oxygen the wines can take on skunky notes of reduction.
Sometimes, when a wine is in a vat rather than a barrel, MO is used to mimic the gradual air exposure that barrels provide. It might be part of a deliberate style or a way to avoid the expense of barrels when used in conjunction with barrel alternatives like oak chips.
You’re right that part of MO’s effects could be softer tannins in wines meant for early consumption. It also helps with color stability, aroma integration and minimizing those stinky reductive notes.
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