During the past two months there have been reports by German authorities who have used new sophisticated systems to detect the mould inhibitor natamycin in Argentinian and South African wines.

Now this fungicide (also known as pimaricin) is not nasty stuff but it creates concern about what origin wine you’d prefer to drink in future.

Natamycin is registered for cheese products in both the EU and US (FDA approved in 1994) as a mould inhibitor in sliced cheese.

As is usual Australian wine scientists have been pro-active in seeking the nature and cause of these reports and the Australian Wine Research Institute came out on January 20 with some good advice.

“The recent detection of the fungicide natamycin in Argentinean wine sent to Germany serves as a cautionary reminder to all winemakers to be vigilant when purchasing and using additives and processing aids.”

Natamycin is a fungicide that can legally be used in Australia during cheese production and in the production of certain meat products.

It cannot be used in wine making in either Australia nor, we believe, in Argentina.

At the time of writing the origin of this material in some Argentinian wine has not been confirmed, but it has been suggested that oak chips, treated with this antimicrobial agent, might have been the source.

Details of the AWRIs analysis capability to detect natamycin in wine can be found on their website.

Also, with these contamination reports circulating the French cork manufacturer Oeneo was proactive to clear its name earlier this month.

However, the natural cork industry has been remarkably silent, showing its lack of proactivity (too busy falsely chirping about how taint levels have declined).

As a result of recent industry wide concern over the presence of natamycin in a number of South American and South African wines, closure manufacturer Oeneo has completed an extensive study into any possible relationship between its technical closure DIAM and natamycin.

The analysis, completed by leading UK laboratory Campden BRI, concluded that natamycin was not present, at any level, in any DIAM closure analysed.

Oeneo analysed some of the wines in question, and batches of ‘virgin’ DIAM for traces of natamycin. The results were negative for natamycin.

Commenting on the development, DIAM commercial director Dean Banister said: “The moment we were alerted to this issue we requested samples of DIAM closed wines from various winery partners to be analysed.

“There had been unsubstantiated rumours that natural and technical cork closures could be responsible for the levels of natamycin found in the banned South American and South African wines recently banned in Germany.

“Being proactive we have moved swiftly to reassure our customers that DIAM does not contain natamycin at any level.

“We do not use natamycin in the production of DIAM, and have received statements from our suppliers confirming that natamycin is not used at any stage within our tightly controlled supply chain.

“Even if it were present in a supplied raw material, the process used to produce DIAM would eradicate any possible natamycin contamination.”

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