WITH its buttery and savoury notes, it is a wine that could be served at any dinner party or restaurant. Yet guests might get a surprise when they find out its special ingredient –durian.
The white wine – created by two students from the National University of Singapore –contains no grapes. Instead, it is made entirely from the pungent "King of Fruits", in what its makers claim is a world first.
But the squeamish need not worry. The wine "tastes nothing like durian", said final-year PhD student Christine Lee.
The 29-year-old, who created the concoction along with undergraduate Fransisca Taniasuri, hopes it will appeal to curious wine drinkers – whether or not they love the spiky fruit.
It is not likely to hit the shelves any time soon, however. The duo, from the university's Food Science and Technology programme, are still seeking investors keen to take the plunge into the growing market for tropical fruit wines.
Lee and 22-year-old Taniasuri used the traditional wine-making process, starting with durian puree before fermenting it for four weeks.
Their final product has an alcohol content of just 6%, lower than that of standard wines.
In 2009, Japanese scientists found that combining durian and alcohol could prove fatal. This is because the fruit's high sulphur content inhibits the body's ability to process the drink.
But the students discovered that the fermentation process sharply reduces sulphur levels within the durian – meaning that drinking the wine will not kill you.
Lee and Taniasuri, who are graduating this week, hope to eventually market their beverage in the region.
"But it will always be a niche market. It will probably never replace traditional grape wine which has been around for many, many years." — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network
NEW satellite feeds that the government will soon tap, combined with ground instruments, can help Singapore to better predict haze, said experts.
But this may take years and may require Indonesia's co-operation. In the short term, the authorities should consider installing more advanced sensors here and modify the air pollution index to better monitor and reflect the haze's health impact.
Scientists gave these assessments when they were asked how Singapore could better prepare for the haze.
Last month, raging fires in Indonesia led to the worst haze in Singapore's history.
On Monday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said Singapore would tap new satellite feeds by 2015 to provide early haze alerts, but scientists said this could be easier said than done.
Satellites look at the ground in different ways, and cross different places at different times, said Assistant Professor Jason Cohen from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He specialises in climate change computer models and is researching the haze.
For example, the Modis satellite passes over the region several times a day and can "see" several thousand kilometres at once, but its cameras' observations can be blocked by clouds. It may also mistake thick smoke for a cloud.
The Calipso satellite shines a laser beam that can cut through most clouds to pick up images. The thicker the smoke, the more energy is removed from the beam returned to the satellite.
But the beam's thinness means its horizontal visual range is at most 1km, and the satellite passes over the region more slowly.
Both satellites are operated by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa). The National Environment Agency (NEA) uses data from several satellites, including Modis ones and Nanyang Tech-nological University's X-Sat satellite.
"If you want to integrate information from different satellites to come up with a prediction, you must have a computer program that can cover different scales in space and time, and different physical and chemistry data collected by the satellites. It's very challenging," said Dr Cohen.
Dr Santo Salinas, a senior research scientist at the NUS Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing, said having data from more ground instruments in the region would help scientists track how pollutants spread. This will lead to better forecasting systems. — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network
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