Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Watching for wine quality and consistency

Researchers have delivered a prototype tool for monitoring the concentration of fermentation markers during wine production. The tool promises to be an affordable, time-saving alternative to current monitoring techniques, and could boost the competitiveness of smaller European winemakers.
Watching for wine quality and consistency
The key to producing an excellent wine is quality control during the fermentation stage. Traditionally, this process involves lengthy sample preparation and purification, and is subject to human error.

As such, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) wineries in particular need a rapid, real-time and reliable tool that would be both cost effective and easy to use. The development of such a tool has been set in motion by the EU-funded VITISPEC project.

SMEs actively worked with researchers and industrial partners to define their technological needs. Reference analytical methods were then specified for fermentation parameters like alcohol and sugar concentrations.

The different chemical structures of these molecules means that when they are exposed to infrared light, they generate a unique light-absorption fingerprint. The researchers exploited this fact in their new monitoring tool, along with a sampling technique that removes the need for sample filtration.

A laboratory setup of the tool was up-scaled into a pre-competitive prototype for easy integration into modern winemaking facilities. This relied on a modular design, consisting of a measurement unit, a computer, a user interface, and a unit for handling liquid waste and cleaning solutions.

Researchers then validated the prototype during a Spanish harvest, at the facilities of one of the project's industrial partners. The tool was able to accurately predict the levels of ethanol and fermentable sugars, but more work is needed to achieve the same for glycerol and acids.

Consortium members hope that further up-scaling of the prototype into a commercially viable system will result in an affordable instrument for SMEs and family-owned wineries. This should raise the quality and consistency of their wines, which would strengthen their position in the marketplace and hence Europe's position as a world-leading wine producer. Furthermore, the tool has the potential to be applied in the production of beer, distilled beverages, brandies, sweet liquors and juices.

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