Wine Scientists Focus On Sensors

Precision viticulture and fermentation control discussed in Milan

by Clark Smith
The trade show floor at SIMEI is packed with innovations from winemaking supply and equipment companies.
Milan, Italy—During the second day of SIMEI, the world’s largest winemaking trade show, experts discussed the growing use of sensor technologies in all phases of winegrowing. Jean Louis Marty of Université de Perpignan, France, began with a general talk summarizing sensor advances in precision viticulture as well as data collection in the winery cellar.

Stanley Best from the Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agropeduarias of Chile detailed experiences in precision viticulture in Chile, and Marco Vieri of the Univerità di Fiorenze discussed control of vineyard processes. Physiological parameters of vine metabolism (e.g. sap flow probes and leaf pressure bombs) have proven vital tools in assessing vine status and water requirements. Satellite-based/aerial imaging of selected wavelengths now permit mapping of vine responses. Depending on the wavelength of interest, diverse parameters including photosynthetic activity and transpiration can be assessed, providing clues to underlying soil variability. Much static information is available online free of charge, but growers should consider budgeting real-time flyovers with specific goals.

Approaching harvest, hand-held infrared continues to show promise for non-destructive instantaneous determination of Brix, pH and TA levels. This approach is very intriguing, but issues of berry variability and cluster-averaging strategies remain to be worked out. Grape-quality mapping linked to GPS-based selective harvest techniques demonstrate the possibility to bridge enological imperatives with the rectangular block vineyard layouts practicality mandates.

On the winery side, Jean-Marie Sablayrolles of INRA outlined recent innovations in fermentation monitoring that continue to improve our ability to monitor, control and automate fermentation. Agostino Cavazza of the Instituto Agrario di S. Michelle explained florescent methodology to monitor yeast cell viability, a technology that has revolutionized our understanding of viability and fermentation kinetics. Actual observation of yeast strain balance, DNA and RNA markers have embarrassed our cherished theoretical views of predominance of inoculated strains and mathematical models of dominance, presenting instead a true picture of large numbers of strains coexisting in a typical must, whether inoculated or not.

Allergens in wine
An additional seminar addressed Europe’s growing concern regarding allergens in wine. Roberta Prati, superintendent of the agricultural and food sector for the Bureau Veritas Italia, presented details for implementation of ISO 22000, including not only wineries and vineyards but also touching on the need for increased awareness of hygienic risk control by manufacturers of food machinery and equipment. BVI superintendent multidirettiva Massimo Capitozzo discussed specific future targets for wines, particularly focusing on the use of animal-based proteins (casein from milk, gelatin from beef tendon, egg albumin and isinglass from sturgeon) as potential sources of allergic response. At this moment in time, attempts to set acceptable standards generally regarded as safe have been thwarted by the low percentage incidence of sensitivity in the population and the variable levels to which sensitive individuals respond.

Industry suppliers have responded nonetheless to provide tools for wineries interested in acting pro-actively. Jugla-Vason received a special mention award for their exhaustive work in the development of an alternative protein to replace animal fining agents for flocculation of grape solids in flotation tanks, clarification and tannin fining. In an elaborate research program, 19 vegetable-based proteins selected for high positive charge were compared by sensory testing.

The protein selected from these trials, named Flottoplus 2.0, was the only one of 27 protein fractions studied from yeast cell walls that carries a positive charge at wine pH.

The enological products development company Dal Cin garnered an innovation prize for the development of a granulated bentonite effective in the removal of casein and albumin. The Foggia-based company also perfected a wine-compatible ELISA method (Enzyme-Linked Immuno-Sorbent Assay) specific for trace levels of casein and albumin, which it sells in kits.

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