Digital Imaging Can Improve Wine (by Inside Science News Service)

Posted: January 4, 2013 by wynmaker in Cellars, Oenology, Research, Vinification, Vintage, Wine, Winemaking, Wineries, World wine news
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Digital snapshots may make cute holiday memories for all to share, but now a similar technology may soon help create superb Syrahs or marvelous Merlots. Researchers have created a new way to peer inside a grape to identify its composition and variety through computer imaging. This could cut back on laborious chemical analysis for winemakers.

Francisco José Rodríguez Pulido, a researcher at the Univ. of Seville, says that the new system could work for both small growers as well as large companies.

“The cultivation of the vine and the production of quality red wines are facing serious problems due to high temperatures and climate change,” says Pulido, adding that it makes it difficult for growers to know when to pick. “Usually, there is a gap between the pulp and the seed maturation, particularly in red grapes,” which means that the different parts of each grape mature at different speeds, making it tough to pick at the right moment to maximize phenols – the coveted flavor notes that contribute to taste, color and mouthfeel.

Pulido says that the process takes just a few minutes. A camera snaps a high-resolution picture of the seeds. Then, customized software identifies the seeds in the image and measures their color according to a standardized index of colors

The close relationship between appearance and chemical composition makes it possible to estimate how mature the seeds are – which is a good indication of when to pick the grapes. The process was tested and proven in Spanish grapes, but Pulido says that it should work in any type of red or white wine.

Pulido and his colleagues published their research on the new method in the journal Analytica Chimica Acta.

Gregory Balint, a professor at the Oregon Wine Research Institute, says that determining grape maturity is a toilsome process, and a digital tool could help – but he is not convinced that color is the best way to determine ripeness. “I couldn’t see any correlation between basic data like soluble solids, acidity and pH and these colorimetric parameters,” he says.

“Many winemakers are still using these basic parameters to schedule the best time for harvesting. Moreover, many winemakers and growers are using the sensory evaluation of the berries, including seeds, to assess the maturity levels,” says Balint. He adds that winemakers could use something like this method in conjunction with other tools.
Read on …

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