AWRI puts latest process sensor technologies to the test

The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) is taking a closer look at process sensors to help winemakers monitor ferments more effectively and identify stuck ferments before they become a costly problem.

The AGWA-funded project will assess and test the latest process sensor technologies for the measurement of sugar throughout fermentation during the 2015 vintage.

AWRI Commercial Services Senior Scientist and project leader Neil Scrimgeour said though the scope of the project is looking solely at existing commercial technologies, some of the technologies earmarked for trials will be new (and largely untried) in the Australian wine sector.

“Fermentation monitoring can be a resource intensive exercise as most producers sample and test multiple ferments every day during vintage.

“If the ferment itself (and rate of change in sugar levels) is not adequately monitored and controlled, this can lead to slow or sluggish ferments and potentially the formation of detrimental attributes in the wine.

“The use of in-process ferment sensors raises the possibility of identifying and rectifying problem ferments earlier and capturing additional ferment data that may be of value to the producer.”

Since starting the project in July, the AWRI researchers have reviewed the technology options and identified a short-list of what they perceive as the most viable sensors to test in field trials in 2015.

“We’re currently planning installation of multiple sensor technologies with our two trial participant sites,” he said.

“We’ve also developed a list of attributes that will be used to objectively assess the performance of the sensors during vintage and the key cost elements that will allow producers to assess the likely pay-back for technology implementation.”

Mr Scrimgeour said the project follows on from earlier research (conducted by the AWRI and the University of Adelaide), which identified that in-process technologies have the potential to be implemented into the winemaking process for better control of the key unit operations, especially fermentation.

“This project now allows for a focus on the practical application of some of these technologies and an assessment of their performance compared to existing measurement methods.”