Home Wine Business Editorial WINnovation Award 2023: VinWizard — Delivering Accurate Brix and Temperature Measurements from...

WINnovation Award 2023: VinWizard — Delivering Accurate Brix and Temperature Measurements from Inside the Fermentation Tank

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The wine industry is constantly faced with new trends, challenges and the pressure to stay ahead of the competition. With that comes the opportunity to innovate. 

Each year, Wine Industry Network recognizes five wine industry innovators — not just for their impressive ingenuity or technical advances — but because of how their product and/or service betters the North American wine industry. 

By Jeff Siegel

How does a product work successfully for customers as diverse as a multi-national wine brand, a luxury Napa producer and a teaching winery?

By giving winemakers insight into the highest and lowest temperatures in the tank, says Kelly Graves, CEO of Sonoma’s VinWizard, whose new Multi-Sensor Probe, or MSP, does just that. And what winery – regardless of size or reason for being – doesn’t want to know that kind of information?

“This way,” Graves says, “winemakers can feel comfortable running the yeast at the higher end of its tolerance zones, generating highly sought after flavors and aromatics without running the risk of a stuck fermentation.”

Success follows success

The MSP follows VinWizard’s Multi-Level Probe, or MLP, which debuted in New Zealand some 10 years ago. The first probe let winemakers determine the temperature of the entire wine tank. Its successor goes one step beyond that.

“Having achieved success with the MLP, it was time to take a stab at addressing one of the biggest opportunities [for advancement] during harvest — providing real-time Brix measurement during fermentation without costing a fortune,” says Graves. “Any solution had to provide a positive return on investment when compared to sending an employee out to the tank front twice daily to pull samples and spin a hydrometer or use any of the existing technology.”

The MSP starts at the top of the tank and runs from top to bottom, so winemakers are able to gather multi-level Brix readings while avoiding the cooling jacket impacts that skew results. In this, the MSP’s placement within the tank has been designed to yield the most accurate temperature and rate of fermentation at the core of the tank, while not interfering with pumpover devices and CIP set-ups.

The MSP’s data can be combined with automation platforms from VinWizard or its sister company, Octent Automation. Then, the data can be used to set up various fermentation and winemaking functions. For instance, MSP data can trigger a low volume pumpover cycle and tank warming when a Brix rate of change is first detected.

“Wine quality, asset use efficiency and overall winery outcomes will be improved by the proper employment of MSP-provided information,” says Graves. “That’s because the MSP has been designed and sold by a company whose specialty is wine production automation. It’s valuable by itself to have the MSP data; it’s a game changer to link the data with a platform that can actually effect change in the cellar based upon the data the MSP provides.”

Eliminating the guesswork

That’s one of the things that surprises VinWizard customers the most, says Graves.

“The data itself shocks winemakers,” he says. “While an educated guess can estimate the temperature inside the skin cap, there are so many variables that impact the thermodynamics of a fermentation, it is essentially impossible to infer what’s going on inside the tank.” Until now.

In the end, real numbers in real time make all the difference.

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Jeff Siegel

Jeff Siegel is an award-winning wine writer, as well as the co-founder and former president of Drink Local Wine, the first locavore wine movement. He has taught wine, beer, spirits, and beverage management at El Centro College and the Cordon Bleu in Dallas. He has written seven books, including “The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide to Cheap Wine.”

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