Chilean technology to revolutionise winemaking

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  • Friday 11 November 2005

Chilean winemakers are using radical new technology to revolutionise the country’s wine trade.

A group of winemakers was presented with the inventions last month at a seminar sponsored by Chile’s largest wine association, Vinas de Chile.

At least ten Chilean companies are preparing to use a new software program called Maya, developed by Santiago firm Ingenium. Maya is based on the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) which uses NASA technology to compare vegetation and is already in use by winegrowers in South Africa, California and elsewhere.

Ingenium says Maya goes beyond the NDVI by combining it with rigorous ground measurements, historical data and weather information to provide a comprehensive analysis of grapes and their growth trends.

‘Chilean vintners already have the most advanced technologies in their bodegas, but technology is still lacking in the countryside,’ said Ingenium’s business manager Juan Francisco Martin.

Much of Chile’s new wine technology is headed by Eduardo Agosin, a food engineering professor at Chile’s Catholic University. Among other projects, Agosin has supervised the development of the Near InfraRed spectroscopy (NIR) gun. The gun’s infrared light scans grapes and immediately provides data on sugar and acidity levels.

Agosin’s team at the Centro de Aromas, a small state-of-the-art laboratory in the University, are also injecting wine samples into a gas chromatograph, which gives a digital footprint of the chemical composition of each aroma. The lab is using this to name and describe Chilean wine aromas in a more objective manner. Eventually a digital library will help winemakers grow grape varieties according to the aromas consumers want from their wines.

‘Traditional wine-producing countries like France make wine the way they want,’ said Agosin. ‘But New World wine countries like Chile need to use all the technology available to produce wines the market demands.’

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