Specialists in the area of vegetable biotechnology from the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María are working to develop a system that allows the characteristics of a wine to be determined using metabolomic technology.
Specifically, the method aims to investigate the complete chemical content of a wine using analytical techniques based on high-resolution mass spectrometry, in this way detecting the largest possible number of substances in each sample of wine. In other words, it creates a fingerprint for each type of wine.
The results so far have been positive. A few weeks ago a pilot study undertaken together with the Consorcio del Vino and the country’s most important vineyards, which contributed with over 500 types of wine for an analysis that considered grape variety, origin, production year, and in particular three quality levels: Premium, Reserve and Varietal.
The idea is for this technology to be used to determine whether a complete analysis of a wine’s chemical composition could allow one to discriminate between the different qualities of wine previously defined by the enologists who participated in the study.
Pioneering study in the world
Currently, only France works with this type of technology on two parallel research projects. The first of them seeks to identify the chemical component of the wood that is transferred to the wine and affects its quality, while the second is focused on characterizing the bubbles that champagne produces when it is served.
“Our work is pioneering in the world when it comes to analyzing the chemical composition of wine to determine its attributes, which are not only important when it comes to classifying wines, but also to identify them and to recognize potential cases of fraud. For example, to ensure that a Merlot is a Merlot, and not a blend,” says Dr. Hugo Peña-Cortés, the specialist leading the study.
Thus, the use of metabolomic technology would solve one of the problems affecting the wind industry, which resorts to the organoleptic system to determine the quality of its products. This method has proven itself to be very subjective and has led to mistakes in classification, with wines considered premium in one Vineyard corresponding to medium quality wines in others, or vice versa.
“This is a tool that allows us to classify and characterize wine for the world market. It is a tool that allows us to add value to our product and it is definitely a contribution toward the development of a country image. Our wines are being rated by our experts, but we are also classifying them scientifically using technology,” Peña-Cortés stated.