The ongoing revolution in the world of wine analysis: an expert explains

As a wine sales manager for Southern France, Frédéric Guichardon, has been involved the FOSS journey in wine for over 25 years. We caught up with him to capture his experience and insight into the value of rapid wine analysis.


How does wine analysis work?

Our wine analyzers are used by thousands of wineries and labs worldwide. From testing grape must to finished wine, our equipment scans samples using cutting-edge technology putting them in control of the entire winemaking process and allowing for optimum accuracy when analyzing samples.


This is done through the power of Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) technology – an analytical technology that is ideal for rapid multi-parameter analysis of samples. The principle of FTIR involves infrared scanning of must or wine samples. Infrared light passes through the sample. Through mathematical modelling, spectrum analysis and calculations, the concentration of the wine’s constituents is then determined.



Can you talk me through the different wine analyzers in the FOSS range?

We have two main products – the most sophisticated of which is the WineScan™ which can simultaneously test for over 30 parameters in must, must under fermentation and finished wine such as ethanol, sugars, organic acids, pH, CO₂, SO  and color in 30 seconds. The cost per sample is low as we don’t use any reagents and the operator interface is intuitive.


The second instrument, aimed at medium-sized wineries and labs, is called OenoFoss 2, which can also measure the main parameters required to follow vinification in less than two minutes.




What sets WineScan™ apart from your other analyzers?

WineScan is our top of the range analyzer that’s capable of testing for a higher number of parameters and has a XY autosampler. It can analyse samples for alcohol, total acidity, pH, malic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid, carbonic gas density and sulphites, and can also measure for polyphenols and two forms of nitrogen and potassium at the same time.


It can also be used to measure sweet wine samples or sparkling wines and can be used to detect rot (grey or acid) for trucks arriving to the weighbridge.


Another interesting application that has been developed for some parts of the winemaking world is the ability to measure phenolic maturity of the grapes during the maturity control to determine the best way for harvesting for red wines. This complements the standard option for tracking maturity that only gives information about potential alcohol and acidity.


A further strong point is that users of the WineScan SO model can measure free and total sulphur dioxide (SO) directly in less than two minutes.  This allows to immediate reaction when undertaking time-critical operations such as bottling and blending. Moreover, the advantage of measurement of SO with the WineScan is that it’s completely independent of presence of ascorbic acid that disturbs other SO2 methods such as Ripper.



Why is it worth investing in a FOSS wine analyzer?

The majority of wine companies that use our instruments do so because they want to improve their reactivity or productivity. The majority of laboratories in France use a WineScan because of the speed that give results to their customers in less than a day and the accuracy because all parameters given in wine are officially accredited. The test for SO for example, is recognized in France as one of the most accurate parameter and is of course officially accredited.


The wineries can be sure that trucks arriving to the cellar will conform with contract documents before unloading. They can also check the start of bottling lines, the blending and transfer of wines.


Whatever the size of the company and analytical budget, using a FOSS instrument will allow them to run tests as often as they like and get very quick answers, so they can react immediately to the results. 




Can you tell me about the data behind FOSS’ calibrations?

Calibrations are based on a unique pool of data acquired over several years of development work and representing growing seasons and regions from around the world. In short, this means that the standard calibrations are applicable for any winery.


We have been able to develop calibrations from hundreds of thousands of wine or must sample references from around the world. Our calibration equations are the same all over the globe.


For example, the calibration called finished wine for WineScan (wines with content of sugar below 20g/l ) is the same for all instruments and will allow users to analyse a Spanish wine or an Australian wine with the same level of performance that what we get with French wines. I recall that all wine parameters have been able to get official accreditation in France. That means that all Winescan customers can ask for accreditation with their local bodies. In most cases, there are international agreements with the French body.


However, as indirect methods are used with FOSS wine analysis equipment, it is normal to do a little adjustment at each installation according to reference methods chosen by the owner.


All that we ask our customers to do when starting out, is to send 20-30 samples to an external laboratory and make adjustments accordingly. Most of time, a correction of a bias is sufficient.


As we have already discussed, our calibrations are universal and robust. As a result, we have been able to collaborate with a French laboratory specialised in production of reference materials. They produce for us a set of eight wine samples considered as certified reference materials that make it quick and simple to perform validation and performance adjustments on FOSS equipment. Each sample covers the full range of the most important calibration curves, giving you the closest you can get to true results



Are they expensive to run?

No, but there are, of course, some maintenance costs.


Our analysers come with a digital service which connects it to our FOSS server, so that we can make sure every piece of FOSS equipment is running properly. If not, we’ll be able to get in touch and have one of our technicians look into it. We send our customers progress reports each month to keep them informed about how everything is going, so they can be confident that their machine is being closely monitored and looked after.




What makes FOSS analysers stand out from the competition?

A lot of things, but trust is a big one that comes to mind.


For a start, our calibrations are based on trustworthy data. Then there is the fact that we were pioneers in using FTIR technology for analysing wine samples, introducing the tech in 1999, which was revolutionary at the time. Over the years, this breakthrough has proved its value to wineries and analytical labs around the world. Our WineScan parameters are COFRAC-accredited, which gives them weight.


People trust our equipment as we’re not only pioneers in wine analysis, but in other fields of analytics too, from grain and wheat to dairy – a field we’ve been at the forefront of for over 40 years. Most of the big players in milk, grain and wheat use our tech.


Another differentiation we have over our competitors is that all the FOSS instruments are standardized clones and are the same the world over, which has allowed us to be able to analyze hundreds of thousands of samples for universal calibrations.


Finally, the quality of our after sales service is an important key of our success with technicians shared in all the country and product specialists bringing all support needed. In France, we organize user-clubs in different areas of the country. They know a real success and it’s a way for us to maintain good relationships with our customers, be close to their needs and develop improvement programs with them if needed.




Who will benefit most from your products?

We have four main types of customers: laboratories, bottling plants, co-ops and wineries, all of which benefit greatly from using our wine analysis equipment. 

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