FOSS: Yes or No?
We have received several questions from customers asking if we use a Foss, Oenofoss, or a Winescan. Our simple answer is no.
Here at The Lab Pros we use primarily manual methods because they are the most accurate.
We have used both the Oenofoss and Winescan in the past and found that they are great tools for large wineries and for monitoring general numbers in your wine, but they need a lot of extra care and attention. Both of these machines use FTIR technology (Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy) which operate using a spectrum of light to identify a substance. The use of FTIR is commonly practiced in research laboratories when identifying chemical compounds in a sample, but all FTIR machines need to be calibrated to correctly identify each chemical substance before use. Wine is an organic substance, and “impurities” vary from varietal, viticultural location, and vintage. Simply put, each individual wine is so vastly different on a chemical scale. Let’s talk about some examples:
A 2015 Merlot from California is not only going to taste different from a 2016 Merlot from Texas, but may also be treated differently during the production of the wine. Additionally, the terroir, the harvest period, the acidity level, etc. are all going to be naturally distinctive.
This also applies to a wine made from the same viticultural location. Two wineries can receive a 2017 Sauvignon Blanc from the same grower in the Texas High Plains, but both wineries are going to treat their Sauvignon Blanc differently (different harvest time, yeast, fermentation period, aging process, etc.). This is what makes Winery A’s wine smell and taste different than Winery B’s wine.
These many small factors described above affect the wine on a molecular level in the chemical expression of each compound. The fact that these two wines are not the same is also essentially the beauty of the wine industry. Getting back to our point, these differences in wine make it almost impossible to correctly calibrate a machine based on wine’s chemical structure alone if there is no one “standard.”
When originally searching for equipment, we partnered with a corporate tech company to learn more about using FTIR for wine analysis, neither of us could make this technology 100% reliable 100% of the time. Here at The Lab Pros, we want to provide our customers with consistently accurate analysis, and for us, that means using manual methods. Foss is great for larger wineries with the resources to maintain a range of calibration data specific to their wines, but should be routinely checked to verify the accuracy of the equipment. We strongly suggest to to all wineries using FTIR technology to check the calibrations every few samples and always double check the final important numbers with manual methods. In some varietals, the manual and FTIR will result in the same number, but most of the time, this is not the case. 1.0mg off of a total sulphur result is not a big deal, but 1.00 part off of a pH result could be the difference between an award winning wine and a nightmare.
For more information or to double check your FTIR numbers, contact The Lab Pros today!