The Meaning of Oenology

Article
January 2014

In our last blog, Justin Knock MW gave us a taste of his role as winemaking consultant. This month, our oenologist, Henry Powles, explains the work he does to help consumers enjoy a delicious glass of wine.

“As an ‘oenologist’, or an expert in the science of winemaking, I drive the continued enhancement of Encirc Wines’ world-class quality processes to deliver the best possible end product for customers. My role is crucial to help us meet and exceed customers’ expectations regarding technical competency, which are higher than ever before.

“To make sure Encirc Wines continues to meet these expectations, a number of quality measures once considered novel by the industry we now treat as standard. For example, ten years ago, the measurement of dissolved oxygen (DO) was heard of, but total packaged oxygen (TPO) – the gas dissolved in the wine combined with that in the headspace or top of the bottle – and its effect on wine development was little understood or measured.

“However, measuring TPO is highly relevant, because every milligram per litre (mg/L) of oxygen in the bottle removes 4 mg/L of the free sulphur dioxide (SO2) in the wine that protects it against microbial spoilage and oxidation. We now know that the majority of oxygen in the container is in the headspace, making it vital that we measure oxygen content for the entire package to arrive at a meaningful result.

“These days, we always make sure we know and minimise DO levels prior to bottling to ensure TPO is low enough to prevent spoiling. This understanding has come from the beer bottling industry, and now that it is being applied to wines, we are achieving world class TPO figures and product quality.

“Real-time temperature logging has also grown more widespread, and has advanced knowledge and understanding of what happens to wine temperatures during long-haul transit. There is also work that can be done on SO2 levels to ensure that wines are not over-sulphured, which can lead to muted flavours and consumer complaints. Indeed, with the advent of lower pH there is a strong case for reducing SO2 levels, as high levels have a greater impact on taste in more acidic beverages. A level of 0.8 ppm molecular free SO2 should be sufficient for many table wines.

“Overall, I am here to keep the technical aspect of the winemaking process running as smoothly as possible. By keeping a careful eye on the chemical changes that might take place in the wine, I can help ensure that no matter how far the wine has had to travel, it tastes as delicious at its destination as it did when it left its country of origin.”


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