Keennan De Bie
21 March 2023

Organisations that have innovated with the help of EU-funded photonics support programmes are being profiled in a series of short videos by PhotonHub Europe.

Wines of Crete is a Winemakers’ Association with 36 members, representing more than 95% of Cretan wineries. Through the EU Photonics Accelerator Programme, Wines of Crete was supported in conducting a feasibility study on monitoring and sensing techniques for the characterisation of oak barrels used in wine ageing, on behalf of their members.

The feasibility study enabled this non-profit organisation to work with two international research institutes: The Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH) in Greece and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Belgium. With the expertise of FORTH and VUB, Wines of Crete had the opportunity to experiment with advanced monitoring techniques and their potential in enabling members of the cluster progress towards more efficient use of oak barrels and improved control over wine quality.

Barrels are a significant and recurring investment for a small winemaker. The oak barrel is an active, interactive container that releases aromatic compounds and tannin when wet, while allowing oxygen to penetrate and largely determines the characteristics of produced wine. The level of release of characteristic compounds decreases with repeated wine fillings and after a number of refills, the barrel must be replaced. The lifespan of a barrel can range between one and five years, and the price of a new 225LT oak barrel can be as high as €1000, depending on origin (American or French Oak). It therefore constitutes a critical component in the wine production process, both in terms of cost and influence on the end-product.

The feasibility study involved examining two different monitoring and sensing approaches – optical fibre sensors and spectroscopic techniques. The outcomes have been very positive and pave the way for the development of a tool and techniques for determining whether an oak barrel has reached the end of its usage lifespan. This would ultimately assist winemakers with improving their wine production process and quality, while reducing operational costs.  

As a next step, Wines of Crete hopes to assign winemakers among its members to actively participate in the formulation of a strategy to enhance the technology readiness level (TRL) of the innovation based on their expert knowledge of the requirement of the application. For the most part, Wines of Crete has limited expertise in photonics technology. It is therefore envisaged that FORTH and VUB could act as consultants to plan future steps in the commercialisation of a fully working product using a suitable manufacturing and distribution partner in Europe.

See more about Wines of Crete at:

Could photonics drive innovation in your business?

Discover the photonics technology innovation support available through PhotonHub Europe and apply online today.

PhotonHub has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Grant Agreement n*101016665, in Public Private Partnership with Photonics21.

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