For any wine manufacturer who tries to minimise interventions into the natural winemaking process, when no chemicals can be added to adjust the wine – the taste and quality of the finished product highly depend on grape characteristics which change dramatically with the picking date. Irina Santiago-Brown from Inkwell Wines explains how making a right picking decision is important for grape growers and winemakers.
Irina: “At Inkwell we don’t add anything to correct the wine (e.g. acid, yeast, etc.), therefore acidity (TA) and pH measurements are key to our wine practices. My husband Dudley and I both don’t have a chemistry background, so the idea of doing TA analysis manually with a colour indicator or pH meter, burettes, flasks and a lot of time and patience to test each sample did not seem very attractive to neither of us. It is also very time-consuming!
This is why we used to take our samples to the commercial laboratories to be tested. We used to spend a great amount of money testing grapes in commercial labs prior to harvest. But these testings were also very unpractical as picking decision can happen in less than a 24-hour window. The lab we used to use was great and quick but results were never immediate, so if a sample is taken after midday, for instance, the results could come in the following day, which can make vintage quite complicated. Also, the driving time to take the samples was always a problem. Dudley and I are the only full-time employees at Inkwell. During the vintage season, we have extra hands to help but grape testing and picking decision is not a process you can really share with others.
So, we have taken a decision to buy an automatic titrator to be able to test TA and pH here at Inkwell. After some consideration, we chose the HI84502 Wine Mini-Titrator from Hanna Instruments: it was relatively inexpensive and absolutely simple to use (after the equipment is properly assembled). Also, Hanna’s qualified technical specialists based here in Australia helped us a lot to assemble the instrument and develop the testing procedure.
The equipment is quite fast and extremely accurate, when well calibrated. So, since implementing the mini titrator, we’ve been able to increase our amount of testings and the results are immediate. We don’t waste time driving to the lab anymore and we are certainly able to make much better decisions during vintage.
It helped a lot, as we are now able to test as many times as we need/want. In the situation of an extremely hot day, we’ve been able to test the same block twice a day. This gives us confidence to make the best possible decisions during harvest.
Of course, I would recommend this instruments to all winemakers. I think is it a great little piece of equipment that makes a lot of sense to growers or wineries that want to have accurate information to decide picking dates. In our understanding, this information is absolutely essential for the quality of the wines they want to produce or to meet contract specifications when selling grapes.
We also use a digital refractometer from Hanna Instruments to measure sugar in the grape samples, it is extremely quick and accurate and calibrates with a drop of distilled water. I think any winery that is serious about making wine, measure what they are doing. Hanna works for us because it has a range of equipment that is affordable but reliable. And last but not least, Hanna has a serious customer service with well-trained and very helpful technicians.”