Month: April 2018

Madeira wine: A chemical perspective of its unique aging process

By Vanda Pereira

Despite Madeira wine being produced more than 500 years ago and being a wine, which history is as rich as its complexity, there is still much to reveal, at least from a point of view of a scientist who has been studying this product and its process for more than 12 years. The more I know, the more I want to know ...
This fortified wine (17-22% ABV) is produced in Madeira, which is a Portuguese island near the coast of Morocco and holds a complex bouquet, with distinctive aromas of oxidation and aging, and a characteristic freshness due to its surprising acidity derived from the volcanic soils. It is produced from red (Tinta Negra) and white (Sercial, Verdelho, Boal, and Malvasia) grapes, from vines planted in small terraces and manually cultivated on the steep slopes of Madeira Island.

The main Madeira winemaking singularity is the inclusion of a baking step (thermal processing at about 45 °C for at least 3 months) to accelerate its aging, the estufagem. This procedure is usually performed to a young wine, which alcoholic fermentation was halted by the addition of neutral grape spirit (96% ABV) when the desired sweetness was attained, to obtain dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet, and sweet wines.
My research has been essentially focused on the study of this fortified wine, namely on the aging process, especially on the estufagem process (accelerated aging). The chemical characterization and the use of that information for wine process control has been the target of the research that I have been developing.

Furans, such as furfural and 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), which have been attracting increasing attention recently, naturally occur in Madeira wines. My research has shown that their formation in Madeira wines is extremely dependent on the heating temperature (especially above 50 °C) and sugar content. Therefore, the conditions of estufagem should be adjusted to control the final content of furans, without compromising the general quality of the resulting wine, namely through the accurate control of the temperature. Different heating temperatures can also be considered according to the wine sweetness degree. The studies also indicated that estufagem can be applied without having a great impact on polyphenols and antioxidant potential of these fortified wines. Also, it was showed that young Madeira wines tend to similar chromatic characteristics after being submitted to estufagem regardless of whether the wine is made from red or white grapes.

Indeed, estufagem increases the color evolution of Madeira wines comparatively to canteiro aging (natural oxidative aging in oak casks for long periods). Estufagem also promotes the amino acid transformation into new aging products. On the other hand, it was found that acetic acid and ethyl acetate (volatile acidity main contributors) increase during the aging process, greatly depending on the sweetness degree, and estufagem does not seem to have a greater contribution to it. It was also found that olfactory perception of these substances in Madeira wines depends on their age and sweetness degree. Furthermore, under the project IMPACT II, it was possible to validate, using physicochemical data, quality information and chemometric approaches, a procedure to monitor the wine aging process towards the desired characteristics. This study also revealed the benefits of applying estufagem to Madeira wines.

Several research lines are now being followed to study Madeira wine, namely:

  • Mitigation strategies for ethyl carbamate. In this context, two analytical methods have been proposed: using GC-MS and LC-MS;
  • Monitoring and enhancing strategies for the development of key aromas. The contribution of the fructose and glucose's degradation for the Madeira wine's features has also been published. This study showed that the thermal degradation of sugars develops several aroma compounds that occur in Madeira wine aroma. Moreover, interestingly, it was revealed, for the first time, that the origin of sotolon in sweet wine can be associated with the acid-catalyzed degradation mechanism of sugars. Sotolon is recognized as a key aroma compound of the finest Madeira’s. Indeed, estufagem process promotes the formation of sotolon. Moreover, estufagem combined with micro-oxygenation can also be a feasible procedure for the Madeira wine’s accelerated aging. To continue studying this topic, I and my colleagues from I3N-Aveiro/UMa have recently seen approved a research project called AROMA, in which, it is intended to develop new optical fiber sensor designs for aroma compounds detection.

I conclude by saying that I hope that the work I have been developing will be useful not only for the local sector but also for all those who share the love for Science & Wine.

Vanda Pereira is graduated in Chemistry (2005) and has a Ph.D. degree in Analytical Chemistry (2011) by the University of Madeira (UMa), Funchal. Her Ph.D. project involved the use of analytical chemistry approaches to enology. Her first Postdoctoral fellowship was accomplished under the project IMPACT II - Impact of Production Technologies on the Quality of Madeira Wine, resulting from the continuation of the previous partnership of the 1st IMPACT, between UMa and Madeira Wine Company, S.A. (MWC). She is now continuing her research under an individual Postdoctoral fellowship, funded by the Regional Agency for Research, Technology, and Innovation Development (ARDITI). Currently, she is a member of the Institute of Nanostructures, Nanomodelling, and Nanofabrication (I3N). She has been involved in 5 multidisciplinary projects other than IMPACT II, namely ESTUFA, which involved the application of optical fibers sensors to wine quality control. Her skills are essentially related to chromatography (LC-MS and GC-MS) and spectroscopy (UV-Vis-NIR). Up to date, V. Pereira has published 18 papers and 1 book chapter and has participated in 59 (9 orals and 50 posters) conference presentations, with 1 awarded poster with the best prize (2011). Since her graduation, V. Pereira completed the supervision of 3 MSc students and is now supervising 2 MSc students and 2 PhD students.

Posted by in Chemistry, Enology, Food Science and Technology

Animal models of disease: their applications and utility in wine research area

By Paula Silva

Animal models are essential in biomedical research, especially in disease pathophysiology, drug discovery, evaluate the mechanism of action of existing drugs, discover new drug targets and biomarkers, establish pharmacodynamic/pharmacokinetic relationships, estimate dosage regimen and determine safety margins and toxicity. An ideal animal model is the one that considerably replicate both a human disease phenotype and its underlying causality.

The beneficial effects associated with moderate wine drinking were disclosed mainly by epidemiologic studies. Animal model studies, however, confirmed some beneficial health effects of wine or wine compounds. Since, in 1991, CBS featured a story on the French Paradox suggesting red wine consumption reduces the risk for heart disease, that several animal models were used to explore the wine and/or its components cardioprotective effects. Most of studies, explore the effects of polyphenolic compounds. One of the most recent ones, published last March, report the effects of red grape pomace on isoprenaline-induced infarct-like lesion in albino Wistar rats (1). The study show that extracts of red grape pomace had cardioprotective effects against infarct-like lesion by reducing oxidative stress, fresh pomace extracts having a better effect.

This study is very interesting because these beneficial effects were obtained with grape pomace, which is normally disposed as a waste. Grape pomace is an organic solid waste composed mainly of skin residues, broken cells with pulp remains, stalks and seeds, that remains after alcoholic fermentation. The necessity of finding alternative solutions for the exploitation and valorisation of those by-products was already mentioned in this blog. It is curious to see that these good practices are being adopted by small family wineries like Quevedo one.

Also, in this blog I published a post named “Why wine tasters do not have oral cancer?” remember? This issue was also explored in the past with animal models. In 2016, it was published a paper showing that TriCurin, a composition of three food-derived polyphenols in unique stoichiometric proportions consisting of curcumin from the spice turmeric, resveratrol from red grapes, and epicatechin gallate from green tea, is a promising therapeutic to manage human papillomavirus (HPV) positive patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) (2). In the pre-clinical trial athymic nude mice implanted with a HNSCC cell line (UMSCC47) was used. At 41 days after implantation, mice with palpable tumours were assigned to two experimental groups: treated TriCurin (direct intra-tumoural injection) and control.

After the treatment protocol, the mice in both experimental groups were sacrificed, and the entire tumours were resected and processed for histological analysis. The study showed that intra-tumour delivery of TriCurin results in abundant tumour cell death in the region of the injection site. Tumour cells in the periphery of the tumour showed an altered phenotype with lower proliferation capacity (it was observed a decrease Ki67 staining) and with lower levels of the viral oncogenic HPV16E6 protein that is involved in the occurrence and progression of HNSCC (the expression of the protein was detected by immunofluorescence). Taken these results and the findings obtained in in vitro experiment provided initial evidence that TriCurin may be an alternative therapeutic approach to manage HPV-positive HNSCC.

One animal model widely used to study Alzheimer’s disease is Tg2576 mice, which model AD-type amyloid beta-protein (Aβ) neuropathology. The first study using this model to evaluate the potential benefits moderate consumption of wine in Alzheimer’s disease was carried out by Wang et al. (2006) (3). In this study, 11-month-old Tg2576 mice consumed with moderation Cabernet Sauvignon wine delivered in drinking water for 7 months and a significantly reduced AD-type Aβ neuropathology and attenuated spatial memory decline was observed. This study was followed by many others that used animal models, most of all exploring the effects of resveratrol, and all show that is beneficial for animal neurodegenerative disorders, mainly due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Literature also reveals that pretreatment with resveratrol significantly attenuates oxidative stress damage and improves motor and cognitive impairment. In my post “Moderate sparkling wine consumption and its role in the modulation of oxidative stress in neurodegenerative diseases”, I suggested that rodent model(s) can be used to study the effects of sparkling wine neurodegenerative diseases, this Tg2576 mice is a possibility.

Zebrafish (Danio rerio), a model that I know very well, can also be used in wine related studies. Recently zebrafish embryos were used to evaluate the effect of wine lees polyphenols in lipid metabolism (4). Rutin and quercetin were the major polyphenols identified in lees polyphenolic extract, which presented a significant antioxidant capacity. Lees extract induced a reduction of Zebrafish embryos’ fat reserve and changes in the expression of lipid metabolism key genes connected to lipid transport, lipogenesis and β-oxidation. As I mentioned previously in this post about the cardioprotective effects of grape pomace, this is al also a very promising study not only because of the polyphenolic extract from wine lees, which is a wine by-product, is a potential food ingredient for weight management that could enter the food innovation chain soon. What do you think about this Quevedo family?

In conclusion, animal models are very useful in wine research area. To work with these animal models, it is necessary to have cognitive ability, heart and courage. A researcher with these personality traits, knows that there is no place in science for ill-designed, poorly executed, and inadequately reported studies of any type. Consideration of the welfare of animals in biomedical research comprises the ethical responsibility of the scientific community to: guarantee the potential benefits arising from animal use  and ensure that any harm caused is as low as it can be and to attempt to achieve the highest level of well-being where animal use is necessary. The concept of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement as guiding principles for humane in vivo research is the best strategy to address this responsibility.

(1) Balea, Ş. S., Pârvu, A. E., Pop, N., Marín, F. Z., & Pârvu, M. (2018). Polyphenolic Compounds, Antioxidant, and Cardioprotective Effects of Pomace Extracts from Fetească Neagră Cultivar. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2018.
(2) Piao, L., Mukherjee, S., Chang, Q., Xie, X., Li, H., Castellanos, M.R., Banerjee, P., Iqbal, H., Ivancic, R., Wang, X. and Teknos, T.N. (2017). TriCurin, a novel formulation of curcumin, epicatechin gallate, and resveratrol, inhibits the tumorigenicity of human papillomavirus-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Oncotarget, 8(36), 60025.
(3) Wang, J., Ho, L., Zhao, Z., Seror, I., Humala, N., Dickstein, D. L., ... & Pasinetti, G. M. (2006). Moderate consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon attenuates Aβ neuropathology in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. The FASEB Journal, 20(13), 2313-2320
(4) Caro, M., Sansone, A., Amézaga, J., Navarro, V., Ferreri, C., & Tueros, I. (2017). Wine lees modulate lipid metabolism and induce fatty acid remodelling in Zebrafish. Food & function, 8(4), 1652-1659.

Posted by in Health

Professional highlights in wine area

By Paula Silva

Today ended the “Mostra da Universidade do Porto” that is an annual exhibition where the University of Porto schools promote their educational offer. The most repeated question made by high school students was “What can I do with that degree?”. I always answer, “All that you want”. I really believe it! Someone with cognitive and hard work capacities, can do anything with the tools acquire during the course. Joining creativity and courage, then are congregated the conditions to a brilliant career. Of course, that a personal career also depends in the networks that each one can establish.

Let me exemplify what I mean within wine work area. My hypothetical scenario involves a firm that sells wine produced in a beautiful “Quinta” (farm) next to the Douro river (of course!). It is a small and medium enterprise (SME), which is family-owned, as the most SMEs in wine industry. Winery manager has a master’s Degree in management. The main goal of the firm is to define a model for optimizing wine supply chain network, a sustainable model designed to minimizes costs, with pro-environmental objectives and that maximizes social impact. The social pressure on the wine industry to respond to issues such as the use of pesticides, water, and energy has been increasing. Therefore, winery manager must be someone with high levels of interest and knowledge about the possible economic benefits of implementing environmental management systems.

Must be someone responsible for a marketing strategy providing consumers with specifics about how their pro-environmental purchase behaviours can effectively make a difference. For example, in the back label could be written “By purchasing this bottle you saved carbon emissions”. Manager must collaborate with the designer to define visual codes for the label to typify this wine category. The effectiveness of the bottle label was discussed in the last post.

Obviously that environmental responsibility starts in the vine where the viticulture and oenology engineer apply all the practices necessary to reduce the negative effects in the environment. It will be his responsibility to: carefully choose the fungicides in accordance with agriculture practices, physicochemical characteristics of the soils and climatic and hydrogeological regimes; apply practices like soil adjustments, such as organic matter application, to improve soil quality and reduce the risks associated with leaching of the fungicides; develop approaches to pest control, such as the Integrated Pest Management, which is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means with the least possible hazard to humans and the environment. People with a master’s degree in chemical engineering must be able to develop new-generation fungicides that should be practically nontoxic, except for the target organism. Future research should evaluate the toxicity of synthetic organic fungicides and their residues to humans, this type of research could be developed by someone with a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. Many pesticides belonging to different chemical classes are being used annually to combat weeds, insects or fungi. Pesticide residues may reach the aquatic environment through nonpoint and point pollution sources by direct run-off or leaching of these compounds or by careless disposal of empty containers or the washing of equipment after their application. Evaluation of the toxic effects in the fauna of rivers polluted by pesticides in a region with intensive vineyard cultivation must be done by someone with a first cycle degree in aquatic sciences.

Viticulture and oenology engineer has also the responsibility to produce the several types of wines, according with the market demand and the law. Regarding the latter, all the wineries firms are regulated for specific legislation that depends of winery region, such as: authorization to plant vines, varieties that are allowed, quantity and types of wine that can be produced, label obligatory indications and so on. Winery manager must consult a jurist to be informed about the laws and specific rules. Viticulture and oenology engineer taste wines with a high frequency, the firm has also the responsibility regarding risk associated with occupational exposure. Namely the effects of wine in teeth, so it is important to ensure that tasters are regularly seen by a dentist.

Remember that the goal of the hypothetical firm is to define a model that maximizes the networks social impact. Society is divided regarding wine consumption, since its effects in health depend on the dose. As posted previously in this blog, habitual light to moderate alcohol intake (up to 1 drink per day for women and 1 or 2 drinks per day for men) is associated with decreased risks for total mortality, coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure, and stroke. However, higher levels of alcohol consumption are associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Therefore, more research, is needed is this area. The team must be multidisciplinary and involve doctors, nutritionists and people master’s degree course in health education. Some the beneficial wine effects in health are attributed to polyphenols. To learn more about it, Science & Wine suggest the participation in 12th World Congress on Polyphenols Applications to be held at the University of Bonn, Germany in September 26-28, 2018.

Much more things can be sold by this firm. Besides wine, can also be sold olive oil, jams, cosmetics, vinegar and other products. In the quinta must be build a luxury hotel designed by an architect. The tourist unit they must employ people able to talk several languages and someone with a degree in sports sciences to guide tourists in sporting activities in the river and to promote nature walking.

Back to the beginning, choose to do what you love, no matter the employment statistics, university gives the knowledge and tools for your success, which will be defined by you.

This is my tribute to the past, actual and future students of University of Porto.

Posted by in Chemistry, Curiosities, Economy | Marketing, Enology, Food Science and Technology, Health, History, Nutrition, Viticulture

The science behind the label

By Paula Silva

In the “Monthly Assignment Challenge” of February Daniel Del Rio remember “Lambrusco” the wine typically drunk in his town, and which moderate consume was recommended for his father to “get smarter”. In March, Chris Gill remembered Valpolicella Ripasso and Amarone della Valpolicella wines and compared their complexity, flavour and colour. In the people’s memory remains wines tasted previously and wines of their preferences. But, these could be reasons strong enough to buy wine? What can truly influence consumers’ decision of which wine to buy? Today I will focus on label because this week I heard that 14,000 labels per year are approved only by Port and Douro Wine Institute. It is a huge number, isn’t it? Can you imagine the number of labels that are annually approved in the entire world? Can label effectively be an influence on the consumers’ choice? Brentari et al. (2011) estimated the hedonic price, precisely, for Italian red wine sold in the domestic market for the period 2007–2008. Hedonic pricing model is used to estimate the extent that wine price and demand can be affected by external environmental or perceptual factors, including labels, i.e., how much people are willing to pay for wine when considering these factors. Brentari et al. (2011) applied dimensionality reduction methods to construct latent variables to be used with hedonic price techniques. They showed that the price formation pattern is different in the large-scale retail trade and in the wine shops. In the large-scale retail trade, the price mainly depends on the label characteristics (the alcohol content being the most relevant) of the wine sold; for wine shops price depends also on the sensory characteristics of the wine and it is on this market that wines with singular tastes and characteristics may obtain a better selling price. More recently, the hedonic price function for Italian wine sold on the Italian market in the period 2005–2011 was estimated. For each bottle considered, the dataset records several characteristics such as the price by retail channel (on the mass market and in wine shops), label characteristics, chemical analysis, sensory evaluations and experts’ opinions. The results showed that label characteristics and appellations are the variables that consumers perceive as important to determine the quality for a specific wine (Brentari et al. 2015). The use of a higher number of variables, especially in terms of sensory characteristics, in estimation of hedonic price was suggested by Combris et al. (1997), who applied this approach to Bordeaux wine, and concluded that market price is essentially determined by the objective characteristics appearing on the label of the bottle. On contrary, wine quality, measured by professional wine tasters, can be explained primarily by the sensory characteristics of the wine. With this study it was possible to conclude that many traits, which are important in explaining wine quality apparently do not play a role in the determination of the market price. The authors presented two explanations for this conclusion. First, the consumers’ preferences differ among them and, consequently, are different from tasters’ ones. Second, the information in the label it is easier to get than the one about sensorial features of the wine, so consumers choose the easy way, it is the “imperfect information” theory. Hedonic pricing model was also used to estimated price premiums and discounts related to a range of packaging characteristics of wine in US. It was observed significant market price differences for label design and label colour, being these differences more pronounced for wines with higher unit sales. Comparing imported with domestic wines, packaging explained more price variation for the formers (Loose and Szolnoki 2012).

Different results were obtained, with other type of methodology, in a study carried out in Auckland (New Zealand). In this study best–worst scaling, as opposed to direct rating of factor importance was used. Further, probability sampling, which is infrequently used in the field of sensory and consumer science was implemented. Multiple factors that influence choice consumers’ were ranked this way: 1 - Tasted the wine previously; 2 - Grape variety; 3 - Brand name; 4 - Medal/award; 5 - Someone recommended it; 6 - Origin of the wine; 7 - I read about it; 8 - Matching to food; 9 - Promotional display in-store; 10 - Information on the shelf; 11 - Information on the back label; 12 - Attractive front label; 13 - Alcohol level below 13% (Jaeger et al. 2009). In general, these and other studies suggest that consumer’ choice depends on observable characteristics and reputation (what is written on the label matters), while sensory variables and tasters grades usually have a rather limited power. These studies, however, did not evaluate the relative importance of these characteristics concerning consumer quality perception.

So, what consumers look for in a label? With the main purpose of comparing different methodologies able to disclose the extrinsic factors playing an important role in wine quality perception of consumers, twenty-four Chardonnay commercial wines were selected according to different criteria such as origin, denomination of origin and information provided in the label or back label. Forty-eight participants living in Burgundy examined the bottles with no tasting. This study shows that exists an important trade-off in quality perception among different extrinsic indications such as origin, denomination of origin (1er Cru vs vin de pays), label aesthetic (classical vs modern), bottling (estate vs cooperative bottled), the presence of awards as well as different indications commonly linked to tradition such as ‘‘special cuvée’’ or being produced by independent winemakers or being perceived as a wine with a potential for ageing (Sáenz-Navajas et al. 2013). Region, together with price, is also the most important attributes for Australian wine consumers, followed by grape variety, award and vintage. To convince consumers who make their purchases in supermarkets and have no opportunity to seek advice, some studies suggest that the font and size of the label ensure that the denomination of origin appellation label, wine category, vintage, commercial brand and place of bottling can be easily read (Carsana and Jolibert 2015). These studies were about wine front labels, and regarding back label, it is important on consumer choice? According with a study with Australian wine consumers, only about a third of consumers show a medium to strong influence of wine back label attributes. Authors suggest that winemakers and wine label designers should include in back label winery history combined with a quality statement and elaborate taste descriptions and food pairing. They also recommend producers should avoid chemical ingredients on back labels as they might not be understood and cause negative perceptions and reactions by some consumers (Mueller et al.2010). 


Many, many other questions can be made regarding wine labels. And about image? What influence it have in consumer’ choice? Labroo et al. (2008) showed that people prefer a bottle of wine with a frog on its label because it is perceived more easily, since they are primed with a semantically related concept (e.g., a frog). Are these effects important? Does legal required information have any impact in the consumers’ choice? And what is the impact of label information, which invoke a positive response like “decreased calorie content”, “wine made from sustainably farmed” or “naturally farmed grapes”? And what about health warnings, like those on cigarette packs, can they change consumer-based and product-based perceptions of wine? My opinion is well known and is in accordance with the reason why this blog exists. Wine producers, are now able to capitalize on the emerging science of environmental sustainability in wine production, wine health effects, design, marketing and market economy together with the innovations in technology in order to allow for a more strategic use wine labels. Well I think that for a biomedical researcher I was already very bold. It is time to return to “Monthly Assignment Challenge” spirit, i.e., writing about something that we know and ask other to help us with what we do not know. Who wants to continue this text? Maybe you Maria Ferrand?

  1. Brentari, E., Levaggi, R., & Zuccolotto, P. (2011). Pricing strategies for Italian red wine. Food Quality and Preference, 22(8), 725-732.
  2. Brentari, E., Levaggi, R., & Zuccolotto, P. (2015). A hedonic price analysis for the Italian wine in the domestic market. Quality & Quantity, 49(3), 999-1012.
  3. Carsana, L., & Jolibert, A. (2017). The effects of expertise and brand schematicity on the perceived importance of choice criteria: a Bordeaux wine investigation. Journal of Product & Brand Management, 26(1), 80-90.
  4. Combris, P., Lecocq, S., & Visser, M. (1997). Estimation of a hedonic price equation for Bordeaux wine: does quality matter? The Economic Journal, 107(441), 390-402.
  5. Jaeger, S. R., Danaher, P. J., & Brodie, R. J. (2009). Wine purchase decisions and consumption behaviours: Insights from a probability sample drawn in Auckland, New Zealand. Food Quality and Preference, 20(4), 312-319.
  6. Labroo, A. A., Dhar, R., & Schwarz, N. (2007). Of frog wines and frowning watches: Semantic priming, perceptual fluency, and brand evaluation. Journal of Consumer Research, 34(6), 819-831.
  7. Loose, S. M., & Szolnoki, G. (2012). Market price differentials for food packaging characteristics. Food Quality and Preference, 25(2), 171-182.
  8. Mueller, S., Lockshin, L., Saltman, Y., & Blanford, J. (2010). Message on a bottle: The relative influence of wine back label information on wine choice. Food Quality and Preference, 21(1), 22-32.
  9. Sáenz-Navajas, M. P., Campo, E., Sutan, A., Ballester, J., & Valentin, D. (2013). Perception of wine quality according to extrinsic cues: The case of Burgundy wine consumers. Food Quality and Preference, 27(1), 44-53.
Posted by in Economy | Marketing

Precision Viticulture

By Alessandro Matese

Precision viticulture is a set of methodologies, analysis and processes for a site-specific crop management. Basically, Precision Viticulture targets the spatial variability that exists in a cropping system and considers the ensemble of units that differs in terms of soil, microclimate and morphology and therefore needs to be managed in a specific way. A vineyard, especially if very extended, turn out to be the combination of many small plots cultivated with the same crop. Precision Viticulture aims at the maximization of the agronomic potential in terms of yield and of quality of productions while increasing their environmental sustainability. For instance, Precision Viticulture enhance the ability to fine-tune nutrient management decisions and develop the site-specific nutrient management plan for each vineyard and even for the single vine. Therefore, it is possible to avoid unnecessary treatments, which can be harmful and polluting, and reduce costs. As a first step, the heterogeneity in a crop must be identified and then monitored. This can be done with several technologies such as remote sensing technologies (from satellite, aircraft of drones) or proximal monitoring such as microclimatic weather stations or other sensors deployed in the field.

Ground optical systems, handheld cameras for temperature monitoring, infrared sensors, several sensors can be used to collect data on a given plot at high temporal resolution, providing detailed information to characterize the sub-plot variability down to the scale of the single plant. Some technologies are derived from other sectors, such as the use of drones. The data from the different sensors have then to be organized in geo-databases and processed with geostatistical techniques, to describe plant status and the management approaches to be applied to each micro-area. All data collected is geo-localized using the GPS. This means that later, after being transferred and processed, these data can be communicated to tractors. The tractor using the GPS can distribute in different area, different quantity of fertilizer or pesticides. There are many different types of machines. For example, variable rate harvesting machines are now available, enabling the selective harvest by grape quality classes. In France a pruning tractor was developed that enables a selective pruning in function of the green biomass of each plant.

Applications of remote sensing in precision viticulture are focused mainly on reflectance spectroscopy, an optical technique based on reflectance measurement of the incident electromagnetic radiation at different wavelengths, in particular in the visible region (VIS 400-700 nm), near infrared (NIR 700-1300 nm) and thermal infrared (TIR 7500-15000 nm). The relationship between the intensity of the reflected and incident radiant flux is specific to each type of surface. The most common classes of sensors are capable of detecting an alteration of transpiration or photosynthetic activity on the leaf surface.

Technological development in the field of automation has provided precision viticulture with a new solution for remote monitoring, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). These fixed or rotary wing platforms are capable of flying autonomously. They are sometimes also improperly called "drones", due to their monotonous low dull sound like the buzzing of a male bee. UAV can be remote controlled at visual range by a pilot on the ground, or fly autonomously to a user-defined set of waypoints, by means a complex system of flight control sensors (gyros, magnetic compass, GPS, pressure sensor and triaxial accelerometers) controlled by a microprocessor. These platforms can be equipped with a series of sensors, which allow a wide range of monitoring operations to be performed. The peculiarity of UAV application in remote sensing is the high spatial ground resolution, and the possibility of a highly flexible and timely monitoring, due to reduced planning time.

Thermal sensors are used to remotely measure leaf temperature, which increases when water stress conditions occur, and is followed by stomatal closure, which reduces the water loss and at the same time interrupts the cooling effect of evapotranspiration. Alterations in photosynthetic activity are linked to the nutritional status, health and vigor of the plants, and can be detected with multispectral and hyperspectral sensors. Aerial images are frequently used to estimate spatial patterns in crop biomass and yield, using Vegetation Indices (VI) such as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). Correlation of these indices with structural or physiological characteristics of the vine is well studied. NDVI can be related with different factors, such as the LAI (Leaf Area Index), the presence of nutrient deficiencies, water stress status or health status, while the narrow-band hyperspectral vegetation indices are sensitive to chlorophyll content.

Date of birth March 3, 1974, Florence, Italy

Position: Researcher at National Research Council - Institute of Biometeorology (CNR-IBIMET)

Education: Degree in Natural Sciences at Florence University (Italy), Department of geomorphology (1994). PhD in Agriculture, Forest and Food Science, Doctoral School of Sciences and Innovative Technologies, Torino University (Italy) (2014).


Scientific skills:

  • Precision agriculture and analysis of remotely sensed imagery acquired by UAS.
  • Spatial data analysis applied to viticulture to provide agronomic information at high spatial resolution.
  • Management zones delineation by multi-temporal remote sensing by UAS.
  • Geostatistical analysis.
  • Estimation of crop quality parameters by remote sensing.
  • Development of wireless sensor network for agricultural research and agrometeorology.
  • Expertise in development of high throughput field phenotyping experiments.
  • Development of new remote sensing technologies by UAS within precision viticulture aimed at enhancing the grapevine for quality production.
  • Agricultural zoning and micro-meteorological parameters monitoring for the characterization of the spatial and temporal variability of Mediterranean cropping systems (cereal production, horticulture and viticulture).
  • Improved processing techniques from aerial remote sensing and UAS for the vegetation indices estimation, study of eco-physiological data and development of decision support tools.
  • Use of modeling and computer science applied to agriculture, through specific and geographic information systems software.

Main publications:

ResearcherID: D-2268-2010; h-index: 10;

Scopus ID: 24528769900; h-index: 11;

  1. Matese, A., Baraldi, R., Berton, A., Cesaraccio, C., Di Gennaro, S.F., Duce, P., Facini, O., Mameli, M.G., Piga, A., Zaldei, A. Estimation of Water Stress in grapevines using proximal and remote sensing methods. 2018. Remote Sensing, Volume 10, Issue 1, 1 January 2018.
  2. Di Gennaro, S.F., Rizza, F., Badeck, F.W., Berton, A., Delbono, S., Gioli, B., Toscano, P., Zaldei, A., Matese, A. UAV-based high-throughput phenotyping to discriminate barley vigour with visible and near-infrared vegetation indices. 2017. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 24 November 2017, Pages 1-15
  3. Matese, A., Di Gennaro, S.F., Berton, A. Assessment of a canopy height model (CHM) in a vineyard using UAV-based multispectral imaging. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 2016, 38(8-10), 2150-2160.
  4. Santesteban, L.G., Di Gennaro, S.F., Herrero-Langreo, A., Miranda, C., Royo, J.B. and Matese, A. High-resolution UAV-based thermal imaging to estimate the instantaneous and seasonal variability of plant water status within a vineyard. Agricultural Water Management, 2016.
  5. E. Carrillo, A. Matese, J. Rousseau, B. Tisseyre. Use of multi-spectral airborne imagery to improve yield sampling in viticulture. Precision Agriculture, 2016, 17:74-92; doi 10.1007/s11119-015-9407-8
  6. Alessandro Matese, Piero Toscano, Salvatore Filippo Di Gennaro, Lorenzo Genesio, Francesco Primo Vaccari, Jacopo Primicerio, Claudio Belli, Alessandro Zaldei, Roberto Bianconi and Beniamino Gioli. Intercomparison of UAV, Aircraft and Satellite Remote Sensing Platforms for Precision Viticulture. Remote Sensing 2015, 7(3), 2971-2990; doi:10.3390/rs70302971.
  7. Matese, A., Crisci, A., Di Gennaro, S.F., Primicerio, J., Tomasi, D., Marcuzzo, P. and Guidoni, S. 2014. Spatial variability of meteorological conditions at different scales in viticulture. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Volumes 189–190, 1 June 2014, Pages 159-167.
  8. Matese, A., Vaccari, F.P., Tomasi, D., Gennaro, S.F.D., Primicerio, J., Sabatini, F. and Guidoni, S., 2013. Crossvit: Enhancing canopy monitoring management practices in viticulture. Sensors (Switzerland), 13(6), pp. 7652-7667.
  9. Salvatore Filippo Di Gennaro, Alessandro Matese, Mirko Mancin, Jacopo Primicerio and Alberto Palliotti. 2014. An Open-Source and Low-Cost Monitoring System for Precision Enology. Sensors 2014, 14(12), 23388-23397.
  10. Jacopo Primicerio, Salvatore Filippo Di Gennaro, Edoardo Fiorillo, Lorenzo Genesio, Emanuele Lugato, Alessandro Matese and Francesco Primo Vaccari. 2012. A flexible unmanned aerial vehicle for precision agriculture. Precision Agriculture, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 517-523. DOI: 10.1007/s11119-012-9257-6.
  11. Matese, A., Di Gennaro, S.F., Zaldei, A., Genesio, L., Vaccari, F.P., 2009. A Wireless sensor network for precision viticulture: The NAV system. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture 69, 51-58.
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