Since free SO2 is a moving target, having timely data is crucial for faster decisions and actions. In this article, we will highlight three ways you can do so in less time, and in turn, having consistent wine quality and an improved bottom line.

Patch up the time leaks in your workflow and consider automation

Routine Free SO₂ testing can be labor-intensive and frustrating for all teams involved, but can you pinpoint which parts are the major efficiency drains for your team?

Is it the part where cellar waiting on lab and winemakers before they can complete their work, with multiple visits to the barrels and long walk to the lab? Or is it lab techs having to redo sample acquisition and analysis if anything falls out of the expected range, adding to the wait times before completion? Do bottling days feel chaotic and overwhelming with rush samples?

Listing out top three problems and prioritizing those is a good start. In many cases, the problems persist since every day is different, things move fast and your team doesn’t have time to review and improve. Sometimes, the solution can be as simple as adding one layer of double-checking or checking in. 

Automation is also a powerful thing when it comes to eliminating inefficiencies, but it requires planning and a deep understanding of both your own environment and the available technology. We have discussed in detail here the automation and workflows for different wine analysis methods.

If you can’t solve these problems yet, keeping a mental (or written) list will still be handy in case you come across a new piece of technology that might just solve those.

Establish protocols wherever possible

Protocols can optimize the process by separating groups that need attention from groups that don’t. 

If this is something new, you can start with pre-defining addition multipliers and addition amounts for barrels that fall within the expected range. The cellar team can then proceed with additions when the measurements are available. Our technology makes it easier for winemakers to set additions and communicate protocols to the cellar team, but if you are not using our tech (yet), you can still implement these protocols manually. 

Sampling rate is another thing that can be preset for each lot.

Doing this will lighten the paperwork stack on winemaker’s desk and streamline your process, making more tasks flow smoothly towards completion. Putting protocols in place is also a nice way to involve and mentor junior winemaking staff, giving them the opportunity to learn the system behind SO2 decisions — the grape variety, pH, time of year, goals, risk-tolerance of the winemaking team and so on.

Build Your Own Testing Methods Stack, based on your environment

Just because you can use a method to test multiple parameters doesn’t mean you should.

There are many reasons for this, especially with testing free SO2. Sometimes, it takes too long to set up and calibrate the equipment to test a small batch of samples, so it makes more sense to pop out the aeration-oxidation (AO) kit, although the throughput is lower. Sometimes, you choose AO for red wine but go with ripper for white wine to increase the efficiency further. In the talk of efficiency, it always depends on how your winery works and what the goal is.

As a matter of fact, most of our customers already have lab-based automated analyzers that can test multiple parameters (including free SO2) but still employ our FS1 as the primary method for free SO2 testing. By taking the free SO2 testing off the lab, they are free up for other analysis tasks while the results are more immediate and in higher quantity, leading to more timely follow-up decisions and actions. And on top of that, all data is automatically updated on a cloud database and pushed to wine production software.

In most cases, pick one standard analysis method for each parameter for consistency, and know that you always have the option of combining multiple methods to build your own stack and expand the current capacity.

Closing notes

An hour saved in one task is an hour that you can spend somewhere else, and it’s becoming more important to boost productivity considering the current labor shortage in our industry. 

Time, including both time spent on getting the results and the timeliness of those, is one of two pillars of an effective barrel management program. To know more about the other pillar — Visibility, read about it here .