OBSERVER: Copernicus supports the art of making fine wine

OBSERVER: Copernicus supports the art of making fine wine

OBSERVER: Copernicus supports the art of making fine wine

Thu, 04/08/2022 – 09:26

As one of the most popular beverages consumed worldwide, wine has become an integral part of many cultures. European countries are amongst the most prolific wine producers with Italy, France and Spain currently the top wine-producing countries in the world. According to the European wine market report by Statista, the European wine market is currently valued at around EUR 160 billion and it is expected to increase by 35% within the next five years.

Although this growth seems promising, the wine industry is facing serious climate change-related challenges today and also market changes towards more organic farming, which are encouraging and forcing wine growers and producers to adopt new practices and techniques to cope with the global demand while preserving the environment.

Copernicus, the European Union’s flagship Earth Observation programme has become instrumental in monitoring vineyards for optimised and more sustainable agricultural practices. High-resolution data obtained by its family of Sentinel satellites and Contributing Missions supports decision-making related to the health and yield of vineyards. As the Copernicus Sentinel data is accessible on a full, free and open basis, winemakers, or in most cases their advisors, can benefit from data which can inform decisions on use of fertilisers or pesticides, irrigation etc. which directly impact the quality of the grape and wine. Moving forward, Copernicus will become ever more useful for winemakers and the management of their vineyards.

What are the challenges faced by the wine industry?

According to the IPCC report of 2021, the negative effects of climate change will intensify in the 21st century and will continue to impact nature, ecosystems and human activities. The global temperature has increased by almost 4°C in the last 45 years. The Mediterranean basin is particularly affected by global warming. The viticulture in the region has to cope with extreme temperatures, heat waves and droughts which are all expected to intensify in the future. The availability of fresh water is also heavily affected by changes in weather patterns and repeated droughts, resulting in reduced productivity and quality of the grapevine.

How does Copernicus help wine growers?

The Earth Observation data provided by the Sentinel satellites and Copernicus services provide great advantages compared to standard monitoring techniques thanks to its frequent, detailed and large-scale availability. The bulk of data provided by the Sentinel satellites gives a timely and up-to-date outlook of the whole foliage which helps winemakers understand their terroirs—physical and geographical parameters of the vineyard (e.g., soil, climate, vineyard location, grape varieties and planting density)— that gives the wine its unique properties. These are then exploited to produce the best quality grape. In particular, the multispectral data provided by Sentinel-2 can be used to predict grape phenolics (chemical compounds affecting taste, feel and colour of the wine), estimate vine vigour and highlight heterogeneity within vineyards. Moreover, Sentinel-1,-2 and 3 data can help improve the quality of the vine, identify the best plantation segments and help optimise fertiliser use. Additionally, the data from Sentinel-1 and -2 can be used to monitor where and how much water should be used in irrigation per day. The products from the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service (CLMS) offer many details about terroirs that are cultivated and provide statistics to monitor and control the production (e.g. slopes, exposures to sunlight affecting the cultivation of grapes etc.). On the other hand, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) has developed a Sectoral Information Service pilot for winemaking applications that aims to support the winemaking industry to adapt to and mitigate the consequences of Climate Change.

By exploiting the full potential of the high-quality data delivered by the Copernicus Sentinel satellites as well as the free and open data policy of Copernicus, service providers, and developers have successfully developed various products and services with the purpose of supporting the wine growers and makers with the monitoring of their vineyards. Some of such products are described in the following sections.

Oenoview: monitoring the health of Vinyards

The Oenoview service is being delivered by TerraNIS (an SME working on Geoinformation services based on Earth Observation for land development and monitoring) in close cooperation with the Institute Co-operative des Vins (ICV). The service uses an innovative algorithm developed for multispectral optical satellite imagery which helps to understand the variability in the vine vigour as well as the internal variability in each vineyard.

The algorithm was developed by using reflectance models of the plants, which enables to derive biophysical parameters. This provides a better overview of the status of the vines by taking the planting configuration, the nature of the foliage, the angle of the sun at the time of measurement (shadows are far more significant for vines than for cereal or other crops) and includes atmospheric corrections. Overall, Oenoview is able to supply a very robust assessment of the growth conditions of the vines.

In particular, Oenoview offers three main services:

Optimisation of fertiliser use: Taking into account the growth rate and variation of the vines across the field, the algorithm along with the map estimates the amount of fertiliser the farmer must apply in the different parts of the field. Overall, it is estimated that farmers save 20-30% on fertiliser as compared to the traditional methods.

Vigour/growth rate in the fields used to determine the amount of fertiliser to apply (Source: EARSC Case report)

Optimisation of harvesting: The time and sequence of harvesting (based on the ripeness of the grapes) and blending of grapes into the fermentation is critical for the quality of the wine. Oenoview service produces assesments which estimate the development of vines in the field and present the variation in the vine vigour within a field. This helps growers save time which directly impacts the efficiency of their activities.

Oenoview use for Giving Priority for Harvesting (Source: EARSC Case report)

Optimisation of Wine Making Methods: This helps growers identify different viable parts of their fields based on vine growth properties and homogeneity. This allows experts to select and blend grapes to control the quality of the wine and avoid growing vines on less productive land. The figures below explain how this works.

Mapping the vigour of growth within a field.

Homogeneity of fields and main level of vigour drive winemaking methods (Source: EARSC Case report)

The free and open imagery available from Sentinel-2 has brought numerous possibilities for improving the quality of the services even further. The spectral richness and revisit frequency of the Sentinel imagery has led TerraNIS to develop new tools and services available for vineyards. For instance, their vine vegetation development monitoring tool aims to depict the natural progression of vegetation development of the on-going season and highlight potential abnormalities. Another example would be the vine water status monitoring tool which will allow the monitoring of the temporal and spatial vine water status at a large scale with the objective of supporting the optimisation of irrigation management.

Rheticus: Satellite-based Monitoring service for Precision Viticulture by Planetek Italia

Rheticus® Oenoview is a monitoring service proposed by Planetek Italia, based on high-resolution data, for precision viticulture. It is designed to help winegrowers tackle the changing trends and increasing competition in the international markets by improving the wine quality and maximizing profitability. It is based on TerraNIS’s Oenoview technology which is made scalable and replicable through the Eugenius platform, This collaboration was made possible by the services provided by the EUGENIUS platform that allows sharing and replicating applications.

Accurate and detailed information about vineyards is the key to carrying out targeted cultivation interventions, identifying the best harvest times, and improving wine’s quality, maximising profitability. With satellite Earth Observation technologies and Copernicus data, it is possible to develop extensive knowledge about each individual vineyard under study and integrate information about biophysical and soil parameters with extremely accurate data on large and diversified areas.

By generating biophysical parameters for vineyards, Rheticus Oenoview helps farmers to better assess wine grape’s ripeness and efficiently manage the harvesting activities. In particular, it supports farmers on:

Selective harvesting that, based on indicators of vegetative vigour and heterogeneity is carried out in a given plot to group lots or portions of lots with similar organoleptic properties. The efficiency of vineyard lot selection is improved to achieve specific production goals.
Adaptation of cultivation methods to achieve vineyard homogeneity.
Optimisation of the sampling strategy to guide field observations such as, for example, ripening checks, yield estimation, or to facilitate work at the technical level.

Rheticus Oenoview in use in the Tormaresca vineyards

Antinori Group, one of the largest and most innovative wineries in Italy, was particularly enthusiastic about the automated capabilities of Rheticus. “We found satellite monitoring the most accurate and affordable survey method to support the production of high-quality wine” said Giuseppe Palumbo, CEO of Antinori.

Rheticus Oenoview is the result of integrating the vegetative vigour maps provided by TerraNIS within the Rheticus applications platform. Combining these two elements results in an information-as-a-service that allows the winegrower to easily use the available information and access historical data that enables him/her to make informed decisions and selective grape harvesting.

Rheticus Oenoview platform

Through the intuitive and easy-to-use Rheticus dashboard, users get access to dynamic maps and reports that make it easy to identify the vineyard vegetative vigour and, therefore, the level of grape ripening. Thus, in managing the supply chain in the wine industry, Rheticus Oenoview supports the wine growers in harvesting, maximising vineyards output, significantly cutting down annual costs, and making the whole winemaking process more sustainable.

Saturnalia: constantly monitoring vines across the globe

Saturnalia is a geospatial platform that monitors vineyards through the continuous ingestion of Sentinel-1,-2,and -3 data. The service allows the investors and distributors access insights on wine quality, indicators and trends as well as helps vine growers manage and care for their crop. After winning the Copernicus Masters Challenge in 2017, Saturnalia launched a new service platform in 2020. It offers a multitude of services from dynamic maps in 3D to quality and cost assessment to harvesting reports. Thanks to the consistent and valuable data available for free, Saturnalia is able to collect a wealth of information around the globe and keep innovating thus improving the quality of its service.

In their own words: “We see Copernicus as the main pillar supporting the deployment of Saturnalia. Products like Land Surface Temperature as well as raw data such as multispectral imagery from Sentinel-2 are key inputs to our model. Processed in our system leveraging innovative and AI-based techniques, this stream of “big space data” enables Saturnalia to provide key insights on vintages to investors and distributors alike. Customers can achieve an unprecedented understanding of each year’s products, resting on quantitative, science-based information. The global scalability offered by these services is something never seen before in the fine wine world.

The vegetative index developed by Saturnalia developed by leveraging reflectance measured by the Sentinel-2 multispectral imager in some key spectral bands. It helps in measuring the water stress levels and the chlorophyll content within the vines (Source: Saturnalia)

Wineo: predicting the yields of vinyards

The Wineo product for viticulture developed by GMV,  offers prediction services which help anticipate the yield of each vineyard and informs the final grape intake in the winery. Sentinel missions, which have generated time series of Copernicus satellite images over the past five years, are key to analysing the health and status of the parcels where the grapes sprout each year. Today, being able to compare actual yields on a daily, weekly, monthly basis with yields from over the last five years with a ten-meters granularity provides information of great value to winegrowers. Currently, Wineo’s results are more accurate than what can be achieved in the field thanks to the predictive models which use artificial intelligence to plough through vast amounts of satellite big data.

Wineo products. At the top, Historical Leaf Area Index (LAI) in the first fortnight of July, the average on the left and the maximum on the right. At the bottom, current LAI on the left and the Vegetation quantity product on the right in the first fortnight of July: At intra-plot level, the current LAI is compared with past values to give information at parcel level. Permanent areas with very high amount of vegetation are potential cases of vineyards with poor ventilation.

Undoubtedly, the high-quality data from Copernicus have enabled free and innovative thinkers to develop new solutions and tools to preserve and manage our vineyards. Something to remember next time you will cheer with a fine glass of wine in your hands.

Thu, 04/08/2022 – 12:00

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