A wine researcher at New Zealand's University of Auckland is developing sensor technology which would allow winemakers to monitor and modify the winemaking process as soon as they harvest their grapes from the vine. 
 
Dr. Paul Kilmartin and his team of scientists  at the Polymer Electronics Research Centre are studying the levels of polyphenol and other “small-molecule” antioxidants in grapes. Using carbon electrodes as well as other methods developed at the Auckland university, Klimartin and his team have been able to accurately measure the amount of antioxidants in “beverages, plant extracts and biological fluids,” the research department's website states.
 
The matter of measuring antioxidants is especially relevant to the production of sauvignon blanc, the wine for which New Zealand is most famous. Sauvignon blanc's signature fruit flavors are due, in large part, to a specific set of antioxidant levels contained in the wine. 
To have the ability to measure these antioxidants from the moment grapes are harvested can open the way for more precise processing in which winemakers can constantly tweak antioxidant levels so their wines reach their full, expressive flavors. 
 
One antioxidant, sulfuric dioxide, is particularly important to wine flavors.
 
“Adjusting sulfur dioxide levels as soon as possible after harvest is crucial to the development of complex sulfur-containing compounds that give the wine its distinctive aromas, particularly the intense tropical aromas we associate with this wine,” Kilmartin said in a press release earlier this week. “Sensor technology would give winemakers another option to ensure that oxidation is controlled right from the time the grapes are picked no matter how far they have to travel to the winery.”
 
In his staff bio, Kilmartin says, “My main areas of research are fairly evenly divided between wine chemistry and applications of conducting polymers with the Hybrid Polymers programme and the Polymer Electronics Research Center.” 
 
His scientific training is in the area of electrochemistry, his profile says, “and with the use of range of chromatographic, spectroscopic and surface analysis techniques.”
 
The research which Kilmartin and his colleagues have conducted has larger implications.
 
Olga Mednova, one of Klimartin's research students, has extended the reach of sensor technology to include food and drinks in general. She is currently working on a project called Electric Tongue, in which she and her colleagues are creating a device which can detect the molecular makeup of flavors and reproduce them in an accurate way.