Technion atomizer prevents wine from evaporating during ageing process

The atomizer system keeps the humidity inside and outside the barrels equal, thereby eliminating the evaporation that occurs.A new atomizer system developed at Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology keeps the humidity inside and outside the barrels equal, thereby eliminating the …

The atomizer system keeps the humidity inside and outside the barrels equal, thereby eliminating the evaporation that occurs.A new atomizer system developed at Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology keeps the humidity inside and outside the barrels equal, thereby eliminating the evaporation that occurs as nature works to maintain equilibrium.

When you buy a bottle of wine for the holidays, you are actually paying for more than a bottle. That’s because during the months or years that the wine was aging, as much as 15% of it was lost to evaporation.

For centuries, wine producers have lost wine to evaporation through the barrels during the ageing process. Wine aged in barrels at 16° C (61°F) can lose over 14% volume in three years when stored at 60% RH. Traditional European wineries stored their barrels in natural cellars to maintain high humidity and reduce the need for “topping”, (adding wine to each barrel during the ageing process).

Modern wineries, with aboveground cooled ageing rooms, need modern technology to raise the humidity to 95% and cut the loss to evaporation by more than half. At the same time, yet barrels must remain dry on the outside to prevent mold which can damage the barrels and the wine.

The FogRight Atomizer and OptiSense Humidistat system, developed at a Technion incubator company Optiguide, provide true “dry fog” for controlled high humidity up to 95-98% RH for ideal storage of wine in barrels. High humidity reduces wine loss to evaporation and reduces the need for topping, yet barrels stay dry and without mold. Raising the humidity to 95% can reduce losses to evaporation to under 1% per year. These savings to the wine producers will trickle down to the consumer in lower wine costs.

At Israel’s Golan Winery, select Cabernet, Chardonnay and other fine wines are aged in 225 liter (50 gallon) barrels. They have always added humidity to the storeroom, but in 1997 they replaced their expensive ultrasonic humidifiers with Tabor FogRight Atomizers.

“The old humidifiers needed maintenance twice a month, and still we didn’t get the requested high humidity. The Tabor FogRight Atomizer needs little maintenance and we get higher humidity and a dry floor,” says Yehuda Abu, Development Manager.

In 1999 the winery gave humidity control to the OptiSense Humidistat. Associate Winemaker Tali Sendovski uses a thermohydrograph to track the humidity and temperature in the room.

“Winemakers understand that the higher the relative humidity, the less loss of wine to evaporation. Since we started using the OptiSense Humidistat for control, we have higher average humidity, about 95%, and less extreme variation during the day and night. And we don’t have a problem with wet barrels.” Said Sendovski.

The system consists of three main components for the wine cellar: an acceleration chamber that uses air at supersonic speed to atomize water into a “dry fog” of droplets so small they evaporate before reaching the ground (that means no water collects on the wine barrels or the floor on which the barrels sit, preventing mold); a computer controlled sensor that maintains humidity at 95-98%, reducing evaporation of wine from the barrels to about 1%; and a gauge that measures humidity levels up to 100%, a feat beyond current gauges which stop at 90%.

“High humidity is often confused with wetness, but the two are not the same,” said Eran Brown, general manager of Optiguide. “Destructive mold on barrels and on the floor forms when there’s freestanding water but not in extreme humidity, which saturates the air but doesn’t wet the barrels and floor.”

Optiguide’s internationally patented system is already in use at wineries in Israel, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Mexico and Chile. The company is now searching for U.S. marketing representation in preparation for sale in the United States.