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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 July, 2003, 08:07 GMT 09:07 UK
Satellites help wine makers
Satellite image of vineyards
Satellite images provide a different perspective of the vineyards
The wine you buy in the coming years could have had a helping hand from space technology.

Europe's wine growers are turning to satellites to help them come up with the perfect vintage.

Observations by European Space Agency (Esa) craft are being used to beam back images of vineyards which can provide vital information about the geology of a wine-growing area.

"The analysis of different pieces of land will help us see if there are specialised areas where certain species of grape will grow better," explained Esa's Luigi Fusco.

Tradition and technology

The Bacchus project aims to link satellite imagery with computer analysis to help growers get the best out of their vineyards.

The aim is to chart vineyards in Europe in unprecedented detail, providing information such as the slope and humidity of the area.

Grapes on the vine
The information could help grow better grapes
Mr Fusco said they were not telling growers to dump traditional methods used for generations.

"The wine market is going for quality," he told the BBC programme Go Digital.

"There is no more room for just quantity. And quality can be reached in many different ways.

"We think there is a better way to get a better product, so let us try to use technology to improve whatever products we are making."

The satellites could be used to monitor the colour and shape of vines as they grow. The images could then help farmers take the tricky decision about the best time to pick their grapes.

They could also help growers analyse how the soil and geology of an area, and even the slope of the land, could affect the distinct flavour of a grape.

High and dry

Mr Fusco, who is based in Italy's Frascati growing-area, explained how the system could be used.

"Frascati wines grow on a volcanic area and in volcanic areas there are a lot of small craters which were once filled with water.

"That water was available in Roman times and is still available 50 metres down," he said.

"When you look from above, you see this crater maintains more humidity than the rest of the area, so in a hot summer they would keep the grape in a better condition."

The Bacchus project is backed by the European Commission and involves 14 companies, research institutes and wine growers' organisations in Europe.

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