Maintenance is an important and often overlooked part of having a website. Which is odd because you spend a great amount of effort on maintaining other aspects of your life and business. You go to the gym and the doctor to maintain your health; you repair and clean your house, your car, and your yard; at work, your tasting room, Wine Club, and your wine education or tasting senses are all given careful attention to make sure they are kept in shape. Why, then, do we expect to set up our website and then let it sit? Websites need to be maintained, too.
Your website is your front door to the entire world. Will customers or the trade find broken links, missing images, or an insecure page––or will they not even arrive at your website due to poorly tagged pages, making it impossible to find it on a search engine?
The bad news? The internet, software, hardware, and browsers are constantly changing. But the good news is there are lots of plugins and systems out there to keep your website up to date and healthy. Here are 5 areas you should focus on when maintaining your website.
This may seem like it goes without saying, but if your website doesn’t use the proper, up-to-date security measures, your website will suffer. First, search engines will likely put you near the bottom of a list of search results or not even display your site. Second, a scary warning can appear where your website should be strutting its stuff.
Security is especially important if you have a WordPress site. WordPress powers over a third of the internet today. Because of sheer volume and the number of WordPress websites online, it’s the most hacked content management system on the web.
You should set up a routine schedule for removing malware, scanning for viruses or hacks, removing spam blog or product comments as well as spam signups to your mailing list. And don’t forget to monitor your SSL certificate to let purchasers know that you are safe to enter credit cards. Nothing says “don’t buy wine here” like a big security warning.
You may not realize this, but on many mainstream platforms, including WordPress, there isn’t an automatic backup feature that you can just revert to if your website gets hacked, corrupted, or damaged.
This happens more likely than you think. Sometimes plugin updates can cause irreparable damage to the design. Other times, there’s human error when that new marketing intern deletes all your trade assets by accident.
It is up to you to back up your files. Luckily, there are many tools on the market that can do this automatically.
Whether your website is five pages or 30 pages, it can be easy to miss a broken link buried on your website. If the broken link is to your ecommerce store, it’s like having a malfunctioning door to your tasting room. Even if nothing is broken, if you don’t have a proper “continue shopping” link in your cart or checkout, you could lose the customer with their frustration. Maybe the link is minor and doesn’t lead to the store, but a broken link says you’re not paying attention, so why should your customers?
Again, routine maintenance should look for achieved products, employee bios, vineyards, vintages, distributors, events, or anything on your site that may be out of date and driving to a dead link.
Google is the most widely used search engine and now processes over 70,000 search queries every second, on average; which translates to well over 5 billion searches per day and closer to 2 trillion searches per year, worldwide. By 9:30 am on any given day there have been 2.5 billion searches on Google, globally. Your winery is in there, somewhere, you just have to help people find it.
Search Engine Optimization doesn’t have to be overly complex. It’s primarily made up of tagging pages and images with keywords so Google can read them, and submitting the site and the sitemap to Google to index. The maintenance of these items requires checking that new pages and images are described and indexed. There are a number of tools on the market that will help identify and flag if a new page is missing tags, or if something is out of date.
There has been a lot in the news lately about ADA compliance, mostly coming from several lawsuits being brought against some wineries on the East Coast. The goal of this exercise is to make sure that everyone has equal access to the content on your site, including those with visual or mobility impairments.
Being compliant for something like ADA can be tricky and until the law has even more clear guidelines, it may be hard to be 100% compliant. But there are a number of ways to be accommodating for web visitors with disabilities. Think of it as very rigorous SEO: The requirements for being ADA Compliant cover tagging a large portion of your content, images, and overall accessibility. I would not recommend you try and tackle this on your own. There are scans and specific tasks required, like scripting to close modal windows, and tested functionality with the site text increased up to 200%. It is something your designer should look into. But once done, it needs to be maintained with each new image or block of text. The good news is, not only does it benefit your customers with disabilities, but it benefits your website functionality overall.
Ongoing maintenance doesn’t have to be a brain-teaser. If you consider the investment you put into your website and the sales you get out of it, then finding an agency with a maintenance package or setting up a series of plugins to manage these areas seems like a no-brainer.
Susan DeMatei is the President of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. www.wineglassmarketing.com
At the moment a bottle of wine is uncorked and poured, the labor and innovation of the equipment industry helping to bring that wine from vineyard to table becomes inextricably tied to the end product consumers enjoy. Across the United States, vineyards are dependent upon their equipment suppliers to provide them with the latest technology and product support to keep costs down and produce a high-yield, high-quality harvest.
Take, for example, Progressive Ag, Inc., of Modesto, California, whose company history reflects a cutting-edge approach to the design and manufacturing of sprayers used before harvest time. Mark Ryckman, Progressive Ag sales manager and co-owner, keeps a close eye on technology focused on improving crop yield for his customers.
“New mapping software and drone technology are bringing in some great technology advancements into the spraying industry with variable rate application,” says Ryckman. The company manufactures its signature LectroBlast Electrostatic Sprayers with patented design elements aimed at delivering better coverage and reducing spray drift, both of which cut time and cost. The technology-driven sprayers also promise delivery on other cost-saving measures, including more ground coverage in less time, fewer fill-ups, easy calibration, low maintenance and cheaper fuel and water costs. The sprayers, which come in tank sizes ranging from 300 to 600 gallons, can be used for all vertical or cross arm vineyards. These sprayers are capable of handling vineyards of almost any size.
Progressive has another advantage. The fact that the company’s manufacturing base is right in Modesto means that its local customers can readily get equipment parts either directly from the plant or at one of several parts depots throughout California, Oregon, Washington and Mexico with more parts depots coming in other locations soon. As for new products, Progressive Ag has its Solar Blast Solar Panel Washer in production.
One of the largest expenses for vineyards is their labor force. Years ago, a human workforce was a non-negotiable cost for vineyard owners, with jobs ranging from pruning, thinning, leaf removal to actual harvest. Today, there is a trend toward using technology to escape heavy reliance on what is becoming an ever-dwindling labor pool, shifting instead to more mechanization. Some experts predict a future with so-called “no-touch” vineyards, where every element is handled by machinery.
One of those industry experts, Gearmore, Inc., has been in business some 50 years and is on top of this trend. As a farm equipment distributor, the company maintains its competitive edge by monitoring ever-evolving changes in equipment technology most attractive to its customer base and by keeping in touch with those customers beyond the point of sale. It is a supplier to a target market that includes California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. Its global marketing efforts reach into Mexico and Canada.
Robert Emhoff, Gearmore’s president, describes the company’s singularly most important contribution to its commercial vineyards that he believes keeps those customers loyal to his brand. “Gearmore supplies our customers with quality equipment sourced from leading manufacturers throughout the world and backs up these products with parts and service.”
The value of customer support after point-of -sale is not lost on those who run operations for vineyards whether large, medium or small. Although mostly reliant upon trained, manual labor, Arizona Stronghold Vineyards in Camp Verde, Arizona, with an estimated 100 acres, knows all too well the importance of post-sale customer service for its equipment. Matthew Raica, Winemaker at Arizona Stronghold, says that customer service is, “Critical, especially with how remote we are from where manufacturers or technical staff are located. When we have equipment go down that we can repair ourselves, we rely on good customer support to ensure we get back up and running.”
Trevor Amos, Director of Operations and Vineyard Manager at Rock Pocket Vineyards, agrees, emphasizing that this is especially true for small vineyards, whose investment dollars have to stretch farther than their larger competitors. His company’s small vineyard is located in Oliver, British Columbia, considered the Wine Capital of Canada and part of the Okanagan Valley region. Amos sees customer service for vineyard equipment important at every stage, from new purchase to need for repair. “It’s important for good customer service pre, during and after the sale. If people sell their product, they should support their product throughout its life span.”
Gearmore considers itself well-positioned to meet the needs of vineyards morphing into the “no touch” approach. It can provide nearly every implement required for growing a successful grape harvest, including tillage tools, mowers, pre-pruners, vine trimmers, leaf removers and more. The company offers Venturi Air Sprayers, available in 3-point or pull type, ranging from 75 to 500 gallons. Distribution heads on Venturi Air Sprayers are versatile enough to fit any vineyard profile with nozzles that shear the chemical into fog-like droplets covering the entire plant.
Gearmore is also a chief supplier of Collard products, a family-owned business serving vineyards for five generations and responsible for inventing the first mechanical vine trimmer in 1962. The Collard Vine Trimmer is especially designed for California’s multiple trellis systems, along with Collard Leaf Removers, which feature 3-point mounted air compressors that power the leaf remover’s defoliation heads. The system works through short, sharp bursts of compressed air blasting the leaves to open the canopy, allowing for more sunlight, better air flow and greater spray penetration. Gearmore also is a supplier for the Collard Leaf Remover, an equipment choice that offers a solution to debris removal around grape clusters, which ultimately provides for a cleaner harvest.
Canada’s Slimline Manufacturing, based in British Columbia, touts itself as the sprayer manufacturer of choice for grape growers in the Okanagan area, Niagara region, California’s Napa Valley, Oregon and Washington coastal areas as well as other grape growing communities throughout North America.
Turbo-Mist Sprayers have been around in some form since 1948. When engineer Kim Blagborne purchased the product and founded Slimline Manufacturing in 1991, his experience in design and fabrication led to many of the features and options now available on the modern day versions of Turbo-Mist Sprayers. Return on investment, through product reliability and amortization, is something the company touts, as its team points out that some of its long-time customers are using versions of Turbo-Mist Sprayers built some 50 years ago.
Careful planning is essential to any farming enterprise and no less important for vineyards. Slimline Manufacturing revolves its season around its customers’ needs, adding that its Turbo-Mist Sprayers play a vital role. Slimline Manufacturing boasts of a dealer network that teams up with customers well before harvest time, often up to a year in advance. The goal is to help these customers achieve optimally planned, well managed and environmentally sustained spraying practices.
Rachelle Wirth, Marketing & Communications Manager for Slimline Manufacturing, says the company strives to provide customers with genuine solutions in real time. “Fuel costs in many of our customers’ regions are becoming astronomical; water shortages are becoming the new normal. Operating as if these issues are going to correct themselves is not an option.” Wirth says that Turbo-Mist products enable growers to drastically reduce fuel costs and water use without sacrificing coverage, yield or crop quality.
Working in tandem with vineyards to develop new products is another method by which some manufacturers, including Slimline, keep pace with customers’ needs. Steve MacDonald manages some 300 acres under MRS Vineyard Service in Oliver, British Columbia. “Our spray program is a good example of using the best equipment,” MacDonald says. “Your starting point is choosing a sprayer that will deliver the droplet size you want to where you want it. Slimline Manufacturing…worked with us to develop a couple of three row machines that are still as good today as when we purchased them in 2009. Each has over 15,000 acres under their belts.” MacDonald translates that coverage into less than five dollars per acre applied capital cost for a $70,000 machine.
Felco is another company which turns to its growers for input into product development. Ryan Amberg, Marketing & Business Development Manager at Pygar USA, a division of Felco, says, “New product developed by Felco is done in a grassroots manner where the modifications and design requests happen from the grower and end user level. This is part of the reason Felco offers the most comprehensive assortment of high quality tools in the market.”
When it comes to vineyards, Felco products cater largely to pruning needs, although it also offers a small snip range. Among the current leader in this product line is the Felco 310 snip. Its stainless steel composition resists rust in the field and its replaceable spring insures multiple seasons of use.
Amberg explains that his company is ready for harvest sales immediately following the end of pruning season, which means its sales cycle for harvest begins as early as March and doesn’t end until late September. He adds that the variety of climates where vineyards are located in the United States dictates the calendar for Pygar USA. The company is a division of Felco, which has a global network covering the continents of North America, Europe, Africa and Australia.
Equipment purchases can be a major investment expected to bring harvest benefits to vineyards over multiple years and the dependability of that product is perhaps second only to the customer service provided by the suppliers and manufacturers. For vineyards, it can mean the difference between either a successful harvest or a failed one. For equipment manufacturers and suppliers, it means keeping customers loyal and earning their respect in a highly-competitive industry.
Change may tend to move slowly in the wine world, but new research published this year on Canadian wine trends reveal some important shifts in consumer tastes and spending habits.
According to the London, UK-based Wine Intelligence 2019 Canada Landscapes report, Cana-dians are drinking less but spending more and branching out to explore new tastes and varie-ties from a wider range of wine growing regions.
There’s also increasing crossover between the wine and beer worlds. A growing number of wine drinkers now also report that they choose beer at least occasionally. Craft beer culture, specifically the sense of strongly identifying with locally produced brands, also seems to be influencing consumer attitudes towards wine, with more Canadians now seeking out high-quality domestic wine.
According to COO Richard Halstead, also Wine Intelligencer’s Canadian market expert, Ontar-io’s Niagara region remains the dominant source for Canadian wine. However, the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is now becoming highly regarded for the quality of its wine and the strength of its vineyard tourism offerings, while Quebec is an emerging presence in the wine world as well.
Of the over 700 wineries listed in the Canadian Wine Directory, almost 300 were in B.C., 200 in Ontario, over 150 in Quebec, with a handful in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island as well.
A 2017 economic impact study commissioned by the Canadian Vintners Association, the Win-ery & Grower Alliance of Ontario, the British Columbia Wine Institute and the Winery Associa-tion of Nova Scotia, the Ontario wine and grape industry generates about $4.4 billion in eco-nomic impact, while in British Columbia it was estimated at $2.8 billion, $1.1 billion in Quebec and $218 million in Nova Scotia. For every $1 spent on Canadian wine sold in Canada, the study estimates $3.42 in GDP is generated across the country.
Halstead said industry analysts are starting to speculate that the same zeitgeist propelling con-sumers to support local farmers’ markets and neighborhood microbreweries may be influenc-ing Canadians’ attitudes on domestic wine.
“We’re a wine research company, so we don’t really look at craft beer except to look at how it’s affecting our world,” Halstead said. “But there are parallels with the connection craft beer has made with local ingredients and making a local product for local people, and that’s seeped into the wine category and made buying local cool again.”
The divide between wine drinkers and beer-drinkers appears to be narrowing in Canada. The proportion of regular wine drinkers who also choose beer, both mass-market and craft, is growing. In 2014, 67% of wine drinkers said they also drank beer, with 29% drinking craft beer, but by 2018, 74% were also quaffing beer, and 40% drank craft beer.
Data released in May by Statistics Canada found beer remained the most popular choice for Canadians, with $9.1 billion in sales and representing 41% of total sales of alcoholic beverages in 2016/2017. However, the market share of other alcoholic beverages, notably wine, contin-ued to grow. Canadians spent $7.2 billion on wine during the same period, a year-over-year increase of 3%, or just over one-third of overall alcohol sales.
Beer, particularly craft beer, has been growing steadily in popularity in recent years. According to Wine Intelligence’s report, from 2014 to 2017, the number of breweries in Canada increased by 115%, mostly driven by a proliferation of microbreweries and regionally focused craft brewers.
Another reason locally produced wine is gaining in popularity is because local liquor boards have been doing more to spotlight local wines.
“The wine world doesn’t move very fast normally, because people’s habits are people’s habits, but the pendulum has swung slightly toward the domestic side,” Halstead said.
Almost three-quarters of English Canadians now say they have selected Canadian wine in the past year, compared to one-third of those in French Canada. While English-speaking Canadians are far more likely to drink Canadian wines, and Quebecers to choose European brands, the report found domestic wines are quickly gaining in popularity in la belle province.
Canadians are now reporting drinking less wine, yet are more willing to splurge on a good bot-tle, Halstead said. Spending on higher priced wine has increased, particularly when the higher price point is linked to a good story, as with many local producers.
The average price per bottle of wine for a relaxing drink at home has increased from $12.79 per bottle in 2014 to $13.44 in 2018, while the average price paid for a bottle selected as a gift for someone increased from $17.36 to $18.81.
“One of the differences today in Canada versus 20 years ago is that if Canadians wanted really nice wine then, it would either be France or the top end of California,” Halstead said. “Now they’ve also got Okanagan wine, which is selling at $40-50 CDN for some cabernets and char-donnays. It’s hitting a very similar market spot that California, or at least the Napa/Sonoma re-gion, used to own without much competition.”
The increase in average cost isn’t only due to consumer preferences, however. Increased regu-lation, taxes, and liquor board policies have made it difficult for many producers to charge less than $10 per bottle. Regional, government-run liquor boards have also been promoting higher-end brands to motivate consumers to spend more on better quality products, in the hopes that this will also encourage citizens to drink less alcohol overall.
“The LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) and SAQ (Société des alcools du Québec) have been trying to get people to spend more money and buy less because that fits with govern-ment social policy,” Halstead said. “It’s also good for business because you make more money from one higher-priced bottle than you would two lower-priced bottles.”
Four out of five Canadians surveyed drank wine within the past year, compared to seven in 10 who drank white. The most popular reds were merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, shi-raz/syrah and malbec. White wine drinkers were attracted to chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pi-not grigio/pinot gris, riesling and moscato. No matter what wines drinkers chose, they pre-ferred wines from California’s Napa Valley, Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, the B.C. Okanagan, the Bordeaux area of France and Tuscany in Italy.
Consumption of rosé is going up, particularly among regular wine consumers in Quebec. While rosé used to be a seasonal beverage, rosé fans are now enjoying it throughout the year, not only in summer. The drink is particularly popular with young adults aged 19 to 34, women, and savvier wine drinkers.
Sparkling wine is also gaining, albeit from a small base, led by the popularity of Prosecco. The percentage of wine drinkers who consumed sparkling wine in the past year increased from just 12% in 2014 to 19% in 2018. Consumption of locally produced sparkling wine has decreased however, with most consumers choosing imports from France, Spain, and Italy—specifically Prosecco.
Halstead said many American brands are continuing to do well in the Canadian market, par-ticularly mainstream Californian brands like Barefoot, Gallo, Woodbridge and Apothic.
As you’d expect in a country where provincially run liquor boards maintain tight control over wine sales (with the exception of Alberta), three-quarters of wine consumers bought their wine from government-controlled liquor stores. Other notable sales channels (representing from one-fifth to one-quarter of consumers in each case) included grocery stores, wine stores at-tached to grocery stores, private liquor stores or dépanneurs (convenience stores).
Last year, we published an article about the pros and cons of mobile bottling and who’s been using this service in the wine industry. Now we’re taking that conversation one step further to discuss how to pick the right mobile bottler for your operations, the various options that mobile bottlers have to offer, and what questions to ask when you decide to package your wine this way. Mobile bottling options are helping wineries keep costs down, but costs can also skyrocket with a poor bottling plan in place.
Making the Decision to Go Mobile
Mobile bottling typically involves a specialized vendor coming onsite with a trailer, bottling unit, and hoses to pump wine from a winery’s tanks to the mobile bottler’s filling tanks. Wineries are usually responsible for providing the bottles, closures, and labels, as well as some onsite staff to ensure everything goes smoothly and to assist with the labor.
Wineries often choose mobile bottling to save space, time, and money, or they may go this route to entrust the job to someone with more experience and increase bottling speed. Companies specialize in this process to take the headaches out of onsite bottling, although wineries still need to meet certain requirements to ensure a successful bottling day. Before bottling day, for example, wineries need to complete the filtration process, ensure proper wine temperature, have the necessary equipment and staff available, and have labels that work with the bottler’s machinery.
When it comes to deciding whether or not to choose mobile bottling, key factors to consider are whether it is cost-effective to own your own bottling line and how many bottles and cases you are looking to produce per season.
“As a winery just starting out, it made sense for us to utilize the capital investment that would be required for a dedicated bottling line on other things that elevate wine quality,” said winemaker Ryan Prichard of Three Sticks Wines in Sonoma, California. “We were, and still are, a small winery so putting money towards equipment that we would only use a couple of days a year didn’t make sense when there were high-quality mobile bottling options available.”
Charlie Fauroat, winemaker for Pellegrini Wine Co. in Santa Rosa, California, told The Grapevine Magazine that his winery uses Peregrine Mobile Bottling for their bottling needs.
Pellegrini Wine chose this bottler because of the “excellent dissolved oxygen management, positive pressure filler to help minimize carbon dioxide loss, and a troubleshooting staff who care immensely about customer service and performance within their jobs,” Fauroat said.
Fauroat went on to share that mobile bottling has affected the way his winery operates because it “allows us not to have to truck wine offsite to bottle, further beating up the wine in this already hectic period for the wine.”
Differences Between Mobile Bottlers
While on the surface it may seem that mobile bottlers are all one and the same, there are actually quite a few differences in their capabilities and what they offer.
Bill Kreck, the founder of Mill Creek Vineyards & Winery and Mill Creek Mobile Bottling Services who spent 17 years in this segment of the wine industry, told The Grapevine that mobile bottlers can be classified as petite, small, and “big dogs” with regard to capacity. He said petite bottlers have a capacity that usually tops out at about 75 cases of wine per hour and uses hand-bottling equipment mounted on a small trailer. Small bottlers can produce around 150 to 250 cases per hour with automatic equipment in a large trailer that is equipped with conveyors to allow bottles to move without manual assistance. “Big dogs” can produce up to 100 bottles per minute so that a winery could expect to get up to 3,000 cases in an eight-hour day. These large vendors typically operate in 40- to 50-foot semi-truck trailers and offer advanced services, such as onboard nitrogen generators and bottle coding. While large bottling lines require more personnel to operate, they run very fast so there is a lower per-case labor cost than for smaller lines.
Some mobile bottlers stick to either just caps or just corks for wine closures, while others offer multiple options for wineries to choose from. Mill Creek Mobile Bottling first went into business in 2001, and Kreck said, “At that time, screw cap wines were reserved exclusively for low-end, low quality, mass produced wines and not at all appropriate for quality products from Sonoma County vintners.”
However, attitudes have changed about screw caps, and there are now many more mobile bottlers in the industry competing for winery clients.
“Many wineries have retained cork finish for reds but have converted to screw cap finish for their white wines, so if a bottler cannot do both, the winery is likely to find one that can,” Kreck said. “It would not be wise now to be a mobile bottler unless that dual closure option was available.”
In addition to screw cap or cork options, other custom options provided by mobile bottlers include PVC, polylam, or tin capsules and also bottles in 750ml, 500ml, and 375ml sizes.
Meanwhile, Mary McLaughlin of Ryan Mobile Bottling in Napa, California said that what sets her company apart from its competition is its people. This is another major difference among mobile bottlers.
“We have dedicated, talented staff who stay with us for the long-term, which enables them to be stronger operators who are familiar with our customers and their packages,” she said. “Also, our management team is actively engaged in field operations and are prepping, planning, and bottling on a daily basis.”
McLaughlin also told The Grapevine Magazine that all four, soon to be five, of Ryan Mobile Bottling’s trucks insert corks.
“We have two trucks that can apply screw caps – one of which can also apply LUX closures,” she added.
Mobile Bottling Costs
Costs can vary significantly between mobile bottlers, depending on the services offered and the region of the country. For example, East Coast Mobile Bottling charges a setup fee and minimum service charge of $1,500 and $2.75 per case for sterile filtration, bottle rinse, bottle sparging, filling, closure, capsule, and label. Other fees apply for bottle changes requiring complete reconfiguration of the entire line and when it’s necessary to change the wine or bottle height. Additionally, each change can reduce daily production by about 75 cases.
Old Woolam Custom Bottling estimated that a winery producing 10,000 gallons or 4,100 cases annually would need to commit to a $75,000 total investment and at least a $25,420 total annual cost to own its own bottling line. However, the total annual cost to have a mobile bottler come to this size of a winery would be more like $17,064, with no up-front investment for equipment.
Kreck of Mill Creek told us that there is generally a slight premium per case bottled for using a petite or small mobile bottler over a faster line and that labor is a significant factor in determining cost. However, he said that mobile bottlers usually have a fee structure that includes the following, with the cost of supplies, such as filters, sealing tape, and nitrogen or argon being extra:
In/out and spot the trailer and
hook up utilities……………………………….$300 – $600
Initial package setup for the
first wine of the day…………………………$100 – $200
A fee for package changeovers
(i.e. Bordeaux > Burgundy)………………..$100 – $200
Wine change fee
(after first three wines of the day)……..$100 – $200
Per case bottling and/or
labeling charge………………………………$2.10 – $3.00
Kreck also said that the most significant variable in the mobile bottling cost is speed and that important factors to consider when choosing a bottler are features, name recognition, and service. He estimates that a petite mobile bottling line that can produce up to 100 to 120 cases per hour would cost $100,000 to $175,000, a small line for around 100 to 250 cases per hour at $250,000 to $500,000, and a large line for around 250 to 350 cases per hour at $500,000 to $1.3 million. All of those costs increase if a trailer needs to be custom made, plumbed and wired, and a tow vehicle supplied to move it and support the equipment.
Questions to Ask a Mobile Bottler
Wineries looking to try mobile bottling for the first time can benefit from asking lots of pertinent questions up-front. Cost is always a top concern, so you’ll want to get a breakdown of mobile bottling charges and fees for your winery’s specific situation. You will also want to fully understand the services and equipment that a mobile bottler offers, such as screw-capping, to ensure the vendor meets your winery’s needs.
Bottle-filling speed is very important when you choose a mobile bottler, so ask vendors how many cases they can process in a day. However, you’ll need to know how much you want to bottle beforehand to ensure that the company can meet your case-per-day requirements. Also, ask about the bottle-per-minute speed because this can vary from one company to the next based upon the technology and equipment used.
Ask mobile bottlers about the size of their bottling trailer to make sure it will fit comfortably at your winery’s location. You should also have discussions early-on about a mobile bottler’s ability to work with your current mechanical and electrical capabilities. Other questions to ask include how many staff members should be onsite for bottling day, what preparations need to be done in advance, what the sanitation process entails, and how the bottler checks the line to ensure everything is going according to planned. If possible, try to see the mobile bottler at work to better understand what the process entails from start to finish.
Mobile Bottling Tips and Advice
There are many things that can go wrong in the bottling process if a winery and mobile bottler aren’t on the same page, including lost time, inefficiency, and broken equipment. This is why Kreck of Mill Creek says that communication is so important from the very first conversations about scheduling. A work order should be submitted weeks before bottling day to outline exactly what the winery needs to accomplish and list the number of cases of each wine along with details about the glass, cork or cap, foil, and labels to be used.
“If winemakers detest bottling, they often do not properly pay attention to details and that becomes the responsibility of the mobile bottler,” Kreck said. “An example might be that the winemaker wants the whites to be sterile filtered, then most of the reds to be unfiltered, but the last wine sterile filtered again. The bottler knows that once a sterile filter is removed, the line is no longer considered sterile and just putting a sterile filter back in the filter housings could disastrous. The bottler knows that according to the work order, they will come to the end of the day with a partially filled tank. Does the winemaker want to work overtime to finish the tank, be comfortable with an unfilled tank overnight, or rearrange the bottling sequence to finish tanks by the end of the day? These are just a few of the issues that a mobile bottler would address and communicate options back to the winemaker.”
Meanwhile, David Crawford, vice president of Napa’s Top It Off Bottling emphasizes the need to plan ahead well in advance and start communicating with a mobile bottler over a year before your next anticipated bottling date. Consulting your mobile bottler about packaging decisions is also recommended to reduce hassles and save money.
“I always ask my customers to put me in direct contact with their suppliers so we can talk out what they have going on because I know how to ask the right questions and we deal with these people all the time,” Crawford said. “There is no advantage to hiding the ball on troublesome packaging issues. If you have a cap that doesn’t fit but you want to try it anyway, tell us ahead of time so we can plan for it.”
McLaughlin of Ryan Mobile Bottling agrees that communication is the key to a successful working relationship between a winery and a mobile bottling company.
“Make sure that all work orders are complete and accurate, and notify your bottler when there are changes,” McLaughlin advises. “Also, inventory raw materials to ensure you have received what you expected. Our time may be tightly scheduled and may not allow for us to wait while vendors make corrections.”
You’ve spent a lot of time, effort and money to produce a great tasting, quality wine that you’re proud of and can’t wait to share with consumers. When it’s finally time to package and ship your wine, there are many options on the table. It’s up to you to make the decisions that will move your company in the desired direction.
Functional End Of Line Efficiency For Trending Canned Wines
“If it has a seam or a ridge, we can put a handle on it,” said Mike Seestadt, PakTech’s Territory Sales Manager for North America and Central Canada. “Because of the surge in packaging wine in cans, it is a major focus of our business right now. Canned wine offers a huge opportunity because we can make and put handles on all can formats, from standard to sleek to slim.”
PakTech produces can-handle packaging solutions that are manufactured totally from post-consumer recyclables, namely clear milk jugs. The can-handles not only make it easy to carry packs of canned wine, but they are also built to nest, creating an optimal way to stack and store can packs. Once used, the handles are recyclable again. In fact, PakTech is partnering with its clients in maintaining a closed-loop recycling program that has an ultimate goal of recycling used can-handle into more of the same.
“PakTech also makes and sells the can-handle applicators, making us a one-stop shop,” said Seestadt. “Our available applicators are a standalone system, but they are also conveyorized, allowing them to be inserted directly in-line within a company’s packaging process.”
PakTech sells can-handle application machinery based on the clients packaging needs, starting with the CCA 120/180. This unit applies quad-, six- or eight-pack PakTech can-handles onto filled beverage containers at a rate of thirty cycles, or 180 cans per minute. The CCA 440+ applicator is recommended for larger producers but is also a popular item in co-packing environments. PakTech also manufactures higher speed units customized for the unique needs of their clients, with application speeds of up to and including 1600 cans per minute.
“We’re not just a seller though,” said Seestadt. “We are a partner with our clients rather than a component supplier. We stay with the company throughout the install and provide training on site for the operation, maintenance and cleaning of the applicators. We have service teams that travel the globe providing installs and physical upgrades. Software upgrades are applied remotely.”
Seestadt told The Grapevine Magazine that PakTech’s systems typically are placed last on the packaging line and work well with the systems already installed.
“We work with the currently installed line configurations and filler spaces. Our can handles all nest, providing easy shipping and pallet building without the need for trays for stability. Although our systems are 100% in-line capable, they can be run as a standalone unit if needed.”
Needs and Goals Drive Packaging Automation Choices
Bryan Sinicrope, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for A-B-C Packaging Machine Corporation, is all in when matching end-of-line packaging options with a winery’s business needs and goals.
“Typically, once a winery reaches line speeds of around 120 to 150 bpm, automation in their packaging process can be justified,” said Sinicrope. “Then, they need to look at their goals. Do they need to increase speed, want to reduce labor, need a dedicated line, or want to run multiple sizes and configurations? What are their space limitations? All of these answers will impact the type and amount of machinery needed. For example, to accommodate a large increase in sales, it may be worthwhile to transition, when feasible, from reshipper cases to bulk bottle delivery. Original equipment manufacturers are well equipped to help with machinery decisions once concrete goals are established. Our equipment recommendations lean towards simple, straightforward and uncomplicated machinery that still offers modern, updated sophistication with features and equipment design that give the winery plant personnel the flexibility and control they need.”
Sinicrope told The Grapevine Magazine there isn’t an industry standard for packaging automation, because different options are available depending on the winery’s priorities. Some wineries, for example, may want to automate at lower speeds if it provides other advantages such as improved quality control for their products or to address concerns over potential liability and insurance costs related to hand labor.
“Machinery choices also vary based on how the winery purchases their bottles,” said Sinicrope. “They will either use reshippers, where the bottles are delivered in corrugated cases, or purchase bottles in bulk, getting them on bulk shipping pallets. For reshipper handling, the winery needs an uncaser to remove those bottles from the reshipper case, then a packer to repack the finished bottles after filling, labeling and closure application. They’ll need a top sealer to seal the top case flaps and a palletizer to load the cases onto the shipping pallets. If using bulk glass handling, the winery needs a depalletizer to unload the bottles from the bulk pallets, then a case erector to set up the new cases, a partition inserter if the case will have partitions (dividers to keep the bottles apart), a packer to pack the bottles into the case, a sealer to seal the top case flaps, and finally that palletizer to load the shipping pallets.”
On first glance, all of this may seem like a significant investment, Sinicrope said, but there are different options for each step that offer both cost and space savings. For example, A-B-C Packaging manufactures a bottle unpacker/packer that simultaneously handles both uncasing and packing in one machine, saving floor space while reducing upfront, capital equipment expense. All the equipment can be used with previously installed lines or on a standalone basis. Palletizers typically come preprogrammed with common pallet patterns for easy selection, but if necessary, the palletizers come equipped with an intuitive custom configuration builder on the control panel.
A-B-C Packaging offers training following the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute standardized program. They recommend monthly lubrication and cleaning schedules and offer lubrication systems on some of their machinery, making the task easier. They also supply full service for the life of their equipment, including training, remote diagnostics, in-plant service calls, factory spare and repair parts, machine upgrades and rebuilds. To reduce a winery’s need for service staff, they A-B-C Packaging offer service contracts that provide regular inspection and maintenance.
Adaptable and Flexible Packaging Options Fit Industry Needs
“End-of-line packaging can be a bigger concern for the wine industry simply because of the price point of the product,” said Ryan Broughton, Sales Manager for Delkor Systems.“How the finished product presents itself to the end user is important.”
Delkor Systems offers pick-and-place case packing systems rather than drop pack systems. Pick-and-place case loaders are better at handling fragile components while also addressing potential integrity issues of the filled bottles.
“Bottle integrity, label integrity and closure integrity are all important aspects to consider when packaging, shipping and showcasing the wine for the end user, and we’re always looking at how to better address these issues,” said Broughton. “Bottle integrity is increasingly important with the increased use of thinner and lighter weight glass bottles. Labels are obviously important for branding, consumer recognition and loyalty, and no one wants to see scuffed or scraped labels on their finished product. It presents a diminished perception of the product inside. With more wines being bottled using screw caps, it’s imperative that the skirt directly below the cap enclosure remain intact and undamaged.”
Broughton told The Grapevine Magazine that some packaging automation is generally recommended once a winery approaches an annual production rate of approximately 200,000 cases. “Automation saves money on different levels. Basic machinery includes an automated case packer and palletizer. By having a case packer available to run when needed, a winery can pack and prepare shipments faster and more efficiently. It also eliminates the need to hire temporary workers as some wineries have to do to get the product packed and shipped. The time and money saved can be better used elsewhere, increasing efficiency and uptime in other areas. To avoid the repetitive lifting, twisting and stacking, a palletizer is also recommended to take those filled and sealed cases and ready them for shipment.”
Delkor Systems’ machinery can be used as a standalone machine when needed and can be fed by hand or by conveyor. The machines can be adjusted to different bottle sizes and shapes, cans or any rigid container types. Additionally, the systems readily adapt to new case counts or configurations.
Delkor also manufacturers machines optimized for packing flexible primary products as well, such as bag-in-box or pouches. Delkor’s machines were derived and built based on the needs of the food and beverage industry, and because of that experience, Delkor Systems bring additional functionality and flexibility to wine packaging that previously never existed.
“We’ve perfected our machines through decades of hard work and listening to our customer base,” said Broughton. “For a long time, wineries were a very stable and static industry regarding bottles, generally using only four basic types. Other food and beverage containers, however, were always changing due to the needs and wants of consumers, or because of new products coming to market, so Delkor Systems made it a priority to be flexible and adaptable with its equipment lines. We pride ourselves on the flexibility and adaptability of our equipment lines to help our clients react and adapt to the market as needed, whether it’s a different style or shape of the bottle or can, or the desire to package the finished product differently.”
Delkor Systems provides installation, service and training programs for the end users of their equipment. Their overall goal, however, is to provide their customers with the quality training and knowledge that will allow them to confidently service and maintain the equipment on their own.
“If and when a client needs our help, we’re always here for them with 24-hour live phone support and availability of on-site service and training,” said Broughton.
In the May-June issue of The Grapevine Magazine, a savvy group of experts provided detailed information about irrigation system maintenance. That article outlined seasonal start-up and troubleshooting tips. For part two of this topic, we’ll move on to ongoing system checks, typical problems often overlooked, monitoring water flow and quality and critter control.
Once again, our experts are:
Guy Fipps, Ph.D., P.E., professor and extension specialist of irrigation and water management at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; in collaboration with Charles Swanson, extension program specialist, Texas A&M University.
Jacob Hernandez, CCA, owner, JH Ag Consulting, Santa Margarita, California; in collaboration with James Anshutz, AGH20, irrigation engineer with Netafim USA in Fresno, California; and the Cal Poly SLO Irrigation Training and Resource Center, San Luis Obispo, California.
Continual process management is the key to a fine-tuned irrigation system. During the rush of season preparation, however, some aspects might inadvertently go by the wayside.
Hewitt pointed out numerous required fixes this time of year. For example, field zone valves might have broken or damaged wires because of animals, or as a result of “tractor blight”—nicks and punctures caused by machinery, which happens to vines, too.
“There might also be stuck plungers in the solenoids,” he said. “Pull coils and plungers. If the coils are swollen, replace them. Use emery cloth on plungers if they’re only slightly rusted.”
If you’ve noticed a torn or deformed diaphragm, Hewitt said, sometimes simply turning it around works, depending on the valve type, or replacing it. “Same with any springs located in the bonnet of a valve. Springs and diaphragms wear out or develop a new ‘memory,’ especially pressure-reducing valves that are always partially open throughout irrigation season,” he said.
For growers with low-volume micro sprinklers, which are similar to drip emitters, Hewitt advised clearing nozzles of debris and “checking that any fixed spray plates or rotating spinners are providing the correct patterns, distance of throw, and uniform coverage.” LFS and LFX high-performance sprinklers often don’t require much maintenance, he said, but it’s still important to check periodically for proper rotation, nozzle clogs and “insects building in deflectors.”
Hernandez offered a reminder about flushing mainlines, submains and laterals. “This isn’t done enough by growers. Most growers flush once or twice a year—either at the beginning or end of the season,” he said. “In-season flushing should be done after fertigation events with thick materials. Flushing velocities should be greater than two fps. Have your irrigation professional develop a proper flushing routine.”
What is lurking in your system? “The moist, dark interiors of drip hoses and emission devices can be ideal environments for biological slimes and chemical precipitates to form,” Hernandez said. “Various chemical solutions exist to shock and treat these issues. Irrigation professionals should test water quality throughout the season and provide treatment plans to rehabilitate dirty lines and emitters and implement continuous treatment to maintain the lines after cleaning up.”
Fipps added that if growers don’t already have flow meters and pressure gauges, now’s the time to install them.
“Monitoring system pressure and flow rate are crucial for managing operation and scheduling. Unfortunately, many vineyard drip systems lack either a flow meter or pressure gauge—or both—on their system,” Fipps said. “Observing situations of increased flow or decreased pressure can often be signs of leaks in the system, whereas situations of decreased flow and increased pressure can be signs of clogging of the drip emitters.”
Pay Attention to Pumps
“Attention to pump controls should always be given,” Fipps told The Grapevine Magazine. “Pump controls should be in manufacturer-recommended housings that prevent moisture accumulation, or pests like ants and wasps from building nests in or above the components.” He added that “if injection pumps are used for fertilizers or chemicals, hoses should be inspected and replaced if there are any signs of cracking or dry rotting to prevent chemical spills and waste.”
Hewitt said you might have to check impellers if pressure is lower than before, indicating they might need replacing. Packing leaks might mean replacement, but also a need to refill oil cups and install mechanical seals.
Also, Hernandez suggested adding a variable frequency drive (VFD). “Adding a VFD to your pumping station allows for a soft start of pumping motors, reducing wear and tear. If growers have multiple irrigation methods, various plant and row spacings, different size irrigation sets or sets on slopes, VFDs allow for one pump to operate on a number of different pressure and flow settings. This permits a grower only to use the amount of energy they need for the particular set they’re irrigating,” he said.
Managing Water Effectively
Fipps said one aspect often overlooked by growers is monitoring water quality. “Annual analysis of water quality, whether it’s from groundwater or surface water, should be conducted to check salinity and mineral composition, which can affect both the irrigation system as well as plant health,” he said. “Knowing the water quality helps guide growers on how much water to apply at irrigation, as well as prevent any negative reactions from injecting chemicals or fertilizers into the system.”
He also strongly recommends soil moisture sensors—a technological tool that works to your advantage. Soil moisture sensors might initially seem expensive, averaging $300-$500 per unit, plus the cost of telemetry devices for data transmission across the vineyard, but, Fipps said, “they take the guesswork out of deciding when it’s time to irrigate.” If you can’t afford to populate the vineyard with multiple sensors, some experts recommend having one or two in an irrigation block representative of the overall field profile.
Hernandez also recommends expert analysis. His consultancy tries to bridge the gap.
“Certified crop advisors and other irrigation professionals can help vineyard managers maintain and service their irrigation systems with analysis, implementation and ongoing monitoring to aid in the reduction of energy use; and improving crop performance through better distribution uniformity (DU).”
As a method of irrigation application efficiency, Hernandez offered two tips.
The first is setting up proper scheduling for both duration and amount of water to replace soil moisture used by the vines. “Improper scheduling can result in runoff, deep percolation, crop stress and even crop damage,” he said.
His second tip is to “use monitoring technologies to give virtual pump test and DU evaluation data every 15 minutes. These sensors give insight into the impact of changes in practice and hardware,” Hernandez said. “For example, if a DU evaluation finds extensive plugging, we’ll want to rehabilitate the lines with chemical treatment and flushing. Pressure sensors installed at strategic locations in the field can tell us almost immediately if we’ve improved the pressure in the drip hoses and provide a ‘heads-up’ during the irrigation season that we’re beginning to have a problem that can be addressed before it becomes serious.”
Purvins suggested growers ease inadequate volume issues with proper emitter spacing. “During extreme drought conditions, my system doesn’t supply enough water. Fortunately, I’ve only experienced one such year out of 20. I would spec the next system with twice the number of emitters—48” spacing vs. 96”—and adjust zones accordingly.”
He also pointed out the value of developing partnerships with equipment vendors who understand what you’re trying to accomplish. “When I purchased my system, the rep was knowledgeable about sizing the system but had no experience with vineyards. Such experience would have been useful.”
Hewitt said his company is trying to assist vineyard operators with water management through technology products, such as Rain Bird IQ Water. “Real-time sensors and remote web-access allow growers to monitor every aspect of their irrigation system from the water source to the emission device. They can focus in on a single irrigation system part, or see the big picture across every system they manage,” he said.
What About Those Critters?
Since we don’t grow in a biosphere, there will always be wildlife control issues. Often, our experts said, it’s easier to anticipate their actions with some preventative measures.
Purvins of The Vineyard at Lawton Hall has had a critter or two chew tubing, but since that damage is easy to spot and repair—and the vines and grapes aren’t bothered—he feels he doesn’t need to control wildlife.
Hernandez of JH Ag Consulting said, “As we install more sensors and monitoring technology, we’re seeing that animals like to chew on sensor wire and electronic cables. Wrap monitoring systems with a wire screen to protect them from animals and passing farming equipment.”
He also recommended that growers “bury five-gallon buckets at the downstream ends of some of the hoses and allow water from emitters to keep the buckets full during the summer to provide an easy water source.”
Hewitt told The Grapevine Magazine that setting out water is a good idea, plus using more natural control methods. “For larger animals—such as coyotes and foxes—simply put a large 2” high pan under your drip tubing. The water will overflow and still get water to your plants, and the critters can get the drink of water they want without chewing on the drip tubing.”
“It’s a bit tougher to combat gophers and ground squirrels, especially with buried hose systems,” Hewitt said. “One grower I know uses trained falcons that he releases into the area to help control these pesky critters.”
Trials and fining agents, in the wine business, are often riddled with unfamiliar language and terms. Grams per liter, grams per thousand gallons, pounds per thousand gallons and milligrams per liter roll off most winemaker’s tongues as if the world is in tune. Let’s review how to make this simpler and to understand.
We should perform trials anytime a question is raised on how to improve or change a wine. If a wine has a problem – identify the solution in a laboratory first. Then apply the desired corrective action in the cellar. Always double check you trial and math before performing in the cellar.
The reason we do trials is to experiment with refinement, improvement and / or correction of a juice or wine. Always work in small quantities with a wine so one does not create a larger problem, in a tank, in need of potential further corrective action. These trials can be tasted and tested to see what the results would, or will have been, if the addition was made to the actual tank or vessel of juice/wine. This eliminates guesswork and unnecessarily “shooting from the hip” in the cellar.
One should do these trails in the laboratory where control, on a small-scale amount of wine, is essential. The opportunities of what one can discover in the lab are almost endless. I repeat let’s always make our mistakes on a small scale in the laboratory before stepping into the cellar for any actions that may change the flavor, aroma or chemistry of any juice/wine. This lab area should be designed for this feature of experimentation. The metric system will be used. Once this is attempted, one will not step back into some of the complicated aspects or other forms of measurement. These trials can be used for many things including but not limited to: sugar additions, acid additions, fining agents, concentrates, de-acidification’s etc.
Potential Tools Needed
Accurate scales that measure in grams preferably to a tenth of a gram.
2 – 10 milliliter pipettes with graduated markings at each milliliter to the tenth. (Plastic preferred) [ AKA : Serological ™ ].
Small glass beakers 250 milliliters plus or minus
Representative sample(s) of each wine to be sampled.
Glass watch glasses to cover each glass.
Other testing equipment to answer questions at hand.
Magnetic Stir plate with stir bars and retriever for the stir bars.
Sharpie™ pen or pencil for marking beakers.
95% ethanol to remove Sharpie™ pen marks off glassware.
Start with something simple where results can be easily determined with the wineglass to give the confidence needed to build upon the procedure. An example of this may be a tartaric addition trial for pH correction and/or palate modification. Let’s go over one example.
Start with an ample quantity of wine to work with in the lab – perhaps an 800-milliliter representative sample from a wine vessel.
Weigh accurately 1.0 gram of tartaric acid and fully dissolve the acid in approximately 85 milliliters of the base wine with which you are working.
Once dissolved, place the full amount into a 100 milliliter graduated cylinder or as one becomes more experienced you may just make the solution in the 100 milliliter graduated cylinder.
Bring the amount up to volume in the 100 milliliter graduated cylinder up to 100 milliliters mark with additional base wine. [One should be clear they have made a solution of 1.0-gram tartaric acid dissolved into 100 milliliters of wine.]
In a clean graduated cylinder, pipette 10 milliliters of the newly prepared acid stock solution into the cylinder. Bring to the complete 100 milliliters volume mark with the base wine. This should represent a 1.0 gram per liter tartaric acid addition.
Pipette twenty milliliters from the stock acid solution made in step four into another graduated cylinder and bring to volume at the 100 milliliter mark to represent the next addition level of 2.0 grams per liter tartaric addition.
Continue to add to the number of samples you care to do the trial on in standard logical increments.
Set Up the Tasting Trial
Pour about 50 milliliters or a quantity one desires to smell and taste, of the base wine, into a control glass and place it in the left hand glass in the tasting area. (One should always taste against a control) Taste Left to right.
Pour the trials to be tasted, made in steps 5,6 and 7 above, in increasing increments in each wineglass progressing from left to right. Mark their contents.
Add to this flight any wines from past vintages you may want to review or any other blind samples from other producers you may care to use as a benchmark. Mark their contents.
Taste and smell each wine several times. Go through the flight and detect what wine may best match or improve the desired style one is trying to achieve.
Select the match and leave the room for 1 to 2 hours.
Return and re-taste to confirm your decision.
Should chemistries play an important role to reviewing certain additions be certain to run a necessary panel of lab test to ascertain the proper numbers are also achieved. One may need to balance taste, flavor and chemistry to make some tough choices. Have all the data necessary and available to make those choices.
Once the fear of the metric system is overcome and confidence is achieved, the calculations become very simplistic. Let’s take the above as the example. If we dissolve 1.0 gram of tartaric acid into 100 milliliters of wine we now have 0.1 gram of tartaric acid in every 10 milliliters of wine. From this base if we blend 10.0 milliliters (one-tenth gram of tartaric) into 100 milliliters of fresh wine – this represents the equivalent of one gram per liter.
If we were to have used twenty milliliters that would represent two grams per liter in the small 100-milliliter lab blend. If we keep track of what we are tasting, or testing, and select the trial we prefer, one can mathematically calculate how much of the given addition is needed in a tank of known quantity of juice or wine. One can also extrapolate this out to larger volumes in the laboratory should that be desired to work beyond a 100-milliliter sample.
Spicing it up!
Once the first set of trials is mastered one may build on to the next step projecting out what one may want to do with the wine. This could eventually, and perhaps should, build out to treating large enough samples that one could cold and protein stabilize the wine in the lab, filter to the projected desired micron size and taste with a panel.
Double Checking the Results
From experience, one can get so creative in a lab it can be difficult to trace exactly how one arrived at a certain desired concoction. Copious notes should be kept and most often one can trace their steps. When in doubt; however, re-perform the steps with each addition to reestablish and confirm the same results. This extra time is well worth doing before stepping into the cellar.
Given time and experimentation with this system many blending trials with additions will become easy and systematic. Trials will often take less than ten minutes to prepare and one may taste at several points during the day or use extra time to perform lab test to confirm desired objectives.
Other Helpful Tips
Keep in mind not to over scrutinize your accuracy in the laboratory. By this I mean make sure that if we measure something very tightly in the laboratory make sure this action will be able to be duplicated outside the lab. It is not uncommon, early on, for winemakers to get extremely exact in the lab only to step into the cellar with less exact control over what they had just experimented with. Food for thought on the practical side!
One can use other base solutes should that be desired. It does not always have to be wine.
This system can be used for dosage formulation for sparking wines.
If accurate scales may be an issue the winemaker may always start by weighing larger quantities and dissolving into solution then breaking down that solution. Example: If a winemaker wants a 1.0 gram per liter solution and the scales are not accurate enough to weight one gram the winemaker may dissolve 10.0 grams into 100 milliliters and then measure out 10 milliliters of that solution and this should roughly equate to one gram.
Make sure all solids are dissolved and dispersed equally into any solution.
One may also be able to blend two trials in 50% to 50% solutions to get an example of a trial in the middle without having to make one up specifically to match the amount desired.
Always remember your palate may become desensitized while tasting and to step away from tasting for an hour or two and then return to taste a potential preference. You may be shocked you had become used to certain levels because of tasting such extremes. Desensitized in essence.
Verbal discussion with Mr. Jacques Boissenot, Mr. Jacques Recht, Mr. Chris Johnson and Mr. Joachim Hollerith.
Dedicated to Chris Johnson: A long-time colleague and friend who worked with me to develop this system together many years ago. Chris passed away in April of 2009. He was head of all red winemaking at Kendall Jackson and he had his own family winery label called Blair in Northern Napa Valley.
Wildfires have become an increasing problem in recent years, with many occurring in various wine-growing areas throughout the world. Aside from causing loss of life and extensive property damage, the wildfires pose a risk of smoke exposure to grapes in the vineyard, which can lead to off-flavors in the wine. This condition is known as smoke taint.
Smoke taint is created by volatile phenols in smoke that permeate the grape skin and bind with sugar in the grape to form organic compounds called glycosides. This process, known as glycosylation, makes the phenols non-volatile, meaning you cannot smell or taste the smokiness. However, during fermentation, the glycosides break apart and release the now-volatile phenols into the wine, making smoke-tainted flavors perceptible. This process can even happen as you sip: the enzymes in your mouth can break down any glycosides that remain, releasing unpalatable compounds into the wine. The flavors associated with smoke taint have been described as “burnt rubber,” “ashtray,” “campfire,” or “smoked meat.”
While Australia, long plagued by wildfires, has been researching smoke taint for many years, the U.S. recently felt the impact when the California wildfires of 2017 swept through the state. “This is all new to us, and it has transformed the wine industry in California,” Tom Eddy, owner of Tom Eddy Winery in Napa told The Grapevine Magazine. “In California, we really only had one wildfire event that caused problems, and that was in 2008. Then, we as winemakers were somewhat naïve — we thought, ‘Well, it’s just an act of God, and it happens,’ but we didn’t do much about it. We tried to remove it later when we discovered it. Some winemakers threw their wine away, some tried to blend it out, which they could do to some extent, and some just made it and bottled it and called it Barbecue Red.” Eddy, whose winery was at the epicenter of the Tubbs Fire, lost much of his 2017 wine, representing a $2.5 million loss.
According to Eddy, the California wildfires of 2017 were “a wake-up” call. “Now, everybody’s cognizant about smoke taint,” he said. “We’re investigating how smoke taint affects the juice and the wine, how to analyze smoke taint, and how to mitigate it.”
Researchers in the U.S., specifically at top enology programs at the University of California at Davis and Washington State University, are investigating ways to minimize the problem in the vineyard and the wine, but, as Eddy said, “We are still learning.”
While there are few definitive answers, experts have determined that the key factors influencing smoke taint are grape growth state, smoke composition, length of smoke exposure, and grape variety. Grapes are most vulnerable to smoke taint between veraison and harvest.
Once the grapes start ripening, the grape skins more quickly absorb smoke particles. As for smoke composition and duration, studies have shown that just 30 minutes of exposure to heavy smoke at a sensitive stage of vine development will cause smoke taint. Beyond that, little is known about how the specific source of the smoke affects the smoke taint composition in wine grapes.
Similarly, research is ongoing into the vulnerability of specific wine grapes to smoke taint. Some experts claim that varieties with thicker skins such as Cabernet Sauvignon are more resistant, while the thin-skinned Pinot Noir is very susceptible. In fact, there have been instances where density and duration of smoke were so intense that damage occurred irrespective of grape variety. There is a consensus on two factors related to smoke taint, however: smoke taint is not a health hazard, nor do tainted aromas pass from one harvest year to the next.
Testing and Mitigating
As concerns about the risks of smoke taint continue to grow, many research institutions and private firms are offering tests for smoke taint by measuring two of the main volatile phenols in smoke, guaiacol, and 4-methylguaiacol. Tests include pre-harvest berry testing, as well as sensory assessment of a small-scale ferment made from the same grapes. While these tests may be objective, they do not consider the arbitrary factor of whether the wine is significantly damaged. “It’s very subjective,” Eddy said. “Some can taste smoke taint right away; others can’t. Some can taste it in certain varieties, some in others. Everybody has different recognition for smoke, alcohol, sugar and other characteristics.”
Winemakers, too, are getting into the act and experimenting with winemaking practices that can mitigate smoke taint to some extent. One such method is “flash détente,” where volatile compounds are removed from the grapes by heating them to about 180° F and sending them into a vacuum chamber to be cooled. While this process may remove some volatile aromas, it is not 100% effective.
According to an American Wine Society blog, “it may remove the taint below the detection threshold of approximately five to six ppm if the level of smoke taint is slightly over that amount, but it is not going to take a 50-ppm smoke taint level and lower it to three.” Even then, adds the blog, “it is difficult to say what aromatic precursors in the wine may react with the smoke taint volatiles making the taint detectable at lower levels.” Other options for removal include using reverse osmosis, but this method is said only to be a temporary fix, and the smoke taint returns over time. Filtering and fining agents may also be effective, but the processes will remove many desirable attributes from the wine as well.
To Eddy, one of the most significant challenges with smoke taint is how the problem is affecting the insurance industry. “Smoke taint is a problem that is new for the insurance industry,” he said. “Policies for smoke taint are not specific, so each insurance company approaches it differently.” If a grape is damaged in the field, Eddy explained, that comes under crop insurance, and few growers in California have that, as it’s designed to cover hazards such as frost damage and hail. While most wineries have insurance that covers stock loss by contamination, insurance companies haven’t yet addressed smoke taint as a contaminant.
As a wine consultant, Eddy is knee-deep in insurance research. “I’ve worked with over 100 winemakers in the last year on this issue, and there’s such a range of opinions. On one end of the spectrum, one guy says his wine is ruined, and he’s throwing it down the drain. On the other end, a guy says, ‘It’s okay, I’m making the wine.’ Insurance companies are taking the low road or the high road. They can say the wine is not damaged or agree that the wine is damaged and decide what it’s worth on the market today. When I look at smoke taint damage, part of my assignment is to determine the extent of the damage for all parties concerned.” In the future, Eddy believes, all growers will have crop insurance, and insurance companies will put smoke taint — along with specifics related to damage — in their policies. “We have never had this,” Eddy said. “This is the outcome of what happened in 2017 in California.”
Clearly, with global warming, the problem of smoke taint is here to stay. “We thought 2017 was a once-in-a-hundred-year event, but then 2018 was worse,” Eddy told The Grapevine Magazine. “There’s no reason to believe this isn’t going to continue. Every year, we’re going to have issues.” In 2017, Napa was fortunate, because 80% of the grapes were already harvested when the fire broke out, and, according to Eddy, impact on the consumer was minimal. Next time around, winegrowers might not be so blessed. However, with leading smoke taint scientists helping the industry prepare for future wildfires, the damage may one day be contained.
After writing about the presentations at the Unified Symposium last January I promised I would write an article that focuses on the control of the spread of leafroll viruses in the vineyard. Transmission and spread of leafroll viruses have been documented in all grape growing areas worldwide. Specifically, leafroll disease has been reported spread in Australia, Argentina, Europe, New Zealand, South Africa, USA, and other important viticulture areas in the world. Different types of mealybugs and soft scale insects can transmit some species of leafroll virus and Vitiviruses. However, long distance dispersion of viruses (as well as other pathogens) is most effective by producing cuttings and grafting. If you follow my work, you know that I recommend that you plant healthy vines to prevent virus infection in the vineyard.
Grapevine Leafroll Disease
The most important effect of leafroll disease is the production of small grape clusters with uneven ripeness. The grapes have lower sugar content (reduced brix values). Foliar symptoms include downward rolling, reddening or yellowing of leaves and vary depending on the grapevine variety or winegrowing area. The leaf veins may remain green or take many other colors (yellow, purple, red, etc.). Sadly, some wine and tourist magazines use photos of infected vineyards to promote their wine regions. Although all leafroll associated viruses belong to the Closteroviridae (Greek, clostero: thread-like) family, the only species known to be transmitted by insects are found in the Ampelovirus genus (Greek, ampelos: grapevine). Ampeloviruses include the majority of Grapevine leafroll associated viruses (GLRaV-1, -3, and -4). So far, no vector has been reported for GLRaV -2 or GLRaV-7 (but as other viruses are propagated by cuttings). Research has shown that leafroll viruses are able to recombine in mixed infections, generating many variants of similar viruses that scientists define as a quasispecies (i.e., almost a species). These genomic changes have serious implications on virus detection as standard methods may miss infection. Transmission by mealybug and soft scale insects has been reported for GLRaV-1, -3, and -4. Different mealibugs such as the grape (Pseudococcus maritimus), citrus (Planococcus citri), long-tailed (Pseudococcus longispinus), obscure (Pseudococcus viburni) and vine (Planococcus ficus) are able to transmit Ampeloviruses and Vitiviruses non-specifically. Furthermore, work in South Africa has shown that a single individual of vine or long-tailed mealybug is capable of starting a GLRaV-3 infection.
Sampling in The Vineyard:
The correct identification of the disease causal agent is critical for devising a control strategy. Regular visual inspections and sampling of grapevines should be performed to monitor the disease status of a vineyard. It might not always be possible to correlate the presence of virus infection with symptoms, especially with new viral infections. Complicating matters, other viruses, fungi, or nutritional deficiencies can cause similar symptoms in grapevines. Furthermore, vines planted on their own roots do not develop typical symptoms. Symptoms may appear two or more years after top-working a vineyard with a new variety. Viruses associated with leafroll move slowly in the vine and may remain undetected by laboratory testing, unless sampling is done correctly. Collection of representative samples will allow the laboratory to detect the presence of viruses associated with leafroll. The season for testing is important and samples should be collected from vines late in the summer throughout dormancy.
Two methods can be used for the detection of leafroll-associated viruses: ELISA and RT-PCR. Each method is designed to detect different portions of the virus. ELISA detects the capsid protein (coat or protective cover), and RT-PCR detects the viral genomic RNA (genetic information). Therefore, ELISA and RT-PCR complement each other on the detection of virus and virus variants. ELISA stands for enzyme-linked immuno-sorbent assay, and consists of trapping the virus protective protein on a plastic test plate containing specific viral antibodies. The detection is done through a colorimetric enzymatic reaction (positive samples yield a yellow color). The method is limited to the amount of virus present in the sample (i.e., there is not amplification or danger of laboratory contamination). RT-PCR, is the abbreviation for reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. The method involves the amplification or multiplication of viral RNA present in the vine. The process is specific, and utilizes a couple of primers to start the amplification process. Primers are essentially artificial copies of a portion of the viral genome. The amplification is repeated many times, each step or cycle continues to makes more copies of the viral segment. Consequently, RT-PCR is a sensitive technique for the detection of plant viruses.
As mentioned above, the sensitivity and specificity of the detection of viruses associated with leafroll is dependent on the method used for diagnostics. However, detection it is also influenced by the season and part of the vine from which samples were collected as well as the quality of reagents used. While ELISA is known to be less sensitive than RT-PCR, the ELISA has a broader spectrum of detection (i.e., it detects virus variants). On the other hand, RT-PCR (especially Taqman PCR) may be too specific, and could miss the detection of a virus with small changes due to mutation or recombination (e.g., variant species). Lately, fewer quality ELISA reagents are being developed as designing PCR primers is less time consuming. My recommendation is to use ELISA initially (commercial reagents work well for GLRaV-1 to -4) and RT-PCR to confirm infection (or lack of infection). When mapping infection in a white fruited grape block such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, ELISA may be the only economical way of determining the leafroll disease status of specific vines as many samples must be tested in a yearly basis.
Leafroll Disease Management and Control Strategies
To manage leafroll disease, it is important to develop a map of virus infected vines. The map will provide information of virus spread and determine the pattern of infection. A random distribution of symptomatic vines would generally be associated with planting infected vines. While symptomatic vines aggregated or clustered in one area of the vineyard block is an indication of virus spread. The initial assessment must be done using a testing lab to determine the presence of a virus species capable of being transmitted. Once the vineyard manager is familiar with symptoms, the mapping could be done by visual observation. It is much easier to determine the characteristic leaf roll disease symptoms in red fruited varieties. In white varieties it may be possible to train eyes to determine the presence of infection but likely will rely on the confirmation of the presence of virus by testing vines.
Effective disease control requires the availability of clean planting stock (i.e., certified disease-free tested). However, to ensure that the vineyard remains disease free, the grower must be aware of the presence of virus infection in neighboring vineyards. It is important to devise procedures to protect a healthy vineyard from potential disease introduction. The presence of insect vectors and ants should be routinely monitored and controlled. Unfortunately, mealybugs are not always easy to observe in the vineyard, however the presence of ants are usually associated with the presence of mealybugs. Special traps (including pheromone traps) are available to monitor the presence of mealybug infestation. The dispersal of mealybugs by birds, wind, field equipment, and/or workers are responsible for long distance spread of virus. Sanitary practices such as fallow periods, sanitation of equipment, and sanitation of field worker’s clothing are recommended to avoid moving disease vectors from one vineyard block to another. I always recommend to start work in the non-infected blocks and move workers to infected blocks at the later part of the day.
Controlling the spread of viruses requires strict protocols for handling vines and performing cultural practices in the vineyard and nursery. Hot water treatment of vine cuttings and grafted vines are effective controlling the movement of mealybugs from one site to another. Other recommended practices include establishing wind traps, planting insecticidal cover or border crops, using site dedicated clothing and/or shoes for workers, and avoiding the use of potentially contaminated equipment in the vineyard.
Ultimately, the removal of infected vines or entire blocks will be key to reducing the source of infection. Guidelines call for rouging (removal of individual infected vines) if there is less than 25% disease incidence and entire blocks (greater than 25% disease incidence). A common mistake is the removal of a portion of the infected vineyard block (see photo 2). This decision is made to avoid production losses at the vineyard. However, in no time, the newly planted vines will become infected by the same virus present in the other portion of the vineyard.
The control of leafroll spread needs to be based on a concerted effort among growers. In California the development of a network of neighboring growers has allowed open discussion of infection status of blocks and applied control measures. The use of cultural practices (especially sanitation and insect control applications) should be coordinated and scheduled to include area-wide treatments as grapevine viruses and their vectors do not know or respect neighboring borders.
Judit Monis, Ph.D. provides specialized services to help growers, vineyard managers, and nursery personnel avoid the propagation and transmission of disease caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses in their vineyard blocks. Judit (based in California) is fluent in Spanish and is available to consult in all wine grape growing regions of the word. Please visit juditmonis.comfor information or contact email@example.com to request a consulting session at your vineyard.
When most people think of patents, they think of new machines, new medicines, or improved manufacturing processes. These inventions are protected by “utility patents.” Some people may also be familiar with “design patents,” which protect a novel ornamental design, such as the front grill of a luxury car. But, there is a third class of patents with which most people are unfamiliar, “plant patents.” As the name suggests, plant patents protect new plant varieties, such as a new strain of wine grape vine.
Not all plants are eligible for patent protection, however. United States Code, Title 35, Section 161 provides that: “[w]hoever invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant, including cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state, may obtain a patent therefore…”
There are some key words in that statute, most importantly, “asexually reproduces.” Asexually propagated plants are not grown from seeds, but by rooting of cuttings, layering, budding, grafting, inarching, etc. Plants capable of sexual reproduction are not excluded from patent eligibility if they are also capable of being reproduced asexually. “Tuber propagated plants” are those that are grown from short, thickened portions of an underground branch, such as the Irish potato or the Jerusalem artichoke. The policy reason for excluding these asexually produced plants is that they are propagated by the same part of the plant that is sold as food.
A Brief History
Prior to enactment of the U.S. Plant Patent Act of 1930, two factors kept plants from patent protection. First, even plants that were artificially bred were considered products of nature. Second, it was thought that plants were not capable of being described in sufficient detail to satisfy the rigorous requirements of 35 U.S.C. §112(a), which provides that the application for a patent “shall contain a written description of the invention, and of the manner and process of making and using it, in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art to which it pertains, or with which it is most nearly connected, to make and use the same…” In enacting the U.S. Plant Patent Act, Congress recognized the contribution made by someone who creates a plant that did not otherwise exist in nature and relaxed the written description requirement for plant patents to, “a description… as complete as is reasonably possible.”
Should You Patent Your New Variety of Wine Grape Vine?
If you develop a new variety of wine grape vine that is particularly well suited for a certain growing environment, or yields more grape juice per acre than its precursor varieties, or is resistant to smoke taint, or just has a unique flavor profile, it may have significant market value. If so, there are two ways to protect your discovery. First, you could simply keep the new variety a trade secret. This would require that you only share the details of the variety with those who need the information to do their job and take measures to ensure that no cuttings, seeds, or other materials leave your property that could be used to reproduce the new plant. If someone else independently develops your variety, you will have little recourse against their use of the new vine.
A plant patent enables you to exclude others from asexually reproducing the plant, from using, offering for sale, selling in, or importing into, the United States, the plant so reproduced, or any of its parts (e.g., grapes) without your written permission or license. How they acquire the new variety is irrelevant; possession of illegally propagated plants of a patented species is infringement, even if the reproduction is inadvertent. Not only does this protect your ability to maintain exclusive use of the new variety, but it can open a new revenue stream as the patent can be licensed, giving you a royalty for every vine of the new variety that is sold. As with other forms of patents, the downsides to seeking the protection of a plant patent are the initial cost (which can be about $8,000) and the limited term of protection (20 years from the application filing date).
How Do I Apply for a Plant Patent?
As with utility and design patents, it is possible for you to file and prosecute your own plant patent application. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, however, has very strict rules and processes for how applications are to be made and, in most cases, it is much simpler to hire a competent patent attorney to handle the application process for you. Regardless of whether you hire an attorney or do it yourself, there is some information you will have to provide.
The application must give “as full and complete a disclosure as possible of the plant and the characteristics thereof that distinguish the same over related known varieties… and must particularly point out where and in what manner the variety of plant has been asexually reproduced.” As an example, U.S. Plant Patent No. 30,263, “Grape Plant Named ‘Crimson Pearl,’” issued on March 5, 2019 and contained the following description:
“’Crimson Pearl’ is a new and distinct variety of grape plant selected from a group of seedlings resulting from a controlled cross of female parent `MN 1094` (not patented) and male parent `E.S. 4-7-26` (not patented) carried out at Hugo, Minn. in 1996. `Crimson Pearl` was selected for its excellent winter hardiness, late bud break in springtime and excellent suitability as a red wine grape. Asexual propagation by hardwood cutting was first carried out in 2002 at Hugo, Minn.; subsequent asexual propagations have shown the variety to be stable and to reproduce true to type through successive generations.”
Notice that the plant was first created in 1996 and the first asexual reproduction was carried out in 2002, yet the application for this patent was not filed until 2016 and issued in 2019. This is an important point, because plant patents are subject to the requirements of 35 U.S.C. §102(a)(1), which provides that the applicant will not be entitled to a patent if the claimed invention was “described in a printed publication, or in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention.” In this case, twenty years elapsed between the first creation of the variety and the filing date. In order to satisfy section 102, therefore, the inventor must not have described the new variety in any printed publication or sold the vine or made it publicly available during that twenty year period.
As part of the application, photographs or detailed drawings that are artistically and competently executed must be included of the plant. If color is a distinguishing characteristic of the new variety, the photographs or drawings must be submitted in color. In some cases, the examiner may also require that the applicant submit specimens of the plant, or its flower or fruit, at a time in its stage of growth that the examiner designates, for study and inspection (though if the examiner requests a specimen in the form of a bottle of finished wine, the request should be viewed with a bit of skepticism).
As with utility patents, examination of the application involves a comparison of the claimed invention to the “prior art” (i.e., the plants known to have existed before the application). Generally, this comparison involves a search of appropriate subclasses of the US patent classification system as well as patent and non-patent literature databases. In some cases, however, an examiner will request an analysis from the Agricultural Research Service, Horticultural Research Branch of the Department of Agriculture. The authority for this type of request comes from an Executive Order issued by President Herbert Hoover in 1930.
Because plant patents apply only to the whole plant and not parts thereof, they must be claimed in their entirety. In other words, your patent should not claim “a new variety of grape characterized by…” or be titled, “A New Variety of Grape, named ‘XYZ,’” because it is not the grape itself that is subject to the patent, but the entire grape vine.
This raises the question of why a new variety has to be “named” at all. The answer lies in The International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (generally known by the French acronym “UPOV Convention”). As a signatory to this convention, the United States requires the applicant to include a “variety denomination” for the new plant. The examiner must evaluate this denomination to ensure it is not identical with or confusingly similar to other names utilized in the United States or other UPOV member countries for the same or a closely related species. Further the proposed denomination must not mislead the average consumer as to the characteristics, value, or identity of the patented plant. If this language seems familiar, it is essentially the same standard that is applied for evaluation of a trademark application.
Plant patents are a useful tool to protect new varieties of grape vines. Growers should be aware not only of the ability to protect their discoveries, but of the basic requirements to obtain patent protection and the actions that may potentially jeopardize their opportunities to seek protection. A knowledgeable patent attorney, engaged early in the process, can help to identify those new varieties that are eligible for a plant patent and to avoid waiving potential patent rights.
Brian Kaider is a principal of KaiderLaw, an intellectual property law firm with extensive experience in the craft beverage industry. He has represented clients from the smallest of start-up breweries to Fortune 500 corporations in the navigation of regulatory requirements, drafting and negotiating contracts, prosecuting trademark and patent applications, and complex commercial litigation.