Nitrogen Use Remains An Important Part Of Winemaking

By: Gerald Dlubala  

There are as many secrets and tricks of the trade-in producing great tasting wines as there are winemakers. But most winemakers can agree that the use of nitrogen is key to the process. Nitrogen application within the winemaking process can be used in every phase of production through dispensing in a tasting room. It is suitable for use in tank blanketing, equipment purging, pump and filter membrane testing, pressure transfers, must lifting and even with centrifuge use. Nitrogen’s predominant use, however, is still in the container filling function.  By introducing nitrogen during the bottle or can filling process to displace the natural oxygen present in the headspace of the containers, the winemaker can better control oxidation, the chemical reaction that can significantly change the consistency, flavor and bouquet of the wine while in its container.

  By controlling the oxidation rate, the shelf life of the wine is significantly extended. And with today’s consumer seeking more convenient packaging choices, the inherent usefulness and benefits of liquid nitrogen dosing increases.

Convenience Packaging Increases Need For Nitrogen Dosing

  “Nitrogen dosing is almost a must in today’s marketplace and will likely remain useful and important for the foreseeable future,” says Jim Fallon, Application Engineer for Vacuum Barrier Corporation, a complete one-source provider of custom and standard liquid nitrogen (LN2) solutions for all applications.

  “When you talk in general terms, there are continuous discussions regarding the reduction of waste and the movement to more recyclables in our environment,” says Fallon. “Realistically, in today’s market, that means more of a movement to aluminum as a more convenient, recyclable, environmentally friendly container for many rigid packaging applications. And in the case of wineries, that means an increase in aluminum can packaging. So now, in addition to the need for oxygen reduction, you’re talking about the need for adding pressure for container stability. Nitrogen dosing addresses both of these issues. The distributed dosage amount is fully customizable, being dependent on the amount of air that is left in the headspace of the container to be filled and where the in-line dosers are located with respect to the sealing, capping or corking operation.”

  Vacuum Barrier Corporation provides complete liquid nitrogen dosing systems, including all the necessary piping from the nitrogen supply through the doser that dispenses the nitrogen in liquid drop form. Using nitrogen in liquid form has shown to be more economical than standard gaseous use. The liquid droplets expand by 700x their volume, so a little goes a long way in pressurizing packages and purging headspace. By dispensing the nitrogen in a liquid state for dosing, it allows the nitrogen droplet to immediately fall to the bottom of the headspace before the rapid transition to its gaseous state, subsequently pushing the oxygen out. Regarding aluminum cans, that transition to gas also provides the necessary pressurization immediately before the seaming process to provide can stability and rigidity. When wineries choose to replace corks with screw caps, they add a little more headspace in the bottle that must be purged, affecting dose size. The entire liquid to gas transition and capping/seaming can take a second or less, so dosing amount and timing are critical.

  While dosing systems can become one of the most important systems in the packaging process, Fallon tells The Grapevine Magazine that nitrogen storage and auxiliary equipment are equally important to the process, and like the dosers, must be properly fitted to the needs of the end-user.

  “Storage vessels are generally available in two forms, larger bulk tanks or the smaller portable units called dewars. Bulk tanks are normally outside installations while the portable dewars are kept inside and located closer to where they are used. Both designs generally feature a double-wall construction with a vacuum space sandwiched between the two walls. That allows the tank’s outside surface to remain at the ambient temperatures while the inner space will be able to hold the proper cryogenic temperatures. To combat against any bit of temperature loss, insulated piping, using that same vacuum design, is recommended to maintain efficiency.”

Sizing Your Dosing System To Your Needs

  Chart Industries is a recognized leader in the design and manufacture of cryogenic equipment used from beginning to end in any liquid gas supply chain. Their liquid nitrogen dosing systems and cryogenic storage units are some of the most relied on throughout the wine industry.

  “Nitrogen dosing is done simply for oxygen reduction in the winemaking and bottling process,” says Tyler Jones, Product Manager of Dosing Systems for Chart Industries. “But the added benefits that come with nitrogen dosing include improved shelf life with better ability to maintain the integrity of the product as it ages. Everything ages, but not everything ages well, or properly. By dosing with nitrogen, we allow the wine to age well AND properly, staying true to the flavor profile that the winemaker came up with and intended for you to experience. Nitrogen dosing simply leads to a better product with a truer flavor. The doser is fitted in between the filler valve and cappers/corkers, delivering a single drop of measured liquid nitrogen that then expands 700x its volume during the transformation from liquid to gas. That’s enough to remove all other gases occupying that same space, effectively reducing the total package oxygen.”

  Chart Industries documented data on liquid nitrogen dosing suggests that extended shelf-life studies show a 90-95% reduction in headspace oxygen content and a 59% reduction in total package oxygen when compared to a traditional gas purge of headspace.

  Juancho Tabangay, Director of Sales – LN2 Dosing for Chart Industries, tells The Grapevine Magazine that their main focus is installing the properly sized liquid nitrogen dosing systems and storage for each customer they work with.

  “There is no one size fits all,” says Tabangay. “We can provide a vast range of storage and dosing options throughout many industries, so what is best for a particular winery ultimately depends on their specific nitrogen use and overall consumption needs. You don’t want your nitrogen supplier to have to deliver to you more than once a week, so we’ll properly size each part of the nitrogen storage, delivery and dosage system to meet that goal.”

Chart Industries is the first to provide a complete turnkey liquid nitrogen dosing system, from dosers, valves, piping, phase separators on to bulk storage options. They are the world’s leading single-source liquid nitrogen equipment and solutions provider across the whole liquid nitrogen chain from initial liquification through end-user dosing. Their equipment allows for high quality, low pressure nitrogen on demand resulting in a consistent, continuous supply of unsaturated liquid nitrogen. And while nitrogen use in winemaking is generally used for preservation, Tabangay says that nitrogen dosing is also a very efficient way to pressurize a variety of packaging, use in freezing applications like the trendy nitrogen ice cream, and to use in modified atmosphere packaging for coffees, nuts, formula, etc. And we all know how good those nitrogen dosed coffees and beers are.

  Being a complete turnkey system supplier, Chart Industries provides a full line of storage solutions based on your total consumption needs and flow requirements, providing tanks ranging from portable dewars to the largest bulk storage tanks. Their standard cryogenic tank is considered the industry workhorse, able to be customized when needed to fit any situation. They’re available in insulated horizontal or vertical configurations ranging from 524 to 264,000-gallon capacities, making them a reliable storage solution with reduced maintenance and low cost of ownership. Chart’s bulk storage tanks feature pearlite insulation or their own proprietary vacuum Composite Super Insulation system, making for a lightweight tank with high thermal performance and extended hold times while featuring reduced operational and installation costs.

When It Comes To Nitrogen Use In Wineries, Size Doesn’t Matter

  The Cave Vineyard and Distillery, located in picturesque St Genevieve, Missouri, uses the smaller, portable dewars in their winery operation. Marty Strussione, winemaker and owner, keeps four 50-pound nitrogen-filled dewars on-site at all times. Two of them are always in use and the other two are spares.

  “We use nitrogen two ways,” says Strussione. “We first use nitrogen for purging the oxygen out the bottles while they’re still empty, and then we also use it immediately before our capper to get the remaining oxygen out of the headspace before the bottle gets sealed.”

  On rare occasions, Strussione will use nitrogen to top off his tanks when needed, but that’s generally done with CO2.

  “I do think about different ways to handle the nitrogen supply, maybe something more convenient,” says Strussione. “But being a smaller winery, it’s just a matter of cost. We currently only put out about 20,000 bottles a year, so I can’t justify adding a bulk tank or onsite nitrogen generator right now. We do make use of an ozone machine, but that’s about the extent of it.”

  At the other end of the spectrum is Augusta Winery, a multiple international gold and silver award winner located in Augusta Missouri. Owner Tony Kooyumjian says, “We use nitrogen in all phases of our winemaking because each step in the process presents the opportunity to allow a certain amount of oxygenation, so the more of these opportunities that we can control, the better.”

  Kooyumjian uses nitrogen for both the bottle purging and reduction of headspace oxygen functions, but also in all of the lines to reduce the oxygenation occurring during liquid transfers. He was using so much nitrogen throughout the winery that over ten years ago he decided to purchase and install his own nitrogen generation system on-site to produce nitrogen on demand. While being costly upfront, Kooyumjian said that the system paid for itself within about three years. By doing it this way, his award-winning wines retain integrity, flavor and aroma with increased shelf life.

How Vineyards Should Tackle the Task of Dormant Weed Control

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Like all plants that are grown commercially or even as backyard hobbies, grapevines are not immune to weeds and the damage they cause. Although your grapevines may not be growing at this time of the year, the weeds around them still are. In fact, the late fall season after harvest time is often considered to be the most important time for weed control. Here is some information about how vineyards can treat their soil for dormant weed control and tips for using herbicides after harvest.

The Importance of Dormant Weed Control

  Weeds can take a lot out of grapevines after harvest, which is why this type of vineyard maintenance is so important to learn about right now. This is an ideal time to get a handle on your vineyard’s weeds while the vines are dormant and have no leaves.

  Dormant weed control helps limit soil moisture loss and prevents more weed seeds from being deposited in the soil. Ultimately, it benefits next year’s crop yield by reducing the spread of disease and reducing competition between weeds and grapevines for both water and nutrients.

  Patrick Clark, the technical marketing manager and research coordinator for BioSafe Systems, LLC, and Taylor Vadon, BioSafe’s technical sales representative, told The Grapevine Magazine how the possibility of crop injury is considerably low during dormancy due to the lack of vegetation. Headquartered in East Hartford, Connecticut but serving customers throughout North and South America, BioSafe is a family-owned manufacturer of biodegradable disease-control products. The risk of crop injury due to herbicide exposure increases when leaves and buds form during the growing season. This is why vineyard managers of conventional, mature vineyards are advised to apply herbicides during the dormancy period.

  “The primary and most effective weed management options during this stage are pre-emergent herbicides used in conjunction with post-emergent systemic chemistries and burndown products,” said Clark and Vadon. “The use of systemic herbicides with a burndown product, such as AXXE, is ideal for removing the weeds from under the vines to ensure a bare soil area. By removing weeds from under the vines, a vineyard manager can maximize radiant heat from the sun to minimize possible frost injury leading up to and during budbreak. The reduction of weeds will also reduce nutrient and water competition when the vines transition from dormancy into the growing season.”

  “Furthermore, having bare soil under the vines is critical in maximizing the efficacy of any pre-emergent herbicides, as it will allow for full coverage of the area,” Clark and Vadon said. “After adequate rainfall or irrigation water moving the pre-emergent herbicide into the soil, the performance of these products will extend well into the spring and summer, which will reduce the competition of weeds during the growing season.”

Types of Weeds in Vineyards

  In many vineyards, you’ll find annual weeds that live less than a year and also perennial weeds that live more than two years. It is crucial that vineyard operators consider both types separately for dormant weed control strategies. Perennial weeds can include poison oak and Canada thistle. Meanwhile, some weeds should be controlled before the vineyard is established, such as bindweed and horse nettle. Weeds are also often classified as summer annuals and winter annuals. Weeds are very regionally specific, so take some time to learn about the weeds common to your area so you can devise a plan to kill them effectively.

  One common mistake that vineyards make with regard to dormant weed control is not applying burndown products and other post-emergent herbicides at the right target plant height. Clark and Vadon from BioSafe recommend treating target weeds at one to three inches maximum height to ensure complete coverage when using a burndown herbicide.

  “When weeds become too large or mature, obtaining adequate coverage by getting product contact throughout the target weeds becomes difficult, thus reducing efficacy,” they said.

  Weather is another persistent concern for vineyards looking to get weeds under control because rainfast timing varies with different herbicides. If you apply the herbicide too early, the product can get washed off the plant’s surface, thereby minimizing the effectiveness of the herbicide’s active ingredient.

  “It is important to note here that a vineyard manager or applicator should consult the product label to be sure of proper rates by plant height and best use recommendations,” said Clark and Vadon. “Understanding the products, proper timing and rates of application, tracking the weather conditions and good planning will ensure your chosen burndown product will be effective.”

Non-Chemical Weed Control Methods

  Weeds can be controlled by both chemical and non-chemical methods, and the choice of method depends on the severity of the weed problem and whether you plan to make organic wine with your grapes. One chemical-free weed control method involves applying a synthetic mulch made of a plastic or geotextile; however, this material can be difficult to keep in place and expensive. You can also apply organic mulch that is several inches deep to reduce weed growth. But be mindful of the fact that organic mulch can offset the nitrogen balance, introduce new seeds from the content of the mulch or create a habitat that rodents love.

  Black plastic and landscape fabrics work well for weed suppression if your vineyard can afford these materials and avoid damaging them during normal vineyard operations. Only the very tiniest vineyards can manage pulling weeds by hand, while machine weeders can assist larger vineyards if they are able to cut close enough to the roots or make multiple trips through the rows. Try planting a cover crop to out-compete weeds in your vineyard but ensure that your chosen cover crop doesn’t compete with the vines. Other organic weed control methods include soil solarization before planting and flaming with propane after planting. Animals, such as geese and sheep, can be used to control weeds without chemicals, as well as organic herbicides made with agricultural vinegar.

Weed Control with Chemical Aids

  If these methods aren’t effective or based upon a vineyard owner’s preference, chemical-based herbicides are commonly used to kill seedings in their earliest stages of formation. Some options are Prowl, Surflan and Diuron, while other herbicides are not used for vineyards because they will harm the vines. Alion is an herbicide that is used in vineyards with grapes that are at least five years old and with root systems that are at least 12 inches deep.

  Roundup PowerMaxx, Rely 280, Shark EW and AXXE are common systemic and burndown herbicides that control many plant species when rotated or tank-mixed. Clark and Vadon of BioSafe mentioned several pre-emergent herbicides for long residual management of tough-to-control weed species, including iChateau SW, Alion, Trellis and Matrix.

  For annual weeds, it is common to use a pre-emergent herbicide to interfere with the weeds’ germination. Glyphosate is often used in pre-plant situations, with multiple applications necessary for perennials that are well-established. Meanwhile, systemic herbicides are most common for perennial weeds, such as poison ivy, poison oak and Canada thistle.

  After harvest, you can apply a pre-emergent herbicide by itself or combined with another herbicide. This is usually done in both the spring and fall or done as a single winter treatment along with a post-emergent herbicide to address weeds that are currently growing in the vineyard. Coarse and sandy soil with little organic matter can use lower rates of herbicides, while silt and clay soil with high organic matter will need more of the product.

  To help vineyards control weeds after harvest, BioSafe offers AXXE, a broad-spectrum herbicide used for non-selective, weed control of grasses and broadleaf weeds for herbicidal burndown applications in established vineyards during dormancy. AXXE provides fast-acting results on many weeds, mosses, lichens and sedges.

  “This product is an herbicidal soap (40% ammonium nonanoate) comprised of a form of ammoniated pelargonic salts that provide rapid burndown of weeds and breaks down quickly leaving no harmful residue,” said Clark and Vadon. “These salts penetrate the cell walls of plants, disrupting the cellular functions of the targeted weeds and killing them within hours of application. AXXE is an American-made herbicide that is ideal as a tank-mix partner for systemic products to provide an innovative mode of action increasing efficacy and resistance management.”

Final Tips About Dormant Weed Control

  Just after Thanksgiving is an ideal time to apply herbicide in many parts of the country before a second application of residual annual grass herbicides in the late spring for late summer control. Regardless of what herbicide you use, always spray it at the weed foliage and soil rather than the vines’ leaves, shoots, or young wood. If weeds are sparse, it may be best to use a visual weed-seeking sprayer to reduce unnecessary spread of the herbicide. It also helps to place a grow tube around the vines to spray for weeds without injuring vines. In addition to deciding on chemical and non-chemical weed control methods, vineyards also need to plan ahead for the equipment required, such as sprayer technology that can fit onto the front of a tractor, a spinning disk under a dome to shield vines from herbicide contact, or a backyard-type sprayer for small vineyards.

  Clark and Vadon of BioSafe’s most important piece of advice about applying herbicide is that worker safety is always paramount. This means that vineyard managers, labor crews, and applicators must be aware of the rules and regulations of herbicide use and read product labels to understand handling and mixing procedures, personal protective equipment needed, and best use recommendations.

  “Regarding weed management in established vineyards during dormancy, we would recommend rotating and/or tank-mixing products from varying modes of action when developing a weed management plan,” said Clark and Vadon. “This will reduce the likelihood of resistant weeds from developing, thus ensuring the industry will have effective products for many seasons to come.”

News & Notes on the Canadian Wine Industry

By: Briana Tomkinson

Across Canada, provincial governments are slowly loosening restrictions for producers and retailers of wine, beer and alcoholic craft beverages. For most in the industry, relaxing regulations on what can be produced and where it can be sold can’t happen fast enough.

  Federal and provincial governments are also investing heavily in new programs to encourage Canadian winemakers to scale up their businesses, as well as agricultural science initiatives to improve growing efficiency and reduce crop threats.

  Meanwhile, one researcher at a Canadian university has proven that wine-drinkers really can judge a bottle by its label. Read on for more on these and other stories about what’s going on in Canada’s wine industry.

B.C. to Allow Imported Wine in Grocery Stores

  In July, British Columbia amended its laws to allow licensed grocery stores to stock wine from anywhere in the world. Previously, the province had only permitted locally produced wines with a Vintners Quality Alliance designation on grocery shelves.

  The previous policy caused friction with international trade partners, including the U.S., the Eu-ropean Union and New Zealand, who have all lodged complaints with the World Trade Organi-zation.

  According to an article published in Business In Vancouver magazine, there are at least 29 gro-cery stores in the province that are permitted to sell British Columbia VQA wine. Prior to 2015, wine could not be sold in the province’s grocery stores.

  The trend to open alcohol sales channels beyond the provincial liquor distribution board outlets is continuing in Ontario too. The provincial government announced in June that it would soon change the rules to allow sales of wine and beer in corner and grocery stores.

  According to an Oct. 5 article in CBC News, Ontario distilleries are now lobbying for permission to sell spirits in these outlets too. This follows recommendations from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce published in July that recommend making it easier for customers to buy all types of alcohol, including allowing online liquor sales.

Ontario Invests $15-Million to Grow Wine, Beer and Craft Beverage Industry

  In late September, the government of Ontario announced a plan to invest $15 million to boost local wineries, microbreweries and distilleries. The one-year transition funding is targeted at helping wineries grow their VQA business, promoting Ontario wine tourism, providing support for cideries and distilleries to scale up and expand their operations, as well as improving mar-keting, tourism, export and research initiatives.

The government also announced it would reduce red tape for producers. The changes will in-cluding allowing wineries, cideries and distilleries to keep serving booze in their tasting rooms until midnight, instead of being required to close at 9 p.m., and making it easier for producers to sell at farmers’ markets.

This news follows a few other notable funding announcements in the sector.

In August, the federal and provincial governments announced $75,000 in new funding to ad-vance the production of locally grown grapes in the Niagara region.

  A part of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the new fund includes $67,600 to develop a modern weather network with real-time information that will enhance eGrape, an existing in-dustry database. The database provides growers with information that can improve efficiency and productivity. The fund also includes $8,700 for an analysis of the wash water used to clean grape harvesters and to survey grape growers about water use practices.

  The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five-year, $3 billion commitment from federal, pro-vincial and territorial governments to improve Canada’s agri-food and agri-product sectors. 

  According to the Grape Growers of Ontario, grapes grown for Ontario wines contribute more than $4 billion annually to the province’s economy. The industry employs over 18,000 people.

Turns Out You Really Can Judge a Wine by Its Label

  New research from the University of British Columbia suggests that looks really do count—when it comes to wine, at least.

  Through a series of online surveys and in-person tests designed to determine each person’s branding and taste preference, the UBC study found that people were more likely to enjoy wine from a bottle with a design that reflected their personal identity.

  In a CBC News report on the findings, researcher Darcen Esau, a wine marketing consultant, said people thought the wine tasted better when they identified with the imagery on the label—no matter what was actually in their glass.

  The study, released in spring 2019, was conducted as part of Esau’s master’s program at UBC. Esau has since gone on to found TasteAdvisor (http://tasteadvisor.co/), an app that rec-ommends British Columbia wines, wineries and wine events or experiences based on your per-sonal profile and preferences.

Canadian Cidermaker Spared Paying $2 Million in Duties After Court Declares Cider is Wine

  A recent ruling by the Federal Court of Appeal found that a Canadian cidery was not required to pay the roughly $2 million in duties demanded by the Canadian government because the cider was technically considered Canadian-made wine, and therefore exempt.

  According to the Excise Act, any alcoholic beverage made from fermenting plants (except for grains) is considered wine. That’s important because the Canadian government imposes ex-cise duties on alcohol, but makes exceptions for Canadian-made wine.

  The Canada Revenue Agency argued that because Okanagan Premium Cider and Extra Hard Cider, produced by the Mark Anthony Group, was made using foreign-sourced apple juice concentrate and, in the case of the extra hard cider, foreign-produced spirits, the beverages were no longer “Canadian” and the alcohol duties should apply.

  The case centered on a key question: when exactly is wine “produced?” The judge determined that the test of a wine’s “Canadian-ness” should be applied at the time of fermentation, not bottling. He also noted that, if the assessment happened at the bottling stage, the addition of water, commonly added to cider after fermentation, would automatically disqualify the product from being wine since water is not a plant grown in Canada. 

164 wineries to showcase at Vancouver International Wine Festival next year

  The 42nd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival (http://vanwinefest.ca/), scheduled for Feb. 22 to March 1, 2020, will feature 164 wineries from 15 countries pouring over 650 varieties of wine.

  The festival has been named the top food, wine and hospitality event in Canada by New York’s BizBash for seven years running, and was recently named the best North American interna-tional wine festival by LUX Life Magazine.

  Just over 40 of the participating wineries are from this year’s featured country of France, with another 70 from North America. There will also be representatives from wineries in Italy, Ger-many, Croatia, Romania and the Iberian peninsula, as well as two Sake producers from Japan.

  Tasting events will feature over 200 French wines, and the country’s wines will be celebrated in more than two dozen more activities, including vine star seminars, vintage tastings, winery din-ners, a wine party and a Saturday lunch, Bon Appétit, which will feature all 43 participating French wineries. The festival will spotlight rosé wines from around the world, with an estimated 75 varieties to taste, many from Provence.

  The main event will take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre, however more than 25 res-taurants and other venues will host wine-related events all over town. Discounted advance tickets went on sale Nov. 6 while public event tickets go on sale Jan. 8. Tickets for trade events are on sale Jan. 22.