Best Practices for Water Management  

By: Becky Garrison   

  During the virtual Oregon Wine Symposium (February 15-17, 2022),  Cheney Vidrine, winemaker for Union Wine Company, moderated a panel on winery sustainability focusing on best practices for water management in the cellar.

  Brighid O’Keane, former outreach director for LIVE, opened with a brief overview of LIVE’s sustainability standards for wineries. LIVE is a Pacific Northwest (OR, WA and ID) organization that supports environmentally and socially responsible wine-growing through third-party certification and education. Their certification is granted based on their values, which are climate action, biodiversity, soil health, worker rights, natural ressource conservation and pesticide reduction. At present, they have 328 vineyard members that produce 425,000 cases of certified wine (97 percent certified fruit).

  LIVE contracted with Erin Upton from Erin Upton Consulting to analyze the environmental impact of their member wineries, focusing on water use in the winery. First, Upton noted the myriad ways wineries utilize water. In the cellar, water is used year-round on the hospitality side for dishwashing, toilet flushing and watering visitor areas. Water use rises during harvesting and bottling.

  Upton notes how wine industries exist in the context of regional communities where water resources are shared by others who often have varied or possibly conflicting needs around water. “Water operates in a hydrologic cycle and moves through the air and landscape in ways that don’t adhere to land ownership boundaries or political boundaries.”

  In her research, Upton uses a framework to look at the interconnected relationships between social, ecological and institutional systems in wine regions and how these contribute to decision-making and impact outcomes around water resources and water management. A major impact is climate change challenges, with weather extremes informing the amount of snowpack that will be available for water use, as well as the increased demand for water use as a result of heat waves.

  Another major impact is on water availability, meaning the ability to access clean water in the amounts needed on a timely basis. The institutional systems influencing water decision-making in wine regions include legal regimes, legislation, policy and management. This goes along with the constellation of regulators, planners, businesses, nonprofits and other governments like tribes that influence decision-making about water at the local, regional, state and federal levels.

  The third category she considers is social systems, which include cultural aspects, such as one’s values, economics and political contexts. Upton observes, “People hold different values about what contributes to making the highest quality of wine ranging from economic and cost considerations to a commitment to environmental stewardship.”

  In accessing winery water use data from 31 LIVE-certified wineries from 2018-2020, Upton observed that most of the 31 wineries use less than 500,000 total gallons of water each year, and the average annual total water use rate is approximately 1.4 million gallons. There was a wide variation between wineries for water use rates, ranging from 0.39  gallons of water per case of wine to 72 gallons per case of wine. Approximately half the wineries used 10 gallons of water per case of wine produced or less, which translates to 3.6 gallons per gallon of wine produced. The average water use rate is 17 gallons of water per case of wine, which translates to 6.3 gallons of water per gallon of wine produced.

  Although there is no statistically significant change in water use across these three years, a little over 70 percent of wineries reported less water use in 2020 than in 2018. But it’s important to note that in the same time period, the total production dropped by nearly two million cases overall due to COVID-19 and the 2020 wildfire season.

  Through the act of monitoring water use, multiple wineries reported that they discovered leaks that were contributing to the higher amounts of water used. In Upton’s estimation, this discovery is a good endorsement for them to pay attention and monitor any leaks.

Building a More Sustainable Winery Program

  Katie Jackson, second-generation proprietor and SVP for corporate social responsibility at Jackson Family Wines (Santa Rosa, CA), and Haley Duncan, safety and sustainability manager for Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars (CA and OR), discussed the practical ways they work to achieve a more sustainable winery.

  According to Jackson, they have been focused on conserving water since they began their winery 40 years ago. They participate in multiple certification programs, including LIVE. At present, they are saving about 29 million gallons of water in their wineries based upon the conservation practices they put in place, along with keeping sixty percent of their land in its natural habitat to preserve the health of those natural ecosystems going strong.  

  Since 2015, they’ve conducted an exhaustive inventory, along with a third-party audit, so they can track their emissions. Jackson notes, “Having this inventory is really helpful in showing us where we can make some changes and lets us know where we need to be focused going into the future to continue to decarbonize.” This move has reduced their carbon footprint by 17.8 percent of their absolute emissions, with the goal to reduce their carbon footprint in half by 2030 and become climate-positive by 2050. 

  Presently, they have the U.S. wine industry’s largest solar array, with more than 23,000 panels and plans to continue their investment in renewable energy. Also, they reduced the bottle weight by five percent on their four highest volume bottle molds, which reduced total company emissions by 2-3 percent annually. This produced savings of approximately a million dollars annually in glass costs and $500,000 per year in fuel costs.

  Duncan described her role as project manager for the construction of their Alexander Valley winery in Chelmsford to achieve LEED Platinum status and living building status for the production side of the winery,  the tasting room and all of the vineyards on the property. They were tasked with eliminating fuel use, using alternative refrigerants and installing only electric equipment.

  They achieved positive energy, which means that they produce more energy than they require, by installing over 2,500 solar panels on their buildings. For their hot water, they partnered with a Mayekawa (MYCOM) to provide CO₂ heat pumps. These were the first pumps to be used in a winery, and they work differently than a traditional on-demand gas-fired boiler by slowly warming the water up to about 160 to 180 degrees. As this is not an on-demand system, once all the water is used in the water tank, it takes a full 24 hours to regenerate. In Duncan’s estimation, this delay represents a good thing. “It’s pushed us to be much more conservative with our winery water use in our peak water use seasons and plan ahead,” she said.

  Another piece of technology they utilize is ammonia-based refrigeration. While this has no ozone-depleting potential and no global warming potential, they needed to put the right mechanisms in place to ensure employee safety should a leak occur. Along those lines, they focused on all their electric equipment, including their HVAC and appliances, for the commercial kitchens in their tasting room.

  Also, they were tasked with designing a system that treated and reused their winery process water. As they could not find an example where another winery was actually reusing their process water back into the facility, they had to make up the process as they went along. Eventually, they landed on a piece of equipment called a membrane bioreactor, which Duncan noted is not new technology, but it has never been used in quite the way that they intended to use it. They chose this piece of equipment to treat all of their winery process water because of its ability to produce a very high-quality effluent so they could reuse the water, not just in equipment like a cooling tower or landscape irrigation, but in the cellar as well.

  When conducting their first greenhouse gas audit in 2019, they discovered that the largest impact on their inventory was product transport, which is out of their control. Most of this cost is attributed to the two-day shipping that uses airplane transport offered on their website. The second expense was packing and then an equal mix of employee commuting, tasting room traffic, purchasing products like the grapes they buy from their contract growers, their vineyard practices and soil admissions.

  At present, over half of their onsite renewable energy needs are met with solar. The remaining of that is green power they purchased through the grid.

International Wineries for Climate Action

  In 2019, Jackson Family Wines co-founded this group with Familia Torres (Spain) wineries worldwide, with the overall goal of achieving net zero emissions by at least 2050. This group seeks to bring together as many wineries across the industry as possible from all different regions across the world in order to learn from each other,  provide a roadmap with their collective knowledge and share strategies so they can get all of the members to that decarbonization goal as quickly as possible.

  The group’s accomplishments include creating a gas emissions calculator to help wineries more easily measure their carbon footprint and joining the United Nations Race to Zero campaign. It has grown from 10 to more than 30 members representing seven countries across five continents. “Having a large critical mass of wineries, I think, is going to be really critical in helping us achieve our goals as an overall industry,” Jackson reflects.

SMS Wine Marketing Compliance – 3 Simple Rules to Follow

By: Bryan St. Amant, Founder & CEO of VinterActive

  With the latest research showing SMS wine marketing is performing 32-times better than email, many DTC wineries are now eager to use text messaging to grow their business.

The great news is wine lovers are especially interested in staying in touch with their favorite brands using text messaging, and a new crop of SMS wine marketing solutions are now available.

  But industry awareness of the compliance rules all U.S. wineries must follow still seems to be a problem. Misinformation spread by dubious sources and rumors on social media now puts some wineries at risk of severe consequences.

  So in this article, we’ll demystify SMS wine marketing compliance so your winery can delight your customers and confidently profit from text messaging.

  DISCLAIMER: This advice is offered for informational purposes only and is neither intended as nor should be substituted for consultation with appropriate legal counsel and/or your organization’s regulatory compliance team.

What Regulations Apply to SMS Wine Marketers?

  Text marketing is regulated primarily by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Unlike email marketing, these regulations are strictly enforced by the FCC.

  We don’t want to scare you, but failing to follow the law can have serious consequences. For example, in 2012, Papa John’s agreed to pay over $16 million to settle a class-action lawsuit against them for failure to get proper consent before texting their customers.

  In addition to the TCPA, wine marketers are also regulated by the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) which prohibits sending text messages about regulated products to consumers who aren’t of legal age. For SMS wine marketers accepting credit cards, you should also be familiar with the payment card industry’s PCI-DSS standards for securing payment card data.

  PCI-DSS isn’t the law, but it governs your relationship with credit card processors. And if you don’t comply with these standards, your business can be subject to costly fines and lose the ability to accept credit cards.  The good news is that SMS wine marketing compliance isn’t complicated! But it is mandatory to comply with three simple rules:

1)  Express written consent

2)  Age verification

3)  Payment card security

Express Written Consent

  Complying with the TCPA requires any business sending automated texts to obtain “express written consent” before sending any text messages.

That means you can’t just upload the names of wine club members, purchase a list of phone numbers, or assume you can text customers because you already have an “existing business relationship.”  If anyone tells you otherwise, you might ask them if they’ll foot your legal bills if they’re wrong.

You might be thinking, what’s “express written consent,” and how is it different than “written consent”?

  When you sign up for a service like Gmail, you agree to their terms and consent to paragraphs of language you probably didn’t read. But that type of consent isn’t good enough for text marketing — you can’t bury consent to receive texts in a privacy policy or a hard-to-read user agreement.

  By federal law, you must provide clear and conspicuous disclosure of what consumers are consenting to and who they’re consenting to get it from. The rules about asking customers to opt-in to text messaging depend on whether you’re sending transactional or promotional messages.

  Obtaining customer consent can be simple if you only send transactional messages containing information necessary to use your products or services. By adding a prompt to your checkout process that says, “provide your mobile number for shipping and delivery updates,” customers consent when they enter their digits.

  But the key term here is “necessary.”

  If your customers ask for SMS updates about an order, you can’t assume they’re opting in to receive texts about future releases or upcoming events. In the eyes of the FCC, these messages are promotional and require your opt-in message to include specific elements:

•    Who will be texting them.

•    What type of messages they’ll receive, and how often they’ll receive them.

•    Confirmation that consent to receive text messages isn’t required for purchase.

•    Instructions on how consumers can stop receiving your automated texts.

•    A link to your privacy policy and a disclaimer about data/message rates that may apply.

  Fortunately for wine marketers, our industry is already familiar with the importance of compliance. And SMS wine marketing solutions now offer built-in consent forms that comply with the law.

Age Verification

  In addition to the TCPA’s regulations about obtaining express written consent, wine marketers are subject to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association’s (CTIA) prohibition against sending text messages to consumers who aren’t of legal age.

  These rules apply to any business promoting products or services associated with sex, hatred, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco, otherwise known as SHAFT. CTIA’s guidelines aren’t the law, but all wine marketers should carefully follow them for two reasons. 

  First, if someone lodges a legitimate complaint that you’re sending text messages to anyone younger than 21, any reputable text marketing service will quickly suspend your account. And in our view, U.S. wineries have a moral obligation to market their products only to adults over 21.

  So what are SMS wine marketers to do? 

  The answer is to use “age gates” whenever you offer consumers the chance to join your SMS list. Most carriers accept a wide range of age gates as long as they protect you from sending text messages to minors.

Examples of popular age gates currently in use include:

•    Websites that require visitors to confirm they’re over the age of 21 before entering.

•    An automated data collection system that requires text marketing subscribers to enter their DOB or confirm they’re over the age of 21.

•    A wine commerce system that includes DOB data confirming the age of your subscribers.

•    Signage in your tasting room that makes it clear your text marketing offers are only available to adults over the age of 21.

Payment Card Security

  All SMS wine marketers accepting credit/debit cards should know never to encourage customers to transmit card data via text because it’s not secure and violates the agreements you have with your payment processor. For over a decade, all merchants accepting payment cards have been required to comply with the payment card industry’s data security standards, also known as PCI-DSS. Complying with these standards offers your winery an essential element of protection in the case of a security breach. 

  Merchants that don’t comply with PCI-DSS guidelines then suffer a breach that exposes payment card data may be liable for fines of several hundred dollars for each card compromised.  So it doesn’t take many customers for non-compliant wineries to incur fines that might put them out of business.

Astonishingly, some sources in the wine industry still encourage merchants to put themselves at risk by using non-compliant methods to collect payment card data.

  If anyone tells you they have a way for your winery to see the full 16-digits of a payment card online, they’re inviting you to violate the terms of your merchant agreement by offering a solution that doesn’t comply with PCI-DSS.

  As tempting as it might seem to collect payment card data you can copy and paste, ask yourself why you don’t have access to this same data through your online store or your payment card processor’s portal? The answer is that it puts you out of compliance with PCI-DDS, it’s not secure, can hurt your customers, and exposes your business to unnecessary risk.

  Fortunately, there’s an easy way to use text messaging to invite customers to update payment card data in a way that complies with PCI-DSS requirements. Since all modern commerce systems have secure pages where customers can update their card data, sending a link to your commerce page is the best way to use SMS messaging to help customers change their payment information.

The Bottom-Line on SMS Wine Marketing Compliance

  Compliance with the law and industry standards should already be familiar to any wine marketer. After all, we’re selling a highly regulated product.

Although SMS marketing has its own unique rules, compliance issues shouldn’t keep your customers from staying in touch with you via text.

  Now that you understand the three most important compliance rules that apply to SMS wine marketing, your business can profit too.

Happy Selling!

About the Author

  Founder & CEO of VinterActive, Bryan St. Amant, is a pioneer in developing preference-based direct marketing and its successful application in the wine industry. His award-winning work has been featured in books, magazines, and seminars.

VinterActive is located in Windsor, California. For more information please call or visit thier website…707-836-7295; vinteractive.com

The Psychology Behind Gift Buying

How to Tweak Your Messaging for More Sales this Holiday

By: Susan DeMatei, Founder of WineGlass Marketing

  There is a lot of pressure on Q4 this year. Americans fueled by high gas prices, inflation, and pent-up demand flocked to Europe instead of domestically in 2022. For most North American wineries, this resulted in a slow summer tourist season, with some wineries reporting as much as a 25% drop in sales from pre-COVID visitations. Many of our clients hope a strong holiday season will make up for a lackluster Q2 and Q3.

  The addition of gifting makes betting on Q4 reasonable. In addition to increased wine consumption among known purchasers and club members due to social occasions around the holidays, we also can sell additional wine to the same group for gift giving. In addition, those who have not tried the wine might do so as a gift, positioning this quarter as a perfect time to grow brand awareness and increase our prospect databases.

  Buying a gift is undoubtedly different from buying for personal consumption. Consider if the traditional copy and images work in both situations. Has the offer positioning and targeting of the wine been adjusted for gift occasions? Neuromarketing, the study of marketing and consumerism’s influence on the brain, has some tips for us on what messaging is appropriate when motivating consumers to buy a product they intend to give to someone else.

  Objective 1: Get existing buyers to give wine as gifts. Prior research into gift-giving has concretely established that we buy gifts based on our ego, and the subconscious motivation in most gift choices is identity-consistent. According to (Sherry, 1983), gifts become “containers for the being of the donor who gives a portion of that being to the recipient.”

  It makes sense; we buy what we would like to receive ourselves. However, it does not stop there. The gift is also an “acknowledgment by both people that the identity imposed is accepted” (Schwartz, 1967). So not only do we tend to give gifts we feel represent our self-worth, but when others accept it, they confirm that value.

  So, psychologically speaking, getting our loyal base to share the wine they have already identified as worthy should be relatively easy. The most compelling messages here would be ones of connection and pride. Bottle X is their favorite wine, and Brand Y is their favorite winery. They have the inside information on what Brand Y offers, and because of that access and knowledge, they have chosen Bottle X as the best gift.

  What if they are not so confident? Perhaps they are new to the brand or unsure about their wine knowledge. Choosing a present for someone is more complex than choosing something for oneself because of the tension inherent in selecting a product that is appropriate for the recipient while still reflective of the giver’s own identity and the relationship between the individuals. (Belk 1979; Caplow 1982). As marketers, we can relieve this tension by making a solid argument. Emotionally we need to highlight why Bottle X from Brand Y is a solid, esteemed choice that reflects well on the giver. Highlight quality and details and bring up best sellers that further confidence. We do not need to waste time on introductions to Brand Y. We can keep the message focused on the selected products that make the strongest case for the best gifts. Furthermore, do not forget to create urgency with either shipping deadlines or limited quantities.

  Cost is unimportant in this scenario because we shop with a budget concerning gifts. At the onset, Bottle X is within the consideration set or is not. Psychologically speaking, a discount will not help this purchase and might hurt perceived value. Based on cultural norms and other factors, the average gift expenditure is between $50 and $100 for a family member and between $20 and $50 for a friend. (mint.com) So our best chance is to make the most attractive and strongest argument we can within those price ranges.


  TIP: The savvy marketer will also realize a hidden opportunity to target the recipient. An expertly crafted introductory brochure inserted into the gift box serves a dual purpose of not only furthering the giver’s confidence but can engage the recipient as well.

  Objective 2: Get existing buyers to buy wine for consumption. Wine for consumption falls into either self-presentation (at the customer’s own event) or as a hostess gift to another’s event. Research shows that motivations are far less dramatic when the gift is obligatory. We have less alignment with our identity when we give from a sense of obligation, and we are more likely to select practical or utilitarian gifts than those we give from a voluntary motive.

  Here is where logic and price come into play: Avoid outliers. Choose wines that pair well with various foods and situations and are between $15 – $40, the average amount spent on wine brought to parties (Forbes.) By mentioning food pairing, we are putting Bottle X in the context of the consumers’ lives and providing ideas about where the wine will be accepted.

  TIP: For extra incentive here, try a referral offer. The consumer is already in the headspace of how he/she will be spending time and celebrating with friends. It is a tiny leap to consider who else might enjoy Bottle X and suggest an introduction.

  Objective 3: Get prospects to give wine as gifts.

If gift-giving reflects our self-image, how do we immediately resonate with someone who has not tried Bottle X? We must present Bottle X and Brand Y as attractive representations of this potential buyer. The best way to do this is to overcome any objection a potential buyer might have. These objections could be the price, quality, or taste of the wine and, more than likely, the company’s values. We are far more likely to convince a prospect that we are a good gift if we are transparent about what we stand for, and this truth aligns with our prospect’s values.

  To succeed here, highlight mainstream varietal wines between $20 – $100 and have a pretty label or custom box. (Yes, you read that right, here is where research shows us attractive labels are perceived as higher value and thus a better gift choice.) Additional validation, like a score, also helps, as does any information on company values or beliefs. Target this value group on Meta or Google for even more alignment.

  TIP: Brainstorm how to make a bottle of wine special to this target audience. Gift boxes, merchandise inclusions, an insert about the company or an aligned charity, or signed bottles all add to the perceived value and make an otherwise impersonal gift more personal and attractive.

  Objective 4: Get prospects to buy wine for consumption. This is the most challenging of the four objectives but still achievable. The psychological emotion to overcome in this situation is guilt.

  It is bound to happen. We spend hours online combing through gifts (that we now know are reflections of ourselves), and we will see something that we want for ourselves. Our opportunity here is to grant permission to treat themselves.

By framing a personal choice as a potential gift, we can now include non-traditional gift categories. In the Felix Gray email, it is unlikely that someone would give a pair of prescription glasses as a gift. Nevertheless, their messaging leans into the season by positioning their glasses as gifts and additionally appropriate as a small personal luxury. They permit the target to splurge $100 on some new lenses in the context of “I was just Christmas shopping.”

  TIP: Luckily, wine is a relatively low-risk purchase, so our permission can come in the form of removing minimal barriers like shipping costs. The message here should be that the target deserves the wine, and it is painless to get it.

Summary:

  We get something like this chart if we put all four quadrants together and summarize our messaging. We have discussed the psychological motivation between each purchase as slightly different and recommended how to tweak messaging depending on the goal for the best outcome.

  One final note on gifts: A 2016 study asked people to give a friend either a “material” or “experiential” gift (valued at $15). Material gifts included things such as clothing, and experiential gifts included things such as movie tickets. Recipients of the experiential gifts showed a more significant improvement in perceived relationship strength than recipients of the material gifts.

  This shows that the gift we most value is quality time. So, consider experiences when planning the holiday lineup. A unique experience targeted to the local fan base could resonate during a stressful holiday season.

About the Author

  Susan DeMatei is the founder of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. Now in its 10th year, the agency offers domestic and international clients assistance with strategy and execution.   

WineGlass Marketing is located in Napa, California at 707-927-3334 or wineglassmarketing.com

Wine Tank Purchasing Thoughts

By: Tom Payette – Wimemaking Consultant  

  One of the biggest tasks in setting up a winery or expanding one is the decisions on the wine tanks.  Much time, thought and effort should go into planning what the winery wants to accomplish with the tanks.  If these decisions are made properly and well in advance dollar savings and better functionality can be achieved.

  What will these tanks be used for?  If the tanks will be used for fermenting juice one set of criteria may be used.  If used additionally for cold settling of juice, red fermentations or cold stabilization the list of criteria will expand.  Deciding what the tanks are needed for in the winery will lead toward the right choice.

  White wine fermentors often have a small valve port at the bottom of the tank at a diameter, for most smaller winery sizes, of 1.5 to 2.0 inches.  This is used to fill and empty the tank.  A racking valve, usually of the same diameter, will exist on the tank to allow the winemaker to remove clear wine or juice from the tank to a level a small manway door, normally and 18” oval, may be opened to continue to pump the remaining clear juice or wine out of the tank.  These tanks are very versatile for red or white wines after pressing.

  Red wine tanks often have similar characteristics as the above but with a lower manway door level with the floor or bottom of the tank.  This allows the winemaking team to remove the pomace, after skin fermentation, from the vessel to separate the red wine from the red grapes, seeds and skins.  Some red wine tanks do not have the side oval door mentioned in the white wine paragraph above but the purchaser is encouraged to get these doors on their reds tanks so the tanks may be used more in the cellar as red and white wine tanks.

  Cooling jackets – location and how much?  Give serious consideration to this aspect due to many physical characteristics and laws of heat transfer.  Consider the amount of surface area that may be needed to cool the juice/wine needed.  If one needs to use the tanks for fermentation only a smaller surface area may be used.  If chilling the wine to cold stabilize the wine, make sure there will be enough surface area to combat predicted ambient cellar temperatures and let your cooling system representative know the capacity of the wine tank and desired cold stability temperature of the wine.  When discussing the cooling jackets be sure to understand where the jackets will be placed on the tanks to best be able to predict how much volume will be needed in the tank for the heat transfer to start taking place.  My position is the lower the jacket placement on the sidewall of the tank the better.  Larger sized tanks may require two, or more, separate cooling jackets.

  Will solenoids be used to help control the temperature of the tank?  Will these be electronically controlled? Do you want them to be web based controlled for off-site monitoring and manipulation?  Do you want wireless applications to control the solenoids?   How many thermocouples ports will be needed for proper temperature control and for the readings desired?

  Heating capacity:  Becoming more of the norm in the cellar and more affordable for the winemaking team.  Zero in on the needs of the heating and give serious thought to insulating your tanks for the process.  Do you care for heating elements in the bottom of the tank or do you prefer a mobile glycol heater unit that will plug into your isolated glycol jackets on individual tanks?  If choosing the heating element positioned in the bottom of the tank make sure to address the potential freezing of this liquid, if used, during cold stabilization.  If using a glycol heater for the jackets make sure to plumb the tanks for this feature.

  Valves – where and how big?  Racking valves – determine what size fitting and hoses may used for the transfers of the juice, wine or must into and out of the tank.  Smaller wineries will be able to size the valves at 1.5 to 2.0 inches as mentioned for juice or wine.  If must will be pumped into and out of the tank one will want to review how this will be done and consider larger sized fittings at the bottom port.  I rarely choose the larger valves but there may be instances this is the best choice.

  Man ways and doors? Many configurations of man ways and doors exist.  Think through all wine and juice production needs to best select these locations, functions and sizes.

  Will the tanks be placed on adjustable legs or stands?  This issue can be a large issue in terms of physically handling the red wine must.  If one prefers not to pump red wine must after crushing for quality purposed, one must place the tanks at a height with the lower manway door opening on the red wine tank to have a bin or container placed underneath the lower man way opening to the tank.  Although this is the largest reason to place a tank higher in the air than “normal” be sure to pay attention to this height even if using a must pump.  Dejuicing tanks can also be elevated above a press opening level for certain production benefits and efficiencies linked to productions styles and quality issues.  White wine tanks may have more flexibility regarding the tank leg height but be sure to understand where the racking door will be placed and how the tank will be serviced, cleaned etc.

  Will the tanks be placed indoors or outdoors?  Review this question not only for your first needs but address the question for the anticipated growth of your winery.

  What material should the tanks be made out of?  While many tanks are stainless steel and this article addresses stainless steel tanks, tanks can be made of other materials including but not limited to:  Concrete, cement, fiberglass, wood, plastic etc.

  Will fixed or variable capacity tanks be used?  Speak with the winemaking team a long time on this issue.  What style of wine will be produced and how long will it stay in the stainless tanks?  There are certain positive applications for both styles so choosing the correct one will be significant.  I highly recommend fixed capacity tanks for almost all situations and applications.

  What size tank will we need and where will it be placed?  Don’t laugh but some tanks that may be one height may not fit in your winery with a fixed ceiling height.  Keep in mind the tank is a cylinder, in most cases, and that tipping that on end and upward may require more ceiling height than expected.  Run some math to make sure the tanks will fit in the building.  Is the door large enough to get the tank in the building? Also determine if one can open and service the top of the tank after it is in place.  Will a catwalk be built and if so – what impact will this have regarding setbacks from the wall or certain areas.  Will a public catwalk also be close by?  Will the public have access to the tank?   How much space will you care to have between the tanks?

  When do I need to order the tanks?  The earlier negotiations with suppliers can start the better chance of getting exactly what you want at a reasonable price.  Custom made tanks are not necessarily more expensive than stock tanks.  Orders with ample lead time may allow for the tanks to be made where quality craftsmanship is high and labor cost are low.  Order at least 7 months in advance to get what you want and to have time negotiating price with different suppliers.

  Equally important to all of the above one must also give serious thought, specific to their winery, addressing: What will the side wall height to diameter ratio be?  Can certain savings be made if tanks are made in stock sheet metal width sizes?  Will lift eyelets be needed?  Will ladder hooks be needed and where?  Will the top of the tanks truncate forward, back or have centered manway tops?  Will sight gauges be needed?  Will sample valves be installed and where?  Will thermocouple ports be needed, how many and where?  Will name plates and ice shields be needed? Do you want a separate mixing valve port?  Will delestage be a winemaking tool that is used in the operation?

  Make sure the supplier of the tank is reputable and to establish what type of welds will be used, their finish and the gauge/thickness of the steel, if choosing stainless. The quality of the stainless steel can vary too.

  Can I get technical drawings from the manufacture?  In most cases with a reputable tank manufacture you will be able to request tank drawings to make sure the dimensions and locations are as you expect them to be.  See attached a drawing of a tank made overseas and where most figures are in metric and US.

  In review – a wine tank is not just a wine tank!  Many factors go into each winery specific needs for these tanks.  The above are just some of the starter issues one will want to review.  In no way have all issues been covered.  The more the winemaking team thinks through their operational and winemaking needs related to the wine tanks, both immediate and for the future, the more cost effective this purchase will become.

Frequently Asked Questions for Pruning Grapevines 

By: Annie Klodd, University of Minnesota Extension

  Pruning season is almost upon us, this article references common grapevine terminology and requires the reader to have basic knowledge of grapevine pruning. If you are new to pruning, take some time to familiarize yourself with grapevine structure and the basics of pruning.

Does it matter when I prune during the dormant season?

  If you would like to do some light pruning before the first big snowfall, feel free. If you prefer to wait for sub-zero temperatures to prove something to yourself, that is fine too! Just wait until the vines are fully dormant and the leaves have fallen before you start pruning.

  Pruning in the coldest months has an upside. It minimizes the risk of diseases infecting the pruning cuts. When temperatures dip below about 35 degrees F, fungal diseases of grapes are not actively spreading. If you prune early, it is best to do a “long prune.” Leave extra length on each cane in case a severe cold event causes bud damage later on. Additionally, leave a couple of centimeters of wood past the last bud – cold, dry wind can desiccate the wood at the pruning wound.

  Late pruning in March and April is certainly more comfortable than deep winter pruning. However it also means you are pruning when fungal pathogens are more active. Be aware that fungal trunk disease pathogens are more active during the spring and will readily enter the wood via those pruning wounds.

How do you decide how many buds per spur to leave during pruning?

  The general rule of thumb is to cut each cane down to a 2-3 bud spur. This assumes that all buds are healthy and that the cordon contains one spur every 3-5 inches. If this ideal scenario does not exist on a vine, you can either alter the number of buds per spur or the number of spurs per cordon to account for imperfections.

  In cold climates, winter damage usually kills some percentage of the buds on a vine. It is helpful to estimate the percentage of dead buds and adjust your pruning to make up for bud loss.

  To measure bud mortality, take a representative sample of canes throughout the vineyard and dissect their buds with a razor blade. The color of the bud’s interior indicates whether they are alive or dead. Buds that are green inside are healthy and will grow into shoots. Buds with brown interiors have died.

  Remove between 20-50 normal canes from throughout the vineyard. Bring them inside to room temperature for 24 hours. With a sharp, slim, and clean razor blade, carefully slice off the tip of each bud in the first and second positions along each cane. The bud contains 3 parts – the primary, secondary, and tertiary sections. The primary is the middle and largest section, and it produces the most fruitful shoots. Record whether the primary section of each bud is green or brown (alive or dead), and repeat this with 100 buds. If 10-15% of primary buds are dead, do not adjust your pruning. If 20-40% are dead, leave about 25% more buds than you typically would. If 40-60% dead, double the number of buds you keep. If more than 60% are dead, do minimal pruning, leaving 5 buds on each spur.

  Very long spurs are cumbersome – the longer the spur you leave, the higher the chance that only the buds at the very top will break. This is due to a concept called apical dominance. Excessively long spurs also creep up out of the regular fruiting zone, interfering with the structure of the vine. To avoid spur creep while still leaving extra buds, you may instead leave a higher number of 2-3 bud spurs.

Should basal nodes or “non count buds” be accounted for during pruning?

  In cold climate hybrid grape growing, yes. In Vinifera vineyards, no.

  A basal bud is the bud at the base of the new spur wood. In other words, it is located at the point where the 1-year old part of the spur meets the 2-year old wood.

  When it comes to cold hardy hybrid grapes like Marquette and Frontenac, the basal buds are usually fruitful. In fact, they can sometimes be the most fruitful bud on the whole spur. Most of them will carry two cluster per shoot. But this is not the case on vinifera and French-American hybrids, where the basal buds are just vegetative. While the traditional recommendation, which arose from Vinifera vineyards, is to not count the basal bud during pruning, this recommendation is revised for cold climate hybrids where they should be counted. If you leave a basal bud plus two more buds, you will have up to 3 shoots per spur.

Some of my vines are getting old, and I notice that parts of their cordons are missing spurs and canes. What should I do?

  We call these empty spots along the cordon “blind wood.” Blind wood happens when old spurs die, and no new buds form from the cordon to replace them. One thing that causes blind wood is winter injury, so it is common in cold regions. Winter injury accumulates over time, so older cordons tend to have more blind wood than newer cordons. In cold climate grape growing, we recommend replacing cordons once they start showing blind wood.

  To replace a cordon, first find a healthy new cane that is growing from the base of the cordon or the middle of the vine along the wire. Lay the new cane down alongside the existing cordon, and tie it to the wire. Clip off the end of the cane where the wood is very skinny so that only the healthiest wood remains. If the old cane is totally unproductive, remove it at this time. If it is still producing some fruit, you have the option of leaving it in place and growing the new cordon alongside it, as long as the vine is vigorous enough to support both.

What if the whole vine has died back to the ground level?

  Extreme dips in winter temperatures sometimes kill the entire aboveground part of the grapevine, including the cordons and trunk. This is even more likely if the vines are stressed going into the winter, either from drought or wet feet. Rest assured that even if the trunk and cordons are dead, the roots are usually still alive and can re-grow a new vine.

  If you grow “own-rooted” (non-grafted) vines like University of Minnesota cold hardy hybrids, you can re-grow the vines from suckers rather than planting new vines. Start by cutting the dead or dying trunk back to the ground level. If suckers are present, choose 1-2 of them to become the new trunks.

If the vine was particularly vigorous before it died, you may want to keep extra suckers so that the excess energy from the roots has somewhere to go. The extras can be removed during or at the end of the growing season.

  After selecting the suckers that will become your new trunks, prune them back to the point where the wood becomes thicker than pencil diameter. The reason we do this is because the thinnest wood is the least productive and has a high chance of dead buds. Keeping only the healthiest wood helps those vines produce vigorous new trunks and cordons. There is no need to cut the cane back to a 2-bud spur. For example, if the first 4 feet of the cane are healthy and thicker than a pencil, then make your cut 4 feet off the ground.

Should I prune out small pieces of dead wood like old spurs?

  If time permits, pruning out dead spurs is a good idea. They can harbor spores of diseases like powdery mildew and phomopsis that re-infect the vines in the coming season. Pruning out dead wood is one good non-chemical disease management tool.

What is the liquid coming out of the pruning cuts when I prune in the spring?

  That liquid is sap! This is a sign that the vines are exiting dormancy. Sap runs through the vines as the soil warms, so that the buds can start actively growing. It is time to wrap up the pruning as the vines “wake up.”

What is a bull cane?

  A bull cane is an exceptionally thick, long cane with very wide spaces between buds. They grow more aggressively than regular canes, often growing into the next vine and beyond. Rather than being round, these canes take on a subtle oval shape. They tend to be less winter hardy and less fruitful than normal canes, so they should be removed. If possible, do not use bull canes to establish new trunks. Bull canes tend to grow if the grapevine is too vigorous, such as when a vigorous variety is grown on rich, moist soil.

How do you remove tendrils from the wires?

  My best advice for this is: Only have as many wires as you need to trellis the vines. More wire means more tendril magnets. For example, on a Single High Cordon trellis system only one wire is necessary. Do not string any other wires lower down.

  For a deeper dive into these Frequently Asked Questions, watch our recorded webinar from the Cold Climate Fruit Webinar Series:

Does Crop Insurance Cover Losses to My Vines?

By: Trevor Troyer, 
Vice President 
Agricultural Risk Management, LLC

  Does crop insurance cover losses to my vines? What can I do about my vine loss? Half of my vineyard got burned down due to wildfires. I have major freeze damage on my Vitis vinifera my natives are fine though. What can you do? Crop insurance only covers losses to your grape crop not your vines. Is there any vine coverage or assistance for that?

  Yes there is! I get a lot of questions on this so thought to address it in this article.

  The Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill) authorized the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) to provide financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters. – fsa.usda.gov. This is not administered through a crop insurance agent or agency. This is not an insurance product. It is disaster assistance administered through the USDA.

  There are limitations to this program on who can receive money. A lot of large vineyards will not be eligible. There is size limit of 1,000 acres. There is an income limit as well. In applying the limitation on average adjusted gross income (AGI), a person or legal entity is ineligible for payment under TAP if the AGI of the person or legal entity for the relevant tax years exceeds $900,000. – FSA Disaster Assistance Tree Assistance Program

Ok what is considered an eligible loss?

•    A requisite death loss must first be sustained; a stand of eligible trees, bushes, or vines must have suffered more than a 15 percent mortality loss (after normal mortality) due to a natural disaster;

•    Mortality loss on a stand of eligible trees, bushes, or vines is based on:

•    Each eligible disaster event, except for losses due to plant disease; and

•    For plant disease, the time period as determined by the FSA for which the stand is 
infected.

•    The loss must not have been preventable through reasonable and available measures;

•    The loss must be visible and obvious to the FSA representative; if the loss is no longer 
visible, FSA may accept other loss evidence and determine whether that other evidence 
substantiates that an eligible loss due to natural disaster occurred; and

•    FSA may require information from a qualified expert to determine extent of loss in the 
case of plant disease or insect infestation. – fsa.usda.gov 
Payments are calculated as follows: 
For tree, bush, or vine replacement, replanting and/or rehabilitation, the payment calculation is the lesser of the following:

•    65 percent of the actual cost of replanting, in
excess of 15 percent mortality (adjusted for normal mortality), and, where applicable, 50 percent of the actual cost of rehabilitation, in excess of 15 percent damage or mortality (adjusted for normal tree damage and normal mortality); or

•    The maximum eligible amount established for the practice by FSA. -fsa.usda.gov

  What you do as a farmer is important. Whether your grapes are going to make wine or juice it is something that feeds and nourishes us, both physically and spiritually. I sometimes hear from growers that they don’t want assistance whether it is crop insurance or disaster relief. I understand. Our farmers and ranchers are independent people that, most often, can handle what mother nature throws at them. Our tax dollars go into these USDA programs, to me, it’s alright to get help when needed. Why shouldn’t you get some of your tax dollars back to keep you growing. It might seem like a pain to fill in the applications etc. The FSA employees are dedicated to helping you. Take advantage of what is available, you paid for it.

  The Tree Assistance Program is administered through the USDA Farm Service Agency. To find your local FSA office, go to farmers.gov. You can also find more information at disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

Chateau Chantal: A Unique Experience in Northern Hospitality

 By: Nan McCreary

  Chateau Chantal, one of Northern Michigan’s earliest wineries, is raising the bar for wine lovers looking for more than just a wine tasting, but rather an immersive wine experience. Not only is the winery rated as one of Michigan’s best, but it combines a vineyard and a winery with spectacular views over Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. There are also five-to-seven-course wine dinners, cooking classes, a luxury B&B, a Founder’s Trail and a tasting room with events that range from individual and group tastings to the weekly summer Jazz at Sunset experience.

  “There’s something for everybody here,” winemaker Brian Hosmer told The Grapevine Magazine. ‘Public expectations have changed; people are not visiting and buying cases like they used to. Rather, they’re coming for an experience. We’re responding to what’s happening in the industry today.”

  This commitment to inviting guests to enjoy a shared experience inspired French Canadian-American founder Robert Begin and his wife, Nadine, to purchase 60 acres of cherry orchards on the Old Mission Peninsula and build a European-style winery chateau. Robert, a businessman in the construction industry, and Nadine, a teacher, were a former priest and nun, respectively. Their years spent serving others provided a natural foundation for entering the hospitality industry. Between 1984 and 1991, they transitioned the property from cherries to grapes, planting their first grapes — chardonnay, riesling and pinot noir — in 1986. During this time, they completed plans for a French-style chateau, and in 1993, they opened their doors as a B&B and vineyard estate. In the following years, they added more rooms to the B&B and expanded the cellar and tasting room, paving the way for today’s agri-tourism industry. Chateau Chantal is the second-oldest winery on the Old Mission Peninsula (one of Michigan’s five AVAs). With its scenic vistas and friendly hospitality, it is one of the most popular wineries in the area.

  With the goal of providing an ultimate wine experience, it’s only natural that a primary focus of Chateau Chantal would be to offer quality wines to its visitors. And, despite the northern climates, excellent wines by anyone’s standards are available in Michigan. “The lakes make it possible,” Hosmer said. “We’re located between the East and West Grand Traverse Bays — two large bays on Lake Michigan — and the water acts as a buffer to the cold temperatures. In the summer, the water warms up, which extends the growing season. Even in the winter, the water stays warm and radiates the heat inland. Also, we get a lot of snow, which acts as insulation.” With this terroir, Chateau Chantal can grow Vitis Vinifera grapes, including riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot grigio, pinot noir, pinot blanc, cabernet Franc, Gewürztraminer and Blaufränkisch. Other wineries in the area are growing similar grapes.

  One of the favorite wines at Chateau Chantel is pinot gris. “These grapes do really well here,” Hosmer told The Grapevine Magazine. “The sandy soils and the cool climate push really bright aromatics out of the glass, with more floral flavors than you’re used to seeing.” Also popular are two red blends: Naughty, a blend so versatile that it will pair with simple fare like burgers and pizza, as well as seafood; and Nice, a semi-sweet that, when chilled, makes a great warm weather sipper. 

  Besides still wines, Chateau Chantal makes four sparkling wines, including a semi-dry they’ve made since the 90s. Recently, they began producing the sparklers in-house rather than at another winery. To offer still more variety to its visitors, the winery collaborates with a 55-acre vineyard in Mendoza to produce a rich, red malbec.

  For some, the star of Chateau Chantal’s line-up is its ice wine. Ice wine is made from grapes picked — by hand — while frozen on the vine and then pressed when they’re still frozen. The result is an incredibly sweet and fruity wine that’s highly valued among some wine connoisseurs. Michigan is one of the few regions in the world able to produce ice wine. Making ice wine is, in fact, a risky proposition. The grapes need a long growing season to ripen and a cold spell to freeze. If temperatures are too warm, the grapes won’t freeze. If the freeze is too severe, then no juice can be extracted. Chateau Chantal is among Michigan’s oldest ice wine producers and has been making the “liquid gold” since the early 1990s. Typically, the Chateau makes ice wine from riesling grapes, and in some years, it can make juice from cabernet Franc. The wines are always in demand. “Making ice wine is tricky,” Hosmer said. “Sometimes we have to wait until January so that it’s cold enough to pick the grapes, and then we may be walking in one to two feet of snow.” “We’ve had years where the temperature didn’t cooperate, but in my 15 years, we’ve only had to skip two.”  This year, Chateau Chantal celebrated its fourth annual Ice Wine Festival, a day-long event where families enjoy snowman building, snowshoeing through the winery’s walking trails, roasting treats by an open fire pit and, for adults, samples and flights of the different varieties of ice wine. The event is billed as a celebration of the winery’s “unique ability to grow, harvest and produce one of the rarest products in the wine industry.” 

  For Chateau Chantal — and their neighbors on the Peninsula — the challenge to quality winemaking is to produce consistency in the wines when there is so much variation in vintage. In general, warmer climates tend to yield more consistent harvests. Napa, for example, may experience a five percent variation in heat accumulation, whereas the vineyards at Chateau Chantal can have plus or minus 30 percent swing from average in any given year. “Our viniculture depends on the vintage and what comes through the door,” Hosmer explained. “We have beautiful years for every grape because we grow so many varieties; we may have a ripe cabernet Franc and pinot noir in one year, aromatic whites in cool years, and everything in between. We just need to figure out the best way to get the best version of what the grapes give us.” Intervention in the cellar may include adding tartaric acid to adjust the pH, playing with different yeasts or treating the must with malolactic fermentation. “It’s really important to understand both warm- and cool-climate winemaking,” Hosmer stated. “Every year is different.”

  As Chateau Chantal looks to the future, the winery — like many others around the world — is exploring options for new varieties that may be more adaptable to climate and resistant to disease. Currently, Chantal is working with a group of investors that brought four new grapes from Germany’s Geisenheim and Freiburg breeding programs to custom grafting specialists, Amberg Grapevines.

  In Clifton Springs, New York, the varieties are monarch, a frost-hardy grape that is resistant to powdery mildew and downy mildew; muscaris, a disease-resistant grape that’s a good choice for sparkling wine; helios, resistant to both powdery mildew and botrytis and similar in flavor to Müller-Thurgau; and johanniter, a white grape that’s resistant to frost and mildew. All four grapes are children of the riesling grape and have been crossed and recrossed with vitis vinifera rootstock to create varieties that are 99 percent vitis vinifera and one percent hybrid. 

  Two years ago, Chateau Chantal planted the first commercial plantings of all four grapes after quarantine and will be ready to make trial wines with the grapes next year. “We’re looking for wines that may be of interest to wine lovers, and easier to grow in a more sustainable fashion,” Hosmer told The Grapevine Magazine. “Breeding grapes for genetics is becoming more sophisticated all the time, and I think we’re going to see more and more varieties coming out.”

  In addition to experimenting with new grape varieties, Chateau Chantal is applying advanced principles of soil management into its vineyard practices, a farming system they introduced 20 years ago. As Hosmer explains, this practice involves adding compost to the soil, which provides a direct input of organic matter that improves soil health. “With the compost, we build a biological population where fungi and bacteria continually cycle nutrients so they are available throughout the year rather than just when we add them,” Hosmer said. “We continually monitor this population and change the compost mixture as needed.” Not only does this limit the need for fertilizer, but soil management also plays a key role in fruit development and can impact the quality properties of grapes and wine.

  The vineyard team also plants cover crops that add nitrogen to vines, as well as organic compounds that provide nutrients or aeration to the soil. According to Hosmer, soil management can also play a role in water retention. For example, in areas where there is a low water table, the cover crops will create a canopy in the soil to maintain moisture. “Our sites are very diverse, so we adapt depending on the availability of water at the time,” he said. “This buffers the extremes, so plants do well in dry periods, as well as in wet periods.”

  Driven by technology as well as hospitality, Chateau Chantal is well-poised to accommodate the growth of tourism in Michigan. In the winery, the Chateau is expanding its capacity to meet the growing demand for its wines. Currently, they produce 20,000 to 25,000 cases per year, with distribution in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Illinois. In the hospitality sector, the founder’s daughter, Marie-Chantal Dalese, has taken the reins of the company to continue her parents’ legacy of offering a premiere wine experience to guests. In 2021 and 2022, the Chateau Chantal B&B was named one of the “10 Best Wine Country Hotels” by USA Today. Joe David, author of “Gourmet Getaways – 50 Top Spots to Cook and Learn,” wrote, “An American version of a modern Loire Valley chateau, Chateau Chantal is more than just another stunning bed-and-breakfast – it is a retreat for gourmets who seek a food and wine holiday.” 

  Indeed, at Chateau Chantal, there is something for everybody. Whether you prefer dry wine, sweet wine or sparkling wine, a spectacular setting overlooking vineyards and the vast expanse of Grand Traverse Bay, a six-course wine dinner with wine pairings, a hands-on themed cooking class or a night or two of luxury in a French-style chateau, any or all of the options are available to the adventurous wine lover interested in totally unique wine experience.

For more information, visit Chateau Chantal at www.chateauchantal.com

What’s New & Innovative in Today’s Sparkling Wine Industry?

 By: Alyssa L. Ochs

  This year, the sparkling wine market reached a value of $33.9 billion, and we aren’t expecting this trend to slow down anytime soon. In fact, analysts have projected that this market will grow by about 14 percent annually and reach at least $51.7 billion by 2027. All of these facts and figures may not mean much to the average consumer. But for sparkling wine producers and companies that serve their supply, distribution and marketing needs, this level of growth demands attention.

  With its fizzy effect and upscale reputation, sparkling wine has been making its move from purely celebratory to refreshingly mainstream. No longer is sparkling wine reserved only for luxury events and special occasions. These days, sparkling winemakers are expanding their customer base and introducing refreshingly new and accessible ways to enjoy this beverage any day. Meanwhile, more global demand for this style of wine is creating a greater need for services in this industry and opportunities for more innovation than ever before.

What Is Sparkling Wine?

  Sparkling wine is a carbonated, fermented alcoholic beverage made from grapes or other fruits. It is unique because it contains high amounts of carbon dioxide, which creates a frothy mouthfeel and fizzy texture. Although many people commonly refer to all sparkling wine as Champagne, authentic Champagne only comes from the Champagne geographic region in France.

  Various types of sparkling wine exist today at a wide range of price points. These include red, rose and white sparkling wines, as well as regionally specific products like Champagne from France, Cava from Spain and Prosecco from Italy. Sparkling wines can be very dry, known as brut, or extra dry, which is sweeter than brut. Sec is another sparkling wine designation that is sweeter than extra dry, while demi-sec is very sweet and often served as a dessert wine.

  Some key players in the sparkling wine industry are Bronco Wine Co., Constellation Brands and the E & J Gallo Winery. Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services is the largest custom and private label producer of Méthode Champenoise in America, producing over 700,000 cases of wine annually. The company’s Shiner Program offers five different appellations to its customers, and it has California, Central Coast, North Coast, Sonoma County and Napa programs too.

How to Make Sparkling Wine

  Winemakers create various types of sparkling wine with different methods and processes that affect the taste and quality of the wine. Méthode Champenoise is a traditional method of making sparkling wine and regarded as a high-quality and critically acclaimed means of production.

  This classic method of making sparkling wine involves adding yeast and sugar to the base wine and doing a second fermentation inside each bottle. Yeast is removed from the bottle after it is agitated for weeks and even months, which can be a time- and labor-intensive process. 

  When asked what makes Méthode Champenoise preferred over sparkling wines made in other styles, Mark Garaventa, the general manager for Rack & Riddle, said that the tiny bubbles, creamy mouthfeel and balanced fruit with acid just make you want to keep sipping.

  “Other sparkling wine styles have larger bubbles not as elegant mouthfeel,” Garaventa said. “The loss of carbonation in these other methods is much more rapid as well. Most other styles are typically sweeter and don’t use traditional fruit varieties like chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.”

  Another method of making sparkling wine is the Charmant (or tank) method, which takes care of the second fermentation while the wine is in a large tank rather than in individual bottles. This process is more cost-effective for producers and something often reflected in the price tag of sparkling wines.

  The transfer method of making sparkling wine is similar to the traditional method but differs in the fact that the wines don’t need to be riddled and disgorged in the same way. Alternatively, bottles of wine are emptied into pressurized tanks, sent through pressurized filters to remove dead yeast and then rebottled.

  There is also the ancestral method of making sparkling wine that involves using very cold temperatures to strategically stop the fermentation process for a period of time before bottling and resuming fermentation in the bottle. It is one of the oldest ways to make sparkling wine, hence the name, “ancestral.” Meanwhile, winemakers use the carbonation method to carbonate still wines in a pressurized tank and the continuous method to continually add yeast into pressurized tanks while increasing the total pressure.

Unique Challenges of Sparkling Wine

  Although sparkling wine is still wine, by definition, there are distinct differences and unique challenges that come with making this type of craft beverage. These differences extend to wine ingredients, production, bottling, marketing and more.

  Garaventa from Rack & Riddle said that sparkling wine is much more labor-intensive than still wine and that there are more steps to the process. He also said sparkling wine requires more time on the lees due to the secondary fermentation in the bottle and the aging of the wines for 12 to 24 months in bottles until they are available for sale. Garaventa also noted that it is necessary to have winemakers and staff specifically trained and experienced in sparkling wine.

  “Most winemaking programs are not geared to the sparkling process,” Garaventa said. “Supplies are completely different and not as readily available at competitive pricing for low volumes, so economy of scale is important.”

Services Available for the Sparkling Wine Industry

  Fortunately, some companies specialize in the products and services that sparkling wine producers need to refine their craft and expand their operations to meet demand. For example, Rack & Riddle offers guidance through the custom crush grape-to-bottle process. This includes crushing, lab work, storage in barrels or tanks, tirage bottling, aging, disgorging, corking, foiling, caging, labeling, packing and palletizing wines for pickup. The company also offers base-to-bottle services, in which customers provide the base wine, and then Rack & Riddle develops a sparkling wine out of it. Rack & Riddle operates facilities in Healdsburg and Alexander Valley, California.

  “Within our Shiner Program, we supply everything, enabling the customer to take advantage of our scale, from a pricing perspective, therefore obtaining a high-quality wine at a very competitive price,” Garaventa said. “We have long-standing relationships with the growers and have selected only the best fruit sources to produce the very best quality Méthode Champenoise product. We can also provide grape-to-bottle or base-to-bottle programs for sparkling wines as well.”

Recent Innovations in Sparkling Wine

  With recent growth comes more demand for improvement and innovation in the sparkling wine industry. Europe and the United States are the top markets for sparkling wine, especially now that deseasonalized consumption is driving more sales and making sparkling wine more common at casual gatherings and quiet nights at home. From the consumption side, sparkling wine is increasingly served with appetizers and as an ingredient in cocktails.

  “Within the traditional method, we offer low-alcohol and organic wines,” said Garaventa from Rack & Riddle. “Within other sparkling methods, cans are becoming available and also flavored sparkling wines.”

  Some sparkling wine producers use closures that allow bars, restaurants, and individual consumers to securely lock and preserve partially consumed bottles of sparkling wine. To accommodate industry growth, vineyard robots can mechanize the process of making sparkling wine and increase production capabilities. For example, robots can optimize working time during labor shortages for harvesting and other jobs that traditionally require a tractor and driver.

  Winemakers are becoming increasingly interested in the sustainable production of sparkling wine by using organic techniques and eco-friendly strategies. Meanwhile, researchers have been looking into how to quicken yeast autolysis to create high-quality sparkling wines in less time.

The Future of Sparkling Wine

  Like the entire craft beverage market as a whole, the sparkling wine industry felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. However, sales rebounded in 2021 when consumers finally felt safe to get together in groups again and celebrate life in a renewed way. More and more consumers are also purchasing sparkling wine to drink at home, rather than just saving the beverage for New Year’s Eve toasts and special occasions.

  Although Champagne has traditionally been the preferred sparkling wine for festivities, consumers are now interested in learning about other styles of this beverage. So, they may choose crémant, prosecco or cava instead Champagne when there is something to celebrate. Sparkling wine enthusiasts are known for being interested in the winemaking process and understanding what goes into their favorite products. Yet there are distinct differences among budget-friendly, mid-range and top-shelf sparkling wines, offering a little something for everyone without compromising tradition. Sparkling wine companies have been marketing their products more towards the younger generation, especially Millennials, to attract a new following of sparkling wine fans.

  Clearly, there is a special place and an undeniable appeal to sparkling wine in today’s society, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for this growing industry.

Nitrogen Use Improves Your Wine, Your Packaging and Your Bottom Line   

By: Gerald Dlubala

It’s colorless, odorless and virtually undetectable. As a result, nitrogen is one of the most effective tools for winemakers to use as a combatant against oxidation, spoilage and bacteria growth in their wines. As a result, nitrogen can be used in multiple stages of winemaking and has become one of the best tools for winemakers to have at their disposal. The main reason? Nitrogen is inert and does not readily react with other substances around it. Because of that inertness, nitrogen is an excellent choice to help reduce or delay any damaging oxidation that might otherwise occur.

  Additionally, nitrogen is preferred for tank blanketing, equipment purging, pump and filter membrane testing, pressure transfers, must-lifting and more. It also plays an essential role in packaging stability, which is critical with the increased production of single-serve and ready-to-drink container packaging. Finally, and perhaps at its most fundamental level for a winemaker, nitrogen is an economical and valuable way to ensure a wine’s integrity and profile properties while also providing extended shelf life.

  Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) dosing is just one of the preferred uses in the winery. For preservation purposes, when LN2 is introduced seconds before sealing the filled bottle, nitrogen replaces the headspace oxygen, reducing the oxygen levels by up to 95 to 98 percent, with a 60 percent reduction in total package oxygen.

Chart Industries Inc. As Easy as Point-and-Shoot

  “Nitrogen dosing is prevalent in consumer products across the board, including the ready-to-drink and single-serve segment,” said Christina Marrick, the business development manager for nitrogen dosing systems for Chart Industries Inc. “Wineries now have more packaging options, and whether they are filling glass bottles or aluminum cans, LN2 dosing is beneficial, especially if using screw cap enclosures. Bottles sealed with screw caps contain more head space and oxygen than those with a cork inserted. Dosing with LN2 removes roughly 98 percent of the headspace oxygen, leaving little room for any oxidation.”

  “Additionally, LN2 dosing pressurizes the container being filled and sealed,” said Marrick. “When dosed, one-part LN2 warms and expands into 700 parts gaseous nitrogen at ambient temperature. That vaporization process adds pressure to the sealed container, providing rigidity to the walls of the filled container and increasing package stability. That increase in structural integrity allows wineries to use lighter containers with up to a nine-gram reduction in average bottle weight. Applied to the production of an average production line, this equates to about 2.6 million in annual savings.”

  Marrick tells The Grapevine Magazine that Chart’s LN2 dosing equipment allows for simple, easy-to-use point-and-shoot operation.

  “Using LN2 dosing equipment is really pretty simple,” said Marrick. “Our dosers are set once for the application needed and use sensors to pick up the incoming containers. Once they sense the incoming container, the automated dosers dispense a precisely measured amount of LN2 into the container after filling but immediately before being sealed. The trapped LN2 immediately vaporizes, forcing oxygen out of the container while simultaneously creating pressure and adding rigidity to the container. The dosers are modified for different products and containers through adjustment of dosing times or by using different-sized nozzles. Dosing equipment is installed and used in-line, but on casters, that can be easily moved or relocated for use wherever and whenever needed.”

  Chart Industries provides an entire spectrum of potential nitrogen use for wineries, from liquid bulk tank storage to specific application delivery and dosing throughout the production, filling and packaging process. They were the first to provide a complete, turnkey, LN2 dosing system, including dosers, valves, piping and phase separators on through to handling your bulk storage solutions, offering a full line of tanks ranging from portable dewars to the most extensive bulk tank storage options. Their standard cryogenic tank is an industry workhorse, able to be customized to a winery’s specific needs. The tanks can be installed in horizontal or vertical configurations and feature a proprietary insulation system, resulting in a lightweight tank with high thermal performance and extended hold times while offering reduced operational and installation costs.

Vacuum Barrier Corporation Dosing to Meet Your Needs

  Vacuum Barrier Corporation (VBC) is a global leader in cryogenics, designing, engineering and fabricating liquid nitrogen (LN2) dosing and piping systems. Lisa Angelini, the marketing manager for VBC, tells The Grapevine Magazine that LN2 dosing systems address the oxidation challenges winemakers have during the packaging process.

  “Liquid nitrogen dosing is used pre-filling, as a way to purge oxygen from the empty bottle, or post-filling to remove the oxygen that occupies the headspace, and in some cases,” said Angelini, “winemakers use it in both locations. By using LN2 dosing to flush oxygen out of the bottle, you’re preserving the wine’s intended flavor and bouquet while simultaneously extending shelf life. Additionally, winemakers can reduce, rather than eliminate, oxygen to give them added control.”

  The growing demand for single-serve and ready-to-drink options makes the structural integrity of packaging and extended shelf life an increasingly important part of wine packaging and distribution. A consumer only has to browse the shelves at a favorite retailer to notice the market shift.

  “The acceptance of canned wine has opened another door to VBC’s LN2 dosing systems within the industry,” said Angelini. “The same LN2 dosing system that the winemaker uses to reduce oxygen in their wines provides packaging stability and integrity. By adding a precisely measured dose of LN2 to the can of non- or lightly carbonated wine, you’re providing the needed pressure to provide structural support in the packaging, reducing transportation and handling damage due to crushed cans.”

  For over 60 years, Vacuum Barrier Corporation serves numerous industries, including food and beverage, beer, wine, coffee, cannabis and more. They are committed to delivering safe, defect-free, custom or standard LN2 solutions for your unique application needs.

Production Needs and Intended Use Determines Nitrogen Storage Choice

  Bulk storage vessels and accompanying equipment are equally crucial in using nitrogen and must be appropriately sized and fitted to each winery’s consumption needs. You don’t want your nitrogen supplier to deliver to you more than once a week, so a correctly sized nitrogen storage, delivery and dosage system must be designed to meet that goal. Bulk storage vessels are generally available in two forms, larger bulk tanks and smaller portable tanks called dewars, featuring double-walled construction with a vacuum space between the two walls. That vacuum space allows the tank’s outer surface to remain at ambient temperatures while the inner area can contain and hold the proper cryogenic temperatures. Affected piping systems should be similarly insulated and use the same double-walled, vacuum-spaced design to maintain efficiency. The larger bulk tank installations are predominantly located outside the production structure, while the smaller, portable-style storage units are kept inside the winery, closer to where they are needed.

  Alternatively, on-premises nitrogen generators offer on-demand nitrogen when needed. Connecticut-based On Site Gas Systems offers precision-engineered nitrogen and oxygen generators across numerous industries. The company notes that although costs associated with setting up a generator on site are higher initially than other options, their long-lasting nitrogen generators typically recover those initial costs many times over in the long run. An on-site generation source simplifies business and increases workplace safety for wineries currently using nitrogen in their winemaking process or looking into the prospect of nitrogen use. Wineries with nitrogen generators on-site can expect to save between 40 to 80 percent compared to the costs of delivered nitrogen, depending on price fluctuations. Additionally, when sustainability is at the forefront of every decision, eliminating the need for diesel delivery trucks helps to reduce your winery’s overall carbon footprint.

  How a winemaker ultimately chooses to obtain and access a nitrogen supply is a decision that is unique to each winery and generally dependent on specific qualifiers, such as the size of the winery, production numbers, the amount of nitrogen the winemaker will use, expected cost and return on investment offered by the different choices.

  For example, The Cave Vineyard and Distillery, located in historic St Genevieve, Missouri, runs a 20,000-bottle-a-year operation and does not offer single-serve options. Even though they would like to have their nitrogen source on-site someday, their current production and packaging operations don’t warrant the expense. Instead, like many smaller wineries, they use portable dewars for their nitrogen source. With four dewars on the premises at all times, they use two for purging empty bottles and clearing headspaces of oxygen before sealing. The remaining dewars are used as additional storage to prevent the winery from running out.

  Alternatively, the award-winning Augusta Winery in Augusta, Missouri uses nitrogen in all phases of its winemaking and has its own nitrogen generation system on-site to produce nitrogen on demand. While admittedly being costly upfront, the winery says the system paid for itself within three years. Their expanded nitrogen use, including running nitrogen in all related lines to reduce the oxygenation that occurs during routine and standard liquid transfers, helps keep the harmful effects of oxygenation out of their wines at every phase of production, movement, filling and packaging.

Safety Is Always Key

  Safety precautions in a production setting are always the primary priority, and the use and handling of LN2 are no different. Nitrogen displaces oxygen-rich air in enclosed spaces, so any enclosed area with a nitrogen leak can create an oxygen-depleted atmosphere. Enclosed spaces always demand specific protocols that must be respected and adhered to by any employee or contractor entering those designated spaces. Wineries and production facilities that use nitrogen in their processes should always use monitors, portable sensors and any other available means of dangerous gas detection technology designed to warn of oxygen deficiencies.

SEISMIC PROTECTION

Manufacturing Tanks for Wineries to Withstand the Unpredictability of Natural Disasters and More!

By: Cheryl Gray

  Although wineries have plenty to consider when selecting the tanks that will store their wine, earthquakes are not at the top of the list for most. However, if a tank can hold its own during an act of God, there’s a good chance it offers multiple protections for a winery’s most precious commodity: wine.

  While natural disasters are out of human control, there is at least one manufacturing company touting earthquake-proof products. Enter Onguard Seismic Systems, with offices in New Zealand and Sonoma County, California. While the company has clients where earthquakes are most prone, there is also customer interest, it says, in the protection its tank equipment can offer to wineries in the Midwest and the Southern United States. According to the company, more than half of New Zealand wineries use Onguard-equipped tanks. Other global clients include those in Chile and Italy. In addition, Onguard is working to supply its first systems in Australia. Company founder and CEO, Will Lomax, explained how he believes tank safety standards have evolved.

  “The U.S. wine industry is decades old, and many tanks have been built to traditional standards with little regard to earthquake performance. Unfortunately, some tanks are still being built without adequate consideration of earthquake risk. In some areas, there is an attitude of ‘nothing can be done’ when the ‘Big One’ strikes. We have shown that something can be done, and our engineered systems have proven this in actual earthquakes.

  We provide seismic systems for tanks that include comprehensive, holistic, certified structural engineering designs and supply of our patented energy-dissipating seismic dampers. This gives our customers the ultimate peace of mind, safe in the knowledge that they are equipped with the world’s best, and earthquake-proven, means of protecting their lives and livelihoods.”

  Lomax pointed to 2016, when he said that more than 300 tanks equipped with Onguard systems survived an M7.8 earthquake in New Zealand. According to Lomax, while there was neither wine loss nor tank damage under products bearing his company’s moniker, while virtually every other tank that contained wine in New Zealand was severely compromised.  

  The outcome was far different in 2013, when Lomax watched the devastation caused by another earthquake, which prompted him to create Onguard Seismic Systems. As a structural engineer with some 30 years of experience in multiple facets of engineering, Lomax put Onguard on the frontline of protecting wineries from the catastrophic destruction of earthquakes by developing the system that thwarted disasters like the one that occurred in 2016.  

  “Onguard’s performance in this ultimate test was extremely satisfying, as was my appointment as the trusted advisor to the New Zealand government to lead the engineering recovery in time for the 2017 harvest. The wine industry prevailed, thanks in no small part to Onguard.”

  In California, where earthquakes are more common than in other parts of the United States, wineries are turning to companies like Onguard for tanks and tank equipment that can protect for the long-run. Among them is Vintage Wine Estates, a multi-million-dollar portfolio of wineries stretching from California to the Pacific Northwest. Rick Hughes, capital projects and facilities manager for Vintage Wine Estates, said that he witnessed the earthquake destruction in New Zealand, and his company has safeguards in place.

  “We have 2.8 million gallons of cooperage anchored with Onguard Seismic Systems. Seismic anchor systems are a code requirement in our seismic zone 7. Unfortunately, most all anchor systems are just that; they anchor the tank to a structural system, but do not help in a seismic event. Not only will the Onguard system effectively work in a seismic event, but the benefit is also the sustainability of the anchor. Simply reinstalling the inside of the anchor that took the brunt of the event allows the system to be up and functioning with little effort or capital.”

  Experts agree that knowing what to look for before buying tanks and tank-related equipment can avert headaches later. Lomax had some pointers.

  “Make absolutely clear that you require a complete, stamped structural design of the tank system: tank, anchorage, foundation and connected infrastructure (catwalks and services) that meets the requirements of the building code. This will ensure earthquake resilience, avoid the need for any improvements in the future and will ultimately help you sleep at night.

  We have personal experience helping wineries recover from the effects of earthquakes; the consequences are far-reaching, often unforeseen and can be devastating to your business and – worse still – your people.”

  Experts, including Lomax, understand the importance of strong building codes when considering the strength of wine tanks.

  “The current design codes in the U.S. are very specific and demand energy dissipation through ductile yielding of tank anchors – a well-founded earthquake engineering approach that is intended to offer solid protection to the tanks. Onguard is the only anchoring system that complies with this, but sadly these requirements are often overlooked or ignored. One of our missions is to generate awareness of these conditions with customers, partners and local jurisdictions.”

  There are changes at the city and county levels when it comes to enacting regulations designed to promote tank safety. Lomax provided an example.

  “Thankfully, cities and counties are becoming more aware of the risk that earthquakes pose to wine tanks and the need to mitigate this risk and are tackling this head-on. For example, tanks now face far more scrutiny in the permitting process, and we’re currently mid-way through a complete retrofit project for an entire winery in Napa County that was mandated by the county itself.”

  Lomax wants the Onguard system to become the industry standard in the U.S. and is working toward that goal, one, he adds, that has already been achieved in New Zealand.

  “The additional investment needed is minimal, if any at all, and we can often offer savings against traditional designs. We also retrofit existing tanks and on our travels are introduced to multiple tanks at multiple facilities which are clearly prone – to varying degrees – to earthquake damage. Having grown up in wine, we know the industry inside-out and have seen first-hand the consequences of living with earthquake risk and the many different types of tank failure and remediation. We’re the world leaders in this space, and our clients trust us to advise them on the levels of risk and, if necessary, work with them on a targeted program of improvement. The end result is always an earthquake-engineered, earthquake-ready facility that is as safe as possible to work in.”

  Another natural disaster that threatens wineries comes in the form of wildfires, particularly in California and other areas with severe drought conditions. National Storage Tank, Inc., headquartered in Santa Rosa, California, provides customers the option of having an on-site, dedicated fire protection water tank to protect wineries and vineyards. The company says the tanks are configured with a small footprint but have enough storage capacity to become a viable part of any vineyard or winery fire protection plan. National Tank Storage also provides wineries with stainless steel tanks for storing, mixing or fermenting wines with capacities of up to 650,000 gallons. Additionally, it offers wastewater and chemical treatment tanks, all designed to handle specific jobs in accordance with environmental regulatory requirements.

  On a relative scale, the day-to-day operations of maintaining safety standards for the tanks and tank equipment used in winemaking are as important as those that guard against natural disasters. Problems that may compromise the taste and quality of a wine are solved in part by choosing the right kind of tanks and equipment for the wine being produced. 

  California’s Rack and Riddle Custom Wine Services in Sonoma County provides a full range of wine production services for its clients. The company also produces its own brand of sparkling wine. Rack and Riddle deploys an old-world technique known in the industry as Méthode Champenoise to produce its signature product. This traditional French method of making sparkling wine requires the wine to go through a secondary fermentation in the bottle, which demands additional time, labor and equipment, including special tanks.

  Award-winning winemaking consultant Penelope Gadd-Coster, executive director of winemaking at Rack and Riddle, explains the variety of tanks and tank equipment needed for Rack and Riddle to produce a vast array of wines.

  “We use a mix of manufacturers for our stainless tanks that range in size of 1,000 gallons to 100,000 gallons. Since we specialize in sparkling wines, the tanks need cooling jackets, generally dimpled jackets. They are used for all parts of the process, from settling to pre-bottling. Stainless-steel is fairly easy to maintain.”

  While tank and tank equipment needs may vary, one thing experts make clear: Choosing the right products can protect against a natural disaster while at the same time averting potential day-to-day threats to quality control.