How to Clean a Wine Tank

By: Tom Payette, Winemaking Consultant

Cleaning in the winery is one of the most important tasks the winemaker has the most control over in the cellar.  It is often said, and very nearly true, winemaking is 95% cleaning.  Data is shy when it comes to how to clean certain parts of the operation; yet, here is a step by step process of how to clean a stainless steel wine tank in the cellar.  Please keep in mind every cellar visited may have some conditions that may need to have this plan adjusted.

Chemistry

  There is some chemistry to cleaning a wine tank that will be addressed briefly to have an understanding of what one would like to achieve.  Simply put, one must have physical cleanliness first.  This is the removal of all solid particles from the tank’s interior surface(s).  Examples of these items may be seeds, skins, spent yeast, bentonite and so on.  This may not include tartrate removal because this can be assisted chemically if desired.  Once the solids are removed, the tank cleaning person will use a high pH cleaning material to remove the tartrates and to clean the surface of the stainless steel.  This high pH will not only remove tartrates but also kill and eliminate a broad range of wine spoilage microorganisms.  Once this high pH operation is completed, the operator will always come back with a light citric acid rinse to neutralize the high pH cleaner and to have some limited killing power due to this solution’s low pH value.

Items Needed

All safety material to include but not be limited to:

•    Safety goggles

•    Rubber gloves

•    Rubber boots

•    Hat and/or rain gear

•    Procedure

•    Eyewash station or portable eyewash

•    A light citric and water solution close by (roughly 2 tbsp per gallon)

Other items needed will include:

•    Pump that will handle hot water and the chemicals desired to be used.

•    Hoses that are food grade and will stand up to heat and all chemicals used.

•    pH meter (optional but the winery really should have one anyway)

•    High pH cleaner – such as Soda Ash

•    Low pH cleaner – such as Citric Acid

•    Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) – on all chemicals used.

•    Flashlight(s)

•    Cover for the tank such as a shower curtain, towel, bed sheet.

•    Distribution system such as a spray ball or tank cleaning “T”

Preparation

  If the winery’s tanks are equipped with automatic solenoids on the tanks, be sure to override the chilling system or to generally isolate the tank to be cleaned so the chilling system will not engage to cool the hot water that will be added to the tank.  Overriding the system may be done by moving the temperature dial setting all the way up so the solenoid will not engage, thus preventing cooling from circulating through the tanks jackets.  Shutting the tank cooling jacket system down may be achieved by simply shutting a valve on the supply side of the tank cooling system jacket, once again disrupting cooling from entering the jackets.

  Allow any ice to fall off the exterior/interior of the wine tank jacket so that it will not fall on the operator, other staff or persons or any equipment used to clean the tanks.

  Rinse the tank and physically remove all of the solids possible.

Procedure

  Once the tank is free of all solids, the chilling is turned off and the tank has deiced, if applicable, one may start the cleaning process.

1.     Apply all safety gear necessary to be safe while doing the tasks described.  This is an internal winery decision that the winery will need to address.

2.     Disassemble the tank of all valves, fittings and gaskets that may be easy to remove.  Rinse these parts with fresh water first then soak them in a high pH solution to help with the cleaning process.  Remove the doors unless these are needed to prevent splashing of the cleaning solutions outside of the tank.  In this case, close the doors loosely to allow the cleaning solution to cover all parts of the door.

3.     Take a brush and clean all of these orifices thoroughly.  Inspect them to make sure they are free of solid debris.  Be certain if any threads exist, a microbial hazard in itself, that these threads are cleaned using a brush or a toothbrush.  Be careful since many tanks have sharp threads that will lacerate one’s skin easily.  Use a brush to remove any other hardened dirty areas on the exterior of the tank.

4.     Inspect the tank visually to see if any solids remain in the tank and rinse them from the tank.

5.     Set up the pump with hoses in a strategic area that will not interfere with any part of the tank cleaning process.  This area could include away from the front of the tank should a ladder need to be placed in that workspace or away from an opening in the tank where water and chemicals could splash/slosh out onto this piece of electrical equipment.

6.     Fill the tank with enough water that one may be able to circulate the water from the bottom port/valve of the tank to the top of the tank with ample extra so that the water will not deplete itself.  This amount could be near 70 gallons for a 3000-gallon tank or less depending on the tank’s configuration.  If the tank has a conical bottom one may need to avoid a vortex.  To combat a vortex, one may place a 5 gallon food grade plastic or stainless steel bucket or two inside the tank.  These will break the development of the vortex.  Be careful they do not clog the outlet of the tank supplying the pump.  Hot water is recommended but not an absolute for tank cleaning.

7.     Attach the suction side of the circulation setup to the bottom valve with a hose.

8.     Attach another set of hose to go to the top of the tank.  This piece should be placed were it will strategically spray water back toward the top of the tank to give maximum distribution of the water and/or cleaning solution.

9.     Cover the top opening with a sheet or towel to prevent splashing of the cleaning water outside of the tank’s opening.

10.  Open the bottom valve and allow the water to circulate to prove to the operator that this action will work as desired.  Look for splashing hazards one may want to avoid if this solution were to contain a cleaning chemical.  Always play with water first!

11.  Once comfortable with the mechanical portion of this process and the operator feels comfortable, one may turn the pump off.

12.  Open the side door and make a cleaning solution to clean the tank.  This is very dependent upon the size of the tank and the amount of potential tartrates that may be present.  To make the cleaning solution, always dissolve the powdered cleaning solution in a bucket before placing into the tank.  (This is done to make sure no caking of the solution may happen.  The solution should be fully and carefully made into a liquid.)

13.  As soon as the cleaning solution is made in the bucket, be sure to add the solution to the wine tank, shut the side door and start the circulation.  Step back from the tank just in case the cleaning solution should want to splash; yet, be able to operate the pump to shut the operation down if needed.  Observe the operation from a distance and listen to make sure the process is working as designed.  Look for open valves to show signs of the cleaning solution and any other areas.

14.  Continue to monitor the process from a distance and always keep your ears on the operation.  The sound of a tank cleaning can be just as important as visually watching the operation.

15.  One can let this process go on for 20-30 minutes or more depending on other operations in the cellar.  The author likes to start the tank cleaning process while working on other projects as long as each process can be monitored properly.  The time is largely affected by the size of the tank and only experience will help the cellar crew in this estimation.

16.  Once the process has been allowed to work, one may turn off the pump and wait 4-5 minutes for the extra dripping of the cleaning solution to cease.

11.  One may carefully open the door. With safety goggles on and a flashlight in hand – one may inspect the tank to see if the process was effective.  Look for areas or patches of tartrates that may not have been dissolved or other areas visually not looking clean.  Take appropriate actions to correct any of these.

18.  Feel the cleaning solution or take a pH reading.  Is the pH still high and does it still feel slippery?

19.  Once one deems the tank to be clean, one can dispose of the spent cleaning solution in the proper manner.

20.  Rinse the tank and empty all hoses of the cleaning solution.  If a bucket was placed in the tank to prevent the vortex – remember to empty its contents.

21.  Add fresh water back to the tank to circulate one more time.

22.  To this water add enough citric acid to get the water at a low pH – perhaps 7 cups into 60 gallons. (Dissolve in water first, as always)

23.  Circulate this solution to contact all parts of the tank the high pH cleaner contacted.  This will neutralize any places back to a reasonable pH level.  This circulation may only take about 5 minutes versus the previous step.

24.  Once finished, open the tank door and feel the water.  It should not be slippery. Run a pH.  The pH should be below 5.5.  If not – ad more citric.

25.  Allow this spent water to drain from the tank and dispose of properly.

26.  Break down the circulation system or move it to another tank.

27.  Rinse the tank one more time with fresh water.

28.  Inspect the tank one more time after the cleaning and make sure to remove the bucket or other tools used in the vortex preventions.

29.  Take the fittings out of the soaking tub and give them a light citric rinse or do this when appropriate and on your timeline.

30.  Always inspect the tank again before filling with wine or juice.

31.  Always look at and smell all the fittings before reinstalling on the tank.  Fittings that smell bad more than likely have bad microbes in them.

32.  Remember to reengage the chilling to that tank so it is ready.

33.  Label the tank cleaned, the date and by whom so others will know what the last process with that tank was.

Summary

  Tank cleaning is extremely important.  It can be done easily just after the tank has been emptied.  The author reports better progress and success with tartrate removal especially if the tank is cleaned within two hours of emptying.  Set your tank cleaning system up to be as easy as possible and make sure the cellar staff is keenly aware of your expectations.  Tanks that are not cleaned properly should not be used and instructions to clean them again would be prudent.  Remember, wine is a product that you and others will drink.  Use tanks that are cleaned with the same amount of dignity that you want your beverages prepared in.

Helpful Hints

  It is not recommended to enter the tank to do any of these processes.  If tank entry is needed, that could require a completely different set up for safety reasons.

  Crack doors and valves to allow the cleaning solutions to coat all areas.  Try these areas first with water and then perform this action with the cleaning solution added.  Remove all gaskets, where appropriate, to allow cleaning them.

  Always check on the interior of the tanks temperature probes and inside manway doors to make sure all is clean, both above and below them.

  Try to have two people around at all times just in case.

  If a certain tank orifice has trouble getting clean try and place a brush or rag in the orifice to absorb the cleaning material so it will “wick” to the upper areas of the orifice.  Then clean the area again physically, rinse the brush or rag and replace for the low pH rinse portion of the cleaning.

  Have a bucket of a light citric solution close by to have access to neutralize any high pH cleaners.

AMPHORA: Bringing the Past Into the Present

By: Nan McCreary

Wine fermented, aged and stored in clay amphora, a practice that originated in Georgia 6,000-8,000 years ago, is experiencing a renaissance around the globe as winemakers realize that this ancient technique brings new opportunities to viniculture.

  An amphora is “an ancient Greek or Roman jar or vase with a large oval body, narrow cylindrical neck and two handles that rise almost to the level of the mouth.” In ancient times, amphorae were the principal means for transporting and storing grapes, olive oil, wine, oil, olives, grain, fish and other supplies. Georgia was the center of amphora winemaking, where the vessels were known as “qvevris.” The technique is still practiced throughout the country today. In fact, qvevri-winemaking is so integral to their culture that this winemaking technique has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

  Today, partially inspired by the popularity of Georgia’s qvevri-aged orange wine, winemakers in Old World countries that once used and abandoned the ancient practice are now using amphorae to bring their wines back to ancient roots. Others, including New World winemakers who have no history of using amphorae, such as Chile, South Africa, Australia, Argentina and the U.S., are also using the age-old method to make new and original wines. So far, the reviews have been positive. According to proponents, modern use of this technique allows for slow micro-oxygenation, naturally-controlled temperatures, pure expression of the fruit and softening of the acidity – or, if fired at a very high temperature, preservation of acidity.

  These benefits of fermenting and aging in amphora are due to the unique properties of the vessel, just as winemaking in oak barrels and stainless steel offer their own distinctive characteristics. Oak barrels are porous and allow exposure to oxygen but also contribute flavors from the wood’s tannins. Stainless steel tanks are hermetically sealed and provide an oxygen-free environment, resulting in fresh, crisp wines. Clay amphorae fall somewhere in the middle. Because clay is porous, the vessel allows oxygen exposure as wines age, which helps soften tannins and flavors. Also, since clay is a neutral material, the presence of oxygen enables wines to develop without imparting any additional flavors. In addition, clay is an excellent thermal conductor, which releases the heat from fermentation, so there is no need for temperature control, especially if the vessel is buried in the ground according to Georgian tradition. The wine evolves slowly, preserving the fresh and fruity aromas.

  In the early days of winemaking, amphora size was generally around 30 liters. Today, amphorae may range from 320 liters to 1600 liters. The winemaking process begins when the pressed must is placed into the amphora, which is then sealed. Fermentation is spontaneous due to the presence of indigenous yeast in the fruit. During fermentation, the curved nature of the pots creates a swirling motion that gently extracts flavors and some tannins from the grapes and forces solids to settle at the bottom, leaving a clear, bright wine. There is little or no need to filter. Natural tannins found in grape skins, pips and stalks provide a natural preservative, so adding sulfur is unnecessary.

  Amphorae are generally free-standing, but some winemakers bury their vessels according to Georgian customs. Fermentation and maturation times will vary depending on the winemaker’s goals. In Georgia, they leave the qvevri underground to ferment for at least five months before being decanted and bottled. According to some experts, fermentation in amphora can take longer, resulting in a higher extraction level. Wines aged in amphora tend to mature faster, too, because of the micro-oxygenation. Both red and white wines can be vinified in amphora, with whole grapes stemmed or destemmed.

  Amphora wines are especially popular among proponents of biodynamic winemaking, who prefer minimal intervention and a natural approach to viticulture and viniculture. Since these wines are unfiltered, the process appeals to fans of natural wine and winemaking. Also, the sustainability of the amphora, compared to wood or steel tanks, offers an environmentally and financially advantage: On average, wood barrels must be replaced every four to five years, but clay amphora can last decades, if not centuries.

  So how do these wines taste? Because the wines fermented and aged in amphora are exposed to more air, they have a deep, rich texture. The presence of oxygen also softens tannins and accelerates tertiary aromas of nuts, baked fruit and chocolate. Clay is a neutral container, so wines show less oxidation than their oak-aged counterparts. They also show less reduction than wines aged in stainless steel. Generally, tasters say wines have an elevated expression of fruit, open with a bright quality and close with a long and rich finish.

  While we are seeing a quiet revolution of fermenting and aging in amphora, there is no “one size fits all” to the containers because of regional and historical differences. The vessels come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Most are made with clay, including terracotta. Others may be made with sandstone and concrete, but they are usually not referred to as “amphora.” Traditionally, amphorae were hand-made, and most still are today, either by the winemakers themselves or through specific amphorae producers.

  The unifying thread is that these wines prioritize extended skin contact, regardless of the composition. In Georgia and Armenia — where amphorae-based wine production has its origins — the vessels are called “qvevri” and “karas,” respectively. The amphorae are large, egg-shaped pots and, for hygienic reasons, are lined with beeswax. Ancient Romans used a large oval clay vessel called a “dolium,” which had a large opening at the top and a rounded body attached to a flat or rounded bottom. The dolia, often six feet in height with a 2500-liter capacity, were kept underground with a constant temperature all year. The Spanish used a massive clay vessel called a “tinaja,” which tapers at the top and the bottom like an egg. Tinaja are used by some contemporary winemakers in La Mancha, Valdepeñas and Montilla-Moriles. In Portugal’s Alentejo region, many winemakers are reviving the country’s tradition of fermenting in amphorae called a “talha.” The talhas are massive and can produce 1000 liters of wine. The region even has the world’s only appellation dedicated to wines made in amphora, Vinho de Talha. Italians use the terms “anfore,” “orci” or “giare” for amphorae. Tuscany has been the center of clay vessel production for generations.

  The revival of amphorae is leading innovative producers to experiment with improvements in the vessels, specifically in the areas of oxygen transfer rates, porosity, effects of different firing temperatures, testing of elements released by amphorae, durability and ease of cleaning/improved sanitation, among other areas. Many of today’s amphorae are far from those used 6,000 years ago, with producers offering hermetically-sealed ceramic lids that minimize temperature fluctuations and add-ons such as doors, drain holes, valves and sample taps to facilitate fermenting, aging and cleaning. Some have produced vessels with varying porosity, within limits, due to high-temperature firing techniques, amphorae that limit contact with yeast by their design, and larger-sized amphorae that can maintain original reliability performance. It’s also possible to use vineyard soil in the clay to form an amphora with a local footprint.

  Today’s amphorae are not inexpensive: Generally, prices begin at around $3,000. A stainless steel tank starts at $1,000, and an oak barrel can range in price from $900 to $2,000, depending on whether it’s American or French Oak. Concrete tanks, which offer benefits similar to amphorae, may cost as much as $14,000 for a 470-gallon capacity vessel. While amphora and concrete represent a significant investment, those who use them say the benefits are worth the expense. Not only do the vessels last for decades, but they also yield competitive wines of all varieties.

  With amphorae technology continuing to evolve, winemakers considering vinification with this method should research their options seriously. First of all, confirm that the amphorae selected are specifically made for wine and have been tested and certified to ensure there is no risk of contamination. Potential buyers should also consider how much oxygen the wine needs, ease of sanitation and cleaning, thermal insulation properties, the safety of materials and durability of the vessel.

  Amphorae are taking us back to the future. Winemakers, who by nature are continually looking for innovative ways to produce wines, are embracing this old technology with enthusiasm. For them, opportunities with amphorae abound.

From the Vineyard to the Bottle: What to Consider When Choosing Filling Equipment

By: Cheryl Gray

When harvest ends, when fermentation and aging are over, it is time to bottle the wine. While it may seem like a simple thing, how those bottles get filled truly matters. When choosing the right filling equipment for a winery, key factors to consider include capacity, functionality and, of course, cost.  

  XpressFill, headquartered in San Luis Obispo, California, has neighbors that include wine regions near Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Edna Valley and Santa Maria Valley. The company, founded in 2007, provides a wide range of filling machines that fit virtually any need for wineries of any size.  

  One of the company’s specializations is the development of compact, affordable, easy-to-operate table-top fillers. Rod Silver is in charge of marketing and sales for the company.

  “XpressFill offers both a volumetric and a level fill machine,” he said. “Both fillers have self-priming pumps, do not require gravity or a reservoir, are made of food-grade [materials], and are capable of filling 450 bottles per hour. We also offer two-spout versions of each, capable of filling 240 bottles per hour.” 

  Silver told The Grapevine Magazine that XpressFill designs its machines for product protection and efficiency.

  “The fillers can be equipped with an inert gas – CO2 or Nitrogen – purge option to extend the shelf life of your product. Either configuration weighs less than 25 lbs, with a physical size similar to a case of wine,” he said. “By using an efficient flow path, there is very little waste due to priming for the initial fills or left-over wine in the system at completion.”  

  Ease of use is an essential feature in any new piece of equipment. XpressFill fillers provide a user-friendly experience.  

  “Operation is simple. Set up and cleaning require little time, allowing larger wineries to use our fillers to avoid large production setup costs or mobile canning minimum fees. The volumetric filler provides an adjustable shelf and offers the most flexibility when filling a broad range of bottle sizes. The variations in bottle fill volumes are within a consistent range in order to comply with the regulations set by the TTB,” said Silver. 

  “The level filler is designed with a sensor probe that shuts off the fill at the desired height. Simply adjust the shelf to the desired height, then place the bottle on the shelf to set the fill level wanted. The flow is triggered by resting a bottle on the snap switch. The fill will shut off when the sensor detects the liquid hitting the correct level in the bottle. [These machines are] perfect for use with hand-blown and other specialty bottles that have slight variations in bottle wall thicknesses, punt size, diameter of the bottle, and neck height, among other inconsistencies. They are most popular in industries requiring bottles to be filled to consistent levels even when volumes may vary.”

  Silver described how digital technology plays a vital role in product operations.  

  “Volumes are controlled by use of the digital timer. The user simply inputs the amount of time necessary to fill the bottle. For example, a two oz bottle might take four seconds to fill, a 275 ml bottle 13 seconds, and a 750 ml bottle 25 seconds (based on water). Times will vary according to the viscosity of the product. The digital timer is precise and adjustable down to .01 seconds, and the time is stored in the memory until changed by the user.” 

  Silver told The Grapevine Magazine that XpressFill provides wineries with affordable options.

  “Our fillers are extremely cost-effective, ranging from $2,395 to under $4,000 for a fully equipped filler capable of gas purge and 450 bottles filled in one hour…They are ideal for the small-to-medium production artisan craft person.   

  An investment in equipment now will inevitably lead to the question of when to upgrade later. Silver said wineries should consider several factors when moving into a faster, larger capacity bottle-filling product.  

  “For deciding when it is time to upgrade, the advice would be to perform a cost-benefit analysis based on the down-time, maintenance and hourly operating cost of the current system versus the replacement. Although a new system may have much greater production throughput, the time for setup, configuring for filling and cleaning after filling may be much more labor-intensive and result in a net reduction in cost-effectiveness.” 

  The Vintner’s Vault is another California-based company that sells bottle-filling products. With locations in Paso Robles and Temecula and a third in the Texas hill country, the company has a client base that stretches across the United States as well as in Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, China, Nova Scotia and Indonesia. It works with several manufacturers to provide wineries with a range of choices.  

  Andrew Berg, Vice President of The Vintner’s Vault,  said that innovation and introducing new products are priorities.  

  “Over the past years, we have provided the fastest-growing segment of the bottling industry due to our ability to produce affordable and extremely effective machines that are easy for clients to operate,” said Berg. “We offer fully automatic bottling lines and semi-automatic bottle fillers. Gravity fillers are used for still wines and isobaric fillers for sparkling wines. We also offer vacuum filling machines for olive oil and vinegar, as well as some craft breweries. 

  “For our automated systems, we run from 16,000 bottles per hour to as low as 1000 bottles per hour and for semi-automatic systems from 1000 to 200 bottles per hour. 

  “All systems we offer are very easy for the clients to use. Protecting the wines from oxygen pickup during bottling is the top priority, followed by consistent, accurate fill levels. Gravity fillers and the vacuum filling units, both automatic and semi-automatic, are much more economical compared to isobaric fillers, which are also offered in automatic or semi-automatic.” 

  Wineries can sometimes be limited in their equipment choices because of location and cost. The Vintner’s Vault works to help solve both problems.  

  “Many of these smaller and medium facilities are in rural areas where their options for bottling are more limited, so the investment must come as part of the equipment budget,” Berg said. “We are able to provide highly professional and easy-to-use systems that can fit that budget.  

  “For the larger facilities, we have combinations of Borelli and NewTec, along with a variety of other options for off-packing, automatic palletizing, carton erecting, carton sealing, case packing and much more. In all sizes, we work directly with the client to determine their exact needs. [We then] build a system accordingly with all drawings and needed details for the client to ensure that it not only fits their needs and budget but the space allocated for the system.” 

  Wineries have multiple factors to consider when choosing filling equipment. Careful planning is the first step.

  “Small producers usually start with a semi-automatic bottle filler due to their small productions and their budget. Medium and large-sized wineries go with automatic bottling lines because their larger production makes it more affordable to invest in an automatic bottling line and reduces the labor involved in bottling their wines,” said Berg.

  “It is also important for many producers to have the added luxury of bottling on their schedule as opposed to medium and larger wineries having to hire a mobile bottling truck service, which in turn locks them into dates which can create logistical timing issues for the winery,” he said. “Not all the wines may be ready for the bottling date, they may not have the tank capacity to bottle all their wines together, and it also can be a challenge if the bottling products like labels, corks or capsules, etcetera, are not on sight on time.

  “That being said, we also have produced several full bottling trucks and trailers for clients who provide bottling services to a number of producers. These are our mobile bottling trailers, and we can build the entire system from scratch to customer specification or install it in a client’s existing truck or trailer.” 

  Among the companies specializing in bottle filling machines for sparkling wine is Della Toffola Group, established in the 1960s and headquartered in Italy. The company has a global presence with branch offices on six continents, including Della Toffola USA in Santa Rosa, California.  

  The company has manufactured and installed winemaking equipment for more than half a century. In addition to isobaric bottle filling machines, the company also provides wineries with a varied selection of bottle filling equipment, including volumetric, electric and gravity filling machines.  

  Industry experts agree that time spent carefully researching options can save money in the long run. Partnering with a bottle-filling manufacturer that prioritizes the winery’s needs for immediate and future production is part of that sound research.

Wine Production Methods & Business Needs Drive Pump Choice


By: Gerald Dlubala

Pumps are an important and core piece in winemaking. A productive and successful cellar operation requires pumps to be tolerant of solids and sediment, easy to clean and maintain and efficient at keeping oxygen out of the wine. Additionally, the winemaker needs the support of a manufacturer that offers constructive advice, critical support and available replacement parts and training when required.

What That Pump Can And Can’t Do Are Both Important

  “When it comes to pumps for a winemaker to choose from, there are really only six basic types,” said Jon Johnson, Service and Sales Representative for Carlsen and Associates, an industry leader in providing the ultimate functional, quality winemaking equipment. “Each can be functional in a wine-producing environment, and each has distinct advantages, disadvantages, and corresponding price point.”

  Johnson explained the assortment of pumps Carlsen and Associates provides to customers.

•    Positive Displacement Pumps “These are the most versatile pumps for a winemaker to have in their facility,” said Johnson. “Positive displacement pumps are great for moving solids and must but are versatile enough for other cellar applications, including bottling, juice transfer, pump overs, and barrel work. They also operate with minimal destruction of solids. Although running the pumps equipped with rubber impellers dry is a recipe for quick pump damage, when equipped with stainless rotors, they can be run dry without that worry. Positive displacement pumps cannot be shut off because the pressure continues building and will potentially damage the weakest link involved, usually meaning a burst hose. The positive displacement pump’s versatility and reliability come with a price tag in the $17,000 range.”

•    Progressive Cavity Pumps “These pumps are gentler on the product and won’t squish or damage things as much as other pump varieties,” said Johnson. “They will sometimes break the grape seeds and, like other pumps, cannot be run dry without damaging the pump mechanics. Progressive cavity pumps can run the winemaker $10,000.”

•    Rubber Impeller/Rotor Pumps “These are the typical low-cost starter pump,” said Johnson. “They’re not usually the first choice because they cannot be run dry, can cause damage to the contents they are moving, and contain parts mostly made overseas, potentially affecting availability and ultimately causing extended downtime. On the low end of the price spectrum, a winemaker can expect to spend around $5,000 on a rubber impeller pump.”

•    Peristaltic or Hose Pumps “Considered an expensive, single-use piece of equipment that uses large rotors and rollers and takes up a large amount of space, peristaltic pumps simply do not offer the versatility of other pump choices,” said Johnson. “Additionally, they are the most expensive pump on this list with around a $30,000 price tag.”

•    Centrifugal Pumps “Centrifugal pumps are generally only good for juices or liquids,” said Johnson. “Any solids get macerated in use, so they are common for waste and end-of-line uses. Large-scale centrifugal pumps are best for large-scale events like tanker-truck loading and unloading or large-scale wine blending. However, they aren’t made to be run dry without causing damage, and a winemaker can expect to spend around $7,000 for the pump, necessary fittings and hardware.”

•    Air Diaphragm Pumps “This is the gentlest of the pump choices,” said Johnson. “They are low maintenance and low cost, in the $5,000 range. Air diaphragm pumps can provide a lot of pressure and can be run dry. An additional feature is the ability to shut off against the pump without damaging any components or equipment. The drawback of these pumps is that they can be tougher to clean.”

  Johnson told The Grapevine Magazine that there are applications where each type of pump can be successful. “The key to choosing the right pump for any cellar application is for the winemaker to make decisions and have a clear path about their winemaking methods before selecting a pump system.

  “It’s critical to know if they are pumping must, what type of fermentation they will be using, if they are planning to screen or not, etcetera. These answers will narrow down the options. Narrow them down more by knowing the distance you’ll want your pumps to move product, including any bends and inclines. For example, long traveling liquids aren’t suited to be pushed with a rubber impeller pump because there won’t be enough pressure to perform the required movement. They also will likely not produce enough pressure to be available for filtration applications. Know your methods, so you know what type of pump system will work and, just as importantly, won’t work. Once you know your methods, you’ll know your pump needs, and then you’ll want to find and work with a trusted, experienced manufacturer that offers parts and service availability to decrease downtime and keep the juices flowing.”

After The Loving: Reliable Pumps To Help With Waste

  After the detailed love and day-to-day dedication that a winemaker puts into their product, there is still waste removal. Gorman-Rupp has been manufacturing pumps and pumping systems since 1933, with many of their designs becoming industry standards. For the wine industry, Gorman-Rupp typically provides pumps for the waste side of the production process.

  “We manufacture solids handling, self-priming centrifugal pumps that are great for pumping stems, skins, seeds and all other types of waste,” said Jeff Hannan, Product Manager for centrifugal pumps with Gorman-Rupp. Additionally, Gorman-Rupp offers their exclusive Eradicator Solids Management System for moving and clearing waste. It includes a lightweight inspection cover featuring an innovative, accessibility-driven backplate that incorporates an obstruction-free flow path and an aggressive self-cleaning wear plate designed to constantly and effectively clear the eye of the impeller.

  “Equip our Super-T Series centrifugal pumps with the Eradicator Solids Management System, and you have the best and most popular choice for pumping clog-prone waste like seeds, stems, skins, and any other stringy type of solid waste,” Hannan said. “In addition, upgrade kits are available for existing Super T or Ultra V pumps already in service out in the field to reach that same level of self-cleaning technology.”

  Hannan told The Grapevine Magazine that his Super T Series pumps can pass up to three inches of spherical solids, so they’re designed to eliminate clogging and effectively increase uptime. The technology was introduced in 2015 by Gorman-Rupp and has proved to be highly reliable in handling all stringy, clog-prone material. With over 4,000 units in operation, it’s not uncommon to have Super T Series pumps with more than 25 years of in-field service. That reliability factor is one of the things that a winemaker should consider when choosing a pump manufacturer.

  “When selecting a pump for any waste application, consideration must be given to the manufacturer’s reliability, reputation and service, along with the total cost of ownership and overall uptime that the pump offers,” said Hannan. “It’s always best to select pumps that are easy to maintain and are specifically designed to prevent clogging. Externally adjustable clearances between the impeller and wear plate, in combination with the new lightweight inspection covers, are just a couple of the features that make routine maintenance of our pumps easier than ever and a favorite for maintenance personnel. Additionally, depending on what is being moved, construction materials can be a huge factor in the pump’s lifespan. Typically, cast iron and ductile iron components are most common in general waste pumping. But if the pumped product has a lot of sand, grit or other abrasives, hardened materials like Austempered Ductile Iron for the wearing surfaces would extend the pump life. If moving caustic products, various grades of stainless steel, such as 316 SST or CD4MCu, can be incorporated into the pump to extend the lifespan.”

  Gorman-Rupp also manufactures a full line of submersibles, rotary gear, and standard centrifugal pumps to handle waste, sump and fluid handling applications. Unlike submersibles installed in the sump, self-priming pumps are mounted high and dry above the waste sump making maintenance easier to perform and eliminating confined space dangers. In addition, Gorman-Rupp’s Super T Series pumps are simple to work on, with the maintenance usually performed by winery personnel.

  “Overall, winemakers should look for the same things that wine drinkers seek in their products, namely reliability, reputation and service,” said Hannan. “If something would happen to go wrong, and it invariably will, I would want to know that I can trust the pump supplier to work with me to resolve the situation. That’s specifically what Gorman-Rupp has been doing for almost 90 years.”

Fixed Base Pumps Help Counter Labor Woes

  There may not be a lot of new movement on existing pump technology,” said Eric Kiser, Equipment and Machinery Sales at Carlsen and Associates. “But the current use of that technology is shifting. There is wider use of fixed base automatic pumps for pump-overs throughout the industry, driven by the ongoing lack of available staff, increased process efficiency and the resulting overall savings for the winery.”

  Fixed base pumps are permanently attached to the tank and mainly used while the juices are breaking down to help maintain consistent color extraction and keep the cap of the tank containing tannins and tartrates moist.

  “The technology has been around for probably three to five years,” said Kiser. “But it was always considered a luxury that carried a price tag of around $7,000. Now, with the ongoing labor shortages and fewer wine cellar workers, it’s become a viable option that allows a winemaker to recover their investment in as little as a year and a half. Some winemakers like to do three pump-overs a day with 20 minutes for each one, and others do multiple pump-overs a day lasting just a few minutes. Either way, pump-overs quickly become a time and labor-consuming practice. A portable pump is brought in, set up, used for a short time, and then has to be broken down, sanitized and readied for the next pump-over session. That’s a lot of labor and time invested for a predictable, repetitive process. Fixed base systems, sealed in an all-in-one unit, eliminate the repetitive labor involved and free up that labor and time for other cellar tasks.”

  Located under the tank with a fixed base pump-over system, it draws in at times set by an automatic timer. Once activated, juices are drawn upwards to an irrigator and sprayed over the tank top, or cap, for moisture retention. All colors, tannins and tartrates are blended and treated as one instead of having the solids sink and the mixture separate. A sealed, automatic system eliminates the setup, break down, clean and sanitize cycle. Additionally, an automated system helps eliminate the human errors that can potentially occur from rushed or overworked employees, including cross-contamination or incorrect tank usage.   “It is an expensive luxury up front,” said Kiser. “A complete setup with pump, drain, controls, devices and fittings can require an initial investment of $7,000. But it becomes worth the upfront cost when you consider the quick return on investment and the ongoing labor issues. The labor shortage is real and likely isn’t going away. The marijuana harvest will only grow, and that’s important because it coincides with the wine harvest. The result is that the two agricultural industries will always be fighting for the same seasonal field workers.


The Okanagan: British Columbia’s Vine Valley

By: Tod Stewart

Man, did I need this,” was the thought that went through my mind as I opened the blinds and took in the morning view from my luxurious suite at Spirit Ridge Resort. Under an azure, late fall sky, vineyards stretched down to the sun-sparkled cobalt surface of southern Osoyoos Lake, whose waters stretched towards the hills in the distance. Though late in November, the Okanagan Valley in the British Columbia interior was experiencing a glorious, prolonged fall, with temperatures in the mid-50s. As I’d been in a COVID-induced semi-lockdown seemingly forever, a chance to escape my Toronto condo was just what the doctor ordered (along with face masks, vaccines, tests, social distancing, and an “abundance of caution”).

  This was my second visit to Spirit Ridge. The first time was back in 2005 on my first trip to Brit-ish Columbia. At that time, the resort had yet to be fully completed (doors officially opened in 2006), but the evidence of what was yet to come was apparent. Today, Spirit Ridge offers a range of stunning accommodations, activities, fine dining and the Indigenous-owned Nk’Mip (In-ka-meep) Cellars winery mere steps away. It also serves as the perfect base for exploring the numerous wineries that pepper the landscape, from the town of Osoyoos in the south to Salm-on Arm in the north.

  This time, what brought me to the Okanagan was an invitation to visit the stunning Phantom Creek Estates winery, tour the facility, taste some wines, and dine in its acclaimed restaurant. While there, I could also spend some of my own time checking out a few other establishments in the area.

  Nestled between the Cascade and Columbia mountain ranges and meandering on a roughly north to south tack for some 124 miles, the Okanagan Valley was forged by glacial activity about 10,000 years ago. The landscape is as rugged as it is beautiful. I’ve toured a few wine regions in my travels, and, as far as scenery goes, the Okanagan ranks up there with the best of them. Though undoubtedly appreciative of their daily view, Winemakers in the area face a few challenges – some familiar, some not so much.

  To begin with, there’s the climate. To call it extreme would be an understatement. For example, the summer of 2021 saw temperatures in south Okanagan hit upwards of 120 degrees Fahren-heit. In the midst of this was a twelve-day stretch where some vineyards experienced tempera-tures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 12 hours each day. Come January, the mer-cury plummeted to a bone-chilling -13 degrees Fahrenheit.

  The region is also very dry. The southern part of the valley – where I was stationed – is Cana-da’s only desert and the second driest climate in the country outside of the Arctic. Irrigation in the vineyards is a must. A bit of a pain, but not something to stop dedicated vineyard manag-ers. What could stop a dedicated vineyard manager is some of the local wildlife.

  If, as a winemaker, you think birds are a problem, tending vineyards in the Okanagan could prove to be somewhat unnerving. Bears, cougars, wolves, rattlesnakes and Black Widow spi-ders are all present to varying degrees and can be more than a tad annoying. With their insa-tiable appetite for ripe berries, the bears will gladly decimate row after row of vines (and are probably indifferent to the nuances of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot). This can have some unfortunate economic consequences for a vineyard owner. Still, there’s not much that can be done outside of letting them have their fill, given that they can also decimate those interfering with their dinner. Encounters with the other beasties are rare but not unheard of. As an aside, I asked a local Bordeaux-trained winemaker if he faced similar challenges from wildlife while working in France. “Well, there were French people,” he said.

  If you can deal with these challenges, the south Okanagan is, by all accounts, a truly remarka-ble place to craft world-class wines.

  Vancouver-based businessman Richter Bai, whose background involved mining in China, thought so, too. He saw the south Okanagan as the perfect place to craft the Bordeaux-inspired blends that he personally favored. And so, armed with nothing more than a dream and about $100 million (Canadian, I’ll assume), Bai secured some prime wine-growing real estate and set to work.

  Fortunately, the land he bought came with a trifecta of highly-acclaimed vineyards: Phantom Creek Vineyard, planted in 1996; Becker Vineyard, planted in 1977; and the Kobau Vineyard, planted in 2005. The Evernden Springs vineyard – planted after Bai’s purchase – in the neigh-boring Similkameen Valley added a fourth vineyard to the estate’s holdings. The region’s dry climate ensured that utilizing organic and biodynamic vineyard practices was more than doa-ble. To alleviate any possible hiccups along the way to organic and biodynamic certification, the talents of Olivier Humbrecht were enlisted. Humbrecht, owner and winemaker at Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, was brought on as Consulting Winemaker. France’s first Master of Wine, Humbrecht is known as a leading proponent of biodynamic winemaking.

  The 78,884 square foot winery Bai built has a 35,000 case capacity and is at once a showcase for art, architecture, gastronomy and, of course, wine. It sports a 500-seat amphitheater, a first-class restaurant, and numerous objets d’art, including a Dale Chihuly-designed chandelier hanging over the Founder’s Cellar tasting table.

  I was shown around the place by the very hospitable Andrew Young, Phantom Creek’s Hospi-tality Manager. He also took me through a thorough tasting of the winery’s vinous treasures. The Bordeaux blends and house cuvées (that often saw both Bordeaux and Rhone varieties in the mix) certainly displayed both power and elegance, as well as complexity, as did a very solid Syrah. The whites – including Riesling, Pinot Gris and Viognier – were immaculately balanced and varietally true to character. Even the Viognier, a grape that tends to veer off into blowsi-ness in the wrong hands, was elegant and restrained.

  An additional benefit when visiting Phantom Creek is partaking in some of the winery’s other assets, of which there are plenty.

  Over a superb, multi-course dinner at the winery’s on-site restaurant, creatively prepared by Chef Alessa Valdez, I was poured a number of additional Phantom Creek wines that married perfectly with the various dishes. Poached Lingcod with crispy grilled saffron polenta, grilled green cabbage, ‘nduja beurre blanc, and almond gremolata…O.M.G. And things were just get-ting started.

  It was a bit of a change of pace going from the opulent lavishness of Phantom Creek Estates to the elevated vineyards of Osoyoos Larose. I admired the view of the Okanagan Valley stretched out about 1,300 feet below me as I looked over the nearly 80 acres of vines. I was in the vineyard because it wasn’t possible to visit the winery, mainly because, at the time of visit-ing, Osoyoos Larose didn’t have a winery.

  Since its inception in 1998, the estate has availed itself of various “borrowed” facilities. This should be changing over the next couple of years as a permanent production home has finally been secured. Yet, despite what many might see as a definite setback, Osoyoos Larose has managed – vintage after vintage – to craft red wines based on the classic Bordeaux blend that have been hailed by connoisseurs and critics as among the best in Canada.

  Owned by France’s Groupe Taillan (owner of Chateau Gruaud-Larose in Saint-Julien, among others), Osoyoos Larose, like most Bordeaux estates, makes but two wines (both red); its Le Grand Vin flagship, and Pétales d’Osoyoos. However, the estate is in the process of planting white varietals for a Bordeaux-inspired white counterpart. About two and a half acres have been planted to date, with an additional 20 acres slated for planting next year. Until then, con-sumers will have to content themselves with the Osoyoos Larose reds. A vertical tasting of vin-tages 2009 through to 2018 went a long way in convincing me that there’s plenty with which to be content.

  It should be exciting times ahead for a winery that, without hype, without a huge advertising and promotional budget, and without even an actual winery, has managed to secure a top spot in the echelon of the world’s great wines.

  Before catching a morning flight back to Toronto, my final meal was at the whimsically named The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry restaurant at Spirit Ridge. The name derives from a story told by the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation describing the Four Food Chiefs, each representing above-ground animals, water-dwellers, underground edibles and above-ground plants. I settled on the Bring Me Hasenpfeffer, mostly because it sounded (and, in fact, was) delicious, and also because “hasenpfeffer” was a word etched into my brain since my Bugs Bunny cartoon days. It paired nicely with the ripe, densely-structured, slightly smoky Nk’Mip 2018 Syrah from the adjacent winery.

  For wine markers south of the border looking for stunning scenery, fantastic hospitality, and some pretty incredible wines, a visit to British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley will prove to be en-tertaining, educational and eye-opening.

Is Wine Culture Nature’s Saving Grace?

By: Hanifa Sekandi

If the vines could speak, they would tell stories of the scorching sun burning the skin of grapes, winter’s frigid temperatures and frost forcing them to surrender to the elements. At any given time, the vines in vineyards neatly planted around the globe have to adjust to mother nature; sur-vival depends on adaptation. There is no better teacher than nature.

  If you understand viticulture and viniculture, you know there is always something to learn – from the moment the seed is planted to the time the vines grow, and the grapes are harvested. Just like vines, we are students of nature. And, to grow, we must pay attention. As one immerses them-selves into wine culture, they quickly learn that there is more to a bottle of wine than finding a splendid pairing. We cannot simply live in blissful ignorance all that time. When we do, life shocks us back to reality. The reality is, as much as we are sovereign beings, we are also a part of a larger ecosystem. One that we love to enjoy yet, at times, fail to understand.     

  Viticulture could be that saving grace since the thing we love reveals what has always been right before us.

  It seems like viniculture and viticulture are experiencing a backward renaissance. The renais-sance was a period when change and innovation fueled both old and new industries. Out with the old and in with the new; the common consensus. Wine cultivation during this time saw great leaps. Tradition needed to be forgotten to open doors for new production methods that yielded more fruit and profits. The modern revolution, the golden age of wine, left no stone unturned. Change is good, they believed. Even disruptive change met with a “yes we can” ideology. Somewhere along the way, the relationship between nature and winemaking ruptured. Although deeply interconnected, the two, at times, became separate in modern winemaking. Recently, however, the resurgence of biodynamic wineries and organic wines is making a wave in viticul-ture. This circular leap to the past, yet still firmly planted in present-day winemaking, is a rebirth needed for nature and viticulture. Wine is a beverage that has endured many turbulent times and has reached its tipping point. It is time to turn back.

Is Organic Wine Farming New?

  Sometimes we borrow things from the past and forget to give credit where it is due. We cannot discredit organic winemakers. They have shown the wine industry that perhaps it has gone too far with innovation and reminded it that wine is dependent on nature. Soil quality, respect for the habitat, and all organisms living in it are components one must not ignore. Organic wine is not a niche sector. It is the culture. Biodynamic farmers are not reinventing the wheel; they are ex-panding on traditional wine practices.

  So what is organic grape farming? How does it nurture nature and wine culture? For starters, it is about quality above anything else. Therefore smaller batches are the norm. Crafting these wines requires patience and an understanding of the land. It includes pesticide-free vines growing on nutrient-dense soils. It gives a home to different animal species and organisms. It brings together components that foster an enriching habitat and encourage the growth of rich grapes in nutrient-dense soils. It is a life-sustaining ecosystem where the sum of its parts completes the whole.

  Most people do not think of the little intricacies that make up a bottle of Chardonnay. Nor do they question if one sip contributes to the detriment of viticulture. Even imbibing wine slowly and with ease has lost its way. Does this mean we cannot enjoy ourselves? Of course not! But we must be mindful. And in turn, we challenge ourselves to do more than exist. So when we look at the science of wine and how this can shape a better future. We must return to its roots. It is the same viewpoint that people are taking in sustainable farming. Although tedious, the old way of working the land respected culture and nature. We do not need to consume more simply because we can. We certainly do not need to cut corners for more low-quality wine because of better technology. Drinking wine was never meant to be a sport.

Does Conventional Farming Need A Shake-up?

  Conventional farming practices grow vines with the help of pesticides which we now know are not beneficial to your health. Alas, we cannot blame wine growers who deal with unpredictable terrains, weather conditions, pests, and plant diseases for looking for remedies. Who would not jump on something that could help their vines grow? Owning a vineyard is hard work and re-quires a lot of mental strength to adapt to the unpredictability encountered at any given time.

  The routinization of farming has found its way into winemaking, perhaps due to people’s desire for consistency in their favorite wine. Therefore, now is not a time to point fingers or argue about what is right or wrong. Nature speaks louder and determines what must be done. For example, when Phylloxera ravaged vines in the late 19th century, French winemakers’ solution of planting American disease-resistant vines, which led to grape hybrids, proved successful. There is flexi-bility in change. It is okay to take a few steps back without significantly altering your operations to preserve both nature and viticulture.

  Monocropping, a farming practice where high yields of one plant varietal are grown, has found its way into winemaking. This method is commonly used in corn, soybean and wheat farming. The problem, however, is that growing limited grape varietals reduces plant diversity within an ecosystem. To make matters worse, an influx of toxic pesticides and fertilizers is necessary to increase and sustain the growth of desired staples. Once met with praise, the negative impact this practice has on the environment, animals and organisms is now evident.

  For vineyards, plant biodiversity is an adjustment that can slowly be incorporated into small or large vineyards lacking in diversity. Creating a healthy and robust ecosystem within a vineyard does not require giant leaps. Nor will it impact the bottom line. Steps can be as small as adding a few new plant species close to where vines grow. As a result, the ecosystem blooms and other species thrive within this environment. Birds, microorganisms, bees and other insects, for exam-ple, contribute to a robust ecosystem. Every animal and organism in nature is perfectly placed so that the entire system functions accordingly.

  Producing more of what we desire should not kill what we essentially need. A reliance on toxic fertilizers and pesticides while favoring mass consumption and lucrative simple production prac-tices will only cause the wine industry to suffer in the long run.

For The Grace Of Wine

  The beginnings of wine were biblical and mythical. The lineage of wine has long roots starting in the Mesopotamian Era. Wine has also symbolized togetherness. There was a time when families would spend their Saturday with their feet planted in a larger barrel grape-treading. Owning a vineyard was a family and a community affair in some wine regions. Harsh weather conditions or vine disease that ravaged a season would truly break hearts. Wine represents not just liveli-hood but a dream brought into existence after the perfect harvest, demonstrating that hard work yields great things. Centuries past, wine also opened a pathway to the New World when it was traded for coffee. Wine is unifying and polarizing at the same time.

  There is more to a wine tasting than just sipping and spitting. It is an art in and of itself. Here, sommeliers worldwide can tell you stories of the vineyards where grapes grow. How a bottle of wine is best served and why it should be slow sipped or appreciated with grilled fish. Wine is meant to be enjoyed over stories with those we love. Wine is the gatekeeper of legends waiting to be told.

  The seeds that have been planted around the world have traveled miles. How did a French oak barrel make its way to South Africa? What makes a local Moroccan wine different than a Bordeaux in France? Think of the perseverance of a German winemaker who could not let frost ruin his harvest. They complete the story. Wine is the hands of the people that make every bottle possible.

  So when we drink wine, we touch the hearts of the people and the region a bottle originates. We experience mother nature in her diversity and what she gives us, from the mineral-rich soils and terrain in Africa to the sweeping valleys of Germany. We share a beverage once used for medicinal purposes when freshwater was scarce in the Middle Ages. Indeed, wine culture is worth nurturing and preserving. To do so, we mustn’t run too far away from the past. Instead, a little time travel could restore all that is good, so we can experience it for years to come.

Alcohol Testing

By: Thomas Payette, Winemaking Consultant

 Ebulliometer: This science principal of testing alcohol has been around for decades it is still widely used by small and large wineries alike.  Based on the boiling point of water, calibrated against atmospheric pressure, this test is an excellent tool for most, if not all, dry wines.  If attempting to test wine with residual sugar be sure to understand this test has its limits.  Other more expensive testing units do exist but typically at a much larger price.

Tools and Chemicals

•    Ebulliometer kit complete.

•    Distilled water.

•    Ethanol for burner lamp (Everclear ™ or equivalent).

•    Matches or lighter to light wick.

•    Dry wines to test.

•    Lab sink or other.

•    Ice cold water for condenser.

•    Good eyesight and protective eyewear.

•    MSDS sheets and other protective gear for handling the unit and reagents.

  When: Most winemakers run their alcohols just after fermentation to validate success of their calculated predictions and then once again after blending and/or about three months before bottling to confirm their label printing will be in compliance with all regulatory agencies such as the Tax and Trade Bureau.   Obviously testing anytime one suspects a change in their alcohols is recommended.

Calibration With Distilled Water

  After you have properly set the unit up you must calibrate the unit using distilled water.  Once we have determined the boiling point of distilled water we can start the process of measuring a wines alcohol. 

1.  Using the supplied glass cylinder fill the small cylinder to the line labeled “eaux: with distilled water. (This is roughly 15 milliliters.)

2.  Place this amount in the lower boiling chamber via the opening the thermometer is placed in.  Make sure the lower stopcock to the boiling chamber is closed.

3.  Replace the thermometer in the appropriate orifice so you may read the markings on the thermometer.

4.  Light the wick on the burner and place under the chimney to initiate boiling of the water.  {Be careful with the flame positioning to make sure the plastic stopcock does not melt.}

5.  Wait about 2 to 4 minutes to hear a steady rumble inside the unit and to watch the mercury rise in the thermometer.

6.  Once the thermometer reading has stabilized you may reflect the reading from the thermometer at the zeroing point on the round “slide rule” chart.  (This is included in your ebulliometer kit)

7.  Double check the readings and double check where you have calibrated the unit chart to.

8.  Empty the distilled water from the boiling chamber, by opening the stopcock, (careful this is hot) and flush the chamber out with about 60 milliliters of the upcoming sample of wine about to be tested.  (This is the only time the author flushes the chamber due to the fact water, at zero percent alcohol, could cause interference to the first wine sample run). 

9.  The above may be done without cool water in the condenser chamber but having water in that chamber will cause no harm with this reading

10.      Now you are ready to move on to measuring alcohols.

Procedure for Wine

1.  We have calibrated the unit and have wines ready to test.

2.  Make sure the upper condenser is filled with cool water.

3.  Fill the glass cylinder supplied to the line “vin” (roughly 50 milliliters) with the wine you plan to test.

4.  Place this amount of wine in the boiling chamber once again through the thermometer orifice.

5.  Replace the thermometer in that orifice immediately.

6.  Light and place the burner under the chimney to heat the wine sample.

7.  Wait about 3 to 5 minutes to hear the similar rumble in the unit as noted previously above in step 5 under the distilled water calibration section.

8.  Watch the mercury rise and wait patiently for it to steady on a reading.  It will be jumpy at first but allow it to remain on one reading, steady, for about 30 seconds. 

9.  Record that boiling point.

10.      Remove the burner and blow it out.

11.      Carefully look on the calibration circular slide rule for that temperature reading. 

12.      Follow the chart carefully to see what alcohol level that reflects.

13.      Record that alcohol reading in the proper places for your records.

14.      Carefully dump the boiled wine sample in a lab sink or other container.  Recall this is very hot and know that you may need to gently tilt the unit toward the stopcock opening to get the entire sample out.

15.      Close the stopcock and repeat steps 3 through 14 above.

16.      From experience the operator will easily be able to run about 5 tests with these units before the cool water in the upper condenser needs to be refreshed and the alcohol burner needs to be filled with ethyl alcohol.  (Be careful as alcohol is flammable).

Calculation

As you can see there is no real calculation here.  Just using the slide rule circular chart and making sure to use a steady hand while making future readings.  Make sure not to accidently move the inside circle on the “slide rule” as readings will be affected.  If this does happen you will need to relocate the chart to the recorded distilled water boiling point or actually re-establish that data point via the steps under calibration above. 

Other Helpful Tips

Residual sugar :  The boiling point of a wine is raised if the wine has a perceivable residual sugar.  The raising of the boiling point temperature gives a false low alcohol reading for the wine.  A wine higher in alcohol will boil at a lower temperature due to the fact alcohol has a low boiling point.  Sugar will interfere with the readings

Reproducible results :  If this is your first time using one of these units be sure to run several tests on the same wine to make sure you can achieve similar results with each test.  If you can’t achieve the same results dig deeper to look for errors.

Spot check your results from time to time with a competent outside lab to see if results are within ranges expected.  If not – look for sources of error.

While performing the test make sure to calibrate the unit with distilled water if you notice atmospheric changes taking place outside.  At a minimum it may be best to calibrate the unit every three hours or so.  Recall to flush the chamber out with upcoming wine sample after calibrating with distilled water to avoid false / water diluted readings.

Typically these units are very foolproof and last for centuries if handled with care.  Handle with care and keep clean as you should do with all lab equipment.  Most operators find storing them in their box, when not in use, is prudent.

Recall the operator can run about 5 wine sample tests before replacing the chilled cooling water in the upper condenser chamber and take time to refuel the alcohol burner with ethyl alcohol.

In the event you break the supplied glass cylinder the ”eaux” line reading is at 15 milliliters and the “vin” line is at 50 Milliliters.

Summary

These simple units are an excellent investment for most any sized winery that is fermenting their wines dry.  To date these units cost near $1000.00 but outside labs charge between $15.00 and $25.00 for samples run.  The actual costs to run each test adds up to pennies in terms of burner alcohol, water, ice, matches etc.  Certainly a winery testing 20 wines per year will pay for their purchase in 5 years or less.

Short Course:

•   Calibrate using distilled water (Be aware of atmospheric changes).

•   Make sure the condenser cooling water is refreshed every 5 tests.

•   Be gentle with the circular slide rule and thermometer.

•   Run tests after alcoholic fermentation and 3 months before bottling.

•   Spot check your results with another trusted outside lab.

Tom Payette, Winemaking Consultant, has over 30 years’ experience with winery start-ups and assisting wineries already established in the industry.

How is Your Crop Insurance?  

By: Trevor Troyer, VP, Agricultural Risk Management

How does your crop insurance policy work? What type of policy is Grape Crop Insurance? How much do you need to know? I mentioned a little about grape crop insurance in the last article in the Grape Vine. I am going to go into the policy information and how it is set up in this one.

  Grape crop insurance is an Actual Production History (APH) policy. This means it uses a vineyard’s historical production to determine how much is covered. Basically, you are covering an average of your tons per variety. Since crop insurance is subsidized the insurable varieties, prices per ton, premiums are set by the USDA. This also means that there is no difference from one insurance company to the next. If anyone represents that they can get you a lower premium for the same coverage, it is false.

  Your agent will work with you to set up individual databases for each variety. If you have vineyards in different locations, you can often times set them up separately. This can be good when you have a claim. You might have a loss in one location but not the other. You don’t want your production co-mingled, as you may not have a payable loss at that point.

  The databases can go back up to 10 years, if you have the production. Minimally 4 years is needed to set up an APH database. If the vines have just become insurable then a Transitional Yield (T-Yield), based on the county and variety, can be used to fill in up to three years. If you purchase a vineyard that has been producing you can transfer that production history. You must have records or some way to prove that history though. The database can only be set up as far as you have production records to prove the yields. Production records are not required at the time you sign up for crop insurance or at production or acreage reporting times. But it can come up during a claim or a review.

  Here’s what the 2022 Crop Insurance Handbook says about grape production records:

“Settlement sheets, sales receipts, machine harvest records, certified scale records, pick records and final or year-end statements from a winery, cannery or processor must indicate net paid tons of Grapes delivered by variety. Converting gallons of wine to tons of grapes does not qualify as acceptable records.”

  It is especially important to keep good records if the grower is “vertically integrated.” “A producer is vertically integrated when all stages of production of a crop, from acquisition of materials to the retailing or use of the final product, are controlled by one person, or by different persons that are related.”– CIH If the entity that owns the vineyard is a winery, then they would be vertically integrated. Even if they sell some of the grapes to other wineries. If you own a vineyard and are partners in a winery and you sell the grapes to that winery you could be vertically integrated as well.

  Let’s move on to insurability of the grapes. Vines need to be in their 4th growing season for the grapes to be insurable. A minimum of 4 years is needed to do the average, if the grapes have just become insurable then a T-Yield, as mentioned before, is used in place of any missing years.

  Usually, the third growing season after being grafted is considered insurable. The vines must have produced an average of at least two tons per acre in at least one of the three preceding crop years. There can be exceptions to this rule. Sometimes there are other requirements located in the “Special Provisions” for that particular county. In California the USDA Davis Regional Office (DRO) puts out Informational Memorandums that lay out specific requirements for the state of California. These differ from other growing regions in the US. You are able to make higher yield requests that can be approved by the DRO.

  Grape crop insurance is available in the following states; Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Crop insurance is not available for grapes in all counties in each state though. For a list of insurable counties, you can look at the RMA’s website at rma.usda.gov or contact your agent. Even though there may be differences between AVAs in a given county, the insurability, prices, premiums are set by county not AVA.

  Insurable varieties are also different between states and counties. The varieties are usually set by what has been being grown in that county or what a particular climate in a state/county allows for. Even if a particular variety is not listed it can be insured. There are Types/Practices for each county that list out specific varieties and also make allowance for others. For example, it may list Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Cabernet Franc and so on. If a particular variety is not listed it can be most often insured under “Other Varieties”, “Other White Varieties” or “Other Red/Pink Varieties.”

  Having a lot of varieties that are not specifically listed causes these different varieties to be lumped together in the database. This can cause problems if you have varieties that yield differently. But this is still better than not having any coverage at all. Any coverage is better than no coverage as can be attested by many growers in California a couple years ago during the wildfires.

  It may happen that your production is low in particular year. You might have had a claim paid or not, but what about your database and average going down? This isn’t good. You may elect an optional endorsement when you sign up called Yield Adjustment. “For APH yield calculation purposes, insureds may elect to substitute 60 percent of the applicable T-Yield for actual yields (does not apply to assigned and temporary yields) that are less than 60 percent of the applicable T-Yield to mitigate the effect of catastrophic year(s). Insureds may elect the APH YA and substitute 60 percent of the applicable T-Yield for low actual yields caused by drought, flood, or other natural disasters.” – 2022 Crop Insurance Handbook. This can make a big difference; you want your yields to stay up so that your average does. This makes it more likely to have a claim paid at the time of a loss.

  You cannot cover 100% of your average production. You can choose coverage levels from 50% to 85%. There is a built-in production deductible. Coverage levels are in 5% increments. Coverage levels are relative to premium, the lower the coverage the lower the premium, the more coverage you buy the higher the premium. What the correct coverage for your needs is something your crop insurance agent can help you with.

  If you would like more information on crop insurance, please feel free to contact me. We also offer free second opinions on grower’s existing policies. Sometimes we find mistakes or the policy is structured in a way, to cause claims to not be paid or reduced.

  Crop insurance is subsidized through the Federal Government. The USDA Risk Management Agency oversees crop insurance. The RMA’s website is www.rma.usda.gov.

For more information please contact…Trevor Troyer: VP Operations, Agricultural Risk Management, LLC. Call: (239) 810-0138

Luxury Brands Up Their Marketing Game

By: Susan DeMatei, Founder of WineGlass Marketing

Coco Chanel once said, “The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive.” The mistress of iconic fashion couldn’t have stated it more succinctly. Luxury today, as it was in Coco’s time, is not essential but continues to be highly desirable and prestigious because of the quality, price, and prestige it confers on its consumers.

  However, when it comes to marketing, luxury brands are like any other brand. They market themselves to those who can afford to buy them and those who aspire to own something, anything, created by them. Like all brands, they battle for share of mind and wallet.

93% of Consumer Engagement with Luxury Brands Occurs on Instagram (Source: Digimind)

  COVID accelerated a trend already in the making – the economy saw a massive shift to eCommerce, and marketing shifted accordingly to digital platforms. Not surprisingly, luxury fashion, jewelry, cars, and retail brands were the first to commit to social media. They immediately recognized that absent the ability to go to a store, the stories and images shared in the new virtual market will make up the building blocks of a brand’s image and equity. And these touchpoints, albeit digital, make for real and tangible engagement, interest, loyalty, and connections with their audience online, particularly on Instagram.

The Face of Affluence Is Changing

  Affluent consumers are no longer just Baby Boomers and Generation X. Wealth is now multi-generational as large numbers of Millennials and Gen Z are prosperous and buy luxury goods. By 2025, Millennials and Gen Z will make up 50% of the total luxury market. Their spending habits will define and redefine what luxury goods and experiences will be in demand.

What We Do Know Is:

•   Quality, prestige, brand reputation, plus a brand’s social values will drive luxury purchase decisions.

•   They will look to social media, influencers, and reviews for confirmation of their brand choice.

•   They will expect to be able to find the luxury brand they choose online and on Instagram.

  As with any consumer audience, identifying demographics is only the first step. In their recent book “Luxury Wine Marketing: The Art and Science of Luxury Wine Branding,” Peter Yeung’s and Dr. Liz Thach’s research identifies four categories of luxury wine buyers: The aspirational buyer, the luxury buyer, the wine collector, and the wine geek. Each persona has its price points, brand loyalty, and trusted referral sources. A wine collector will listen to critics and other wine collectors, while celebrities and influencers might influence an aspirational buyer. Understanding your target and the segment(s) your wine resonates with is the key to success in this evolving landscape.

New School Marketing Tools for Old School Brands

  A recent Social Media Industry Report on Luxury Brands by NetBase Quid digests and synthesizes the kind of social interactions driving authentic engagement and brand passion and how luxury brands are capitalizing (or not) on these experiences to drive consumers to do business with them. The report is a deep dive into the detail of several luxury brand’s social presences. While not everything in the report applies to wine, what is apparent from the research is that digital advertising, social media engagement, search engine optimization, and influencer marketing are now a staple for what could be called “old school luxury brands” like Hermes, Chanel, Burberry, LV, Ferrari, Jaguar, Gucci, Chopard, Cartier, Neiman Marcus, and Harry Winston.

  So the next time you think that you’re too “unobtainable” to be on social media, luxury wines should take heed. The marketing tool kit has forever expanded to include digital channels, not by luxury brands themselves, but by today’s affluent consumers. The consumer desire to have access to everything right now and the desire to buy into luxury brands are successfully forcing luxury marketers to straddle the fine line of relevance and exclusivity.

  Susan DeMatei is the founder of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California.  For more information please visit…www.wineglassmarketing.com   

Impact of Biodynamic Farming Principles on Climate Change & Wildfires

By: Becky Garrison

Since grapes were first planted in 1825 at Fort Vancouver, Washington by the Hudson Bay Company, Washington State has emerged as the second-largest wine region in the United States with over 19 American Viticultural Areas. Despite its size, 90% of Washington State wineries produce less than 5,000 cases a year. As part of this commitment to producing wines using organic and sustainable means, the Washington State Wine Commission will launch its first statewide certified sustainable winegrowing certification in early 2022.

  Moving south to Oregon, even though their 22 AVAs may produce only 1% of the wines made in the U.S., the state accounts for 52% of total vineyard acres in the U.S. with biodynamic certification from Demeter USA. To put this number into perspective, only 83 vineyards have received this certification as of 2020.

  For those unfamiliar with biodynamic practices, certified farms, including wineries, adopt the practices outlined by Rudolph Steiner in 1927 and Demeter International formalized in 1985. These practices prohibit the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers, fungicides and herbicides. In addition, farmers can utilize specific treatments, called preparations, which comprise of medicinal plants, composted animal manure and minerals. Also, 10% of the farm’s total acreage must be devoted to biodiversity.

  While these biodynamic vineyards produce wines pleasing to the planet and palette, what impact, if any, do biodynamic practices have when it comes to helping mitigate the impacts of wildfires on the West Coast and global climate change? Following are reflections from five Pacific Northwest Detmer Certified Biodynamic focusing on addressing these 21st-century challenges in their vineyards and wineries.

Brooks Wines, Amity, Oregon

  Since the late Jimmy Brooks founded this medium-sized family winery in 1998, Associate Winemaker Claire Jarreau noted how Brooks Wines has remained passionate about its environmental impact. In addition to being Detmer Certified Biodynamic, they are members of 1% of the Planet, a nonprofit that certifies businesses and individuals that meet their high-bar commitment by donating 1% of their annual sales or salary to environmental causes.

  While managing an old vineyard can be challenging at times, Jarreau attributes the overall health of their vineyard to their application of biodynamic principles. For example, they dry farm and source from dry-farmed vineyards, a practice that allows them to conserve resources by not irrigating the vineyards.

  Over the past decade, this region has seen increased temperature fluctuations. According to Jarreau, as the winery is in the Eola-Amity Hills region, one of the cooler regions in the Willamette Valley, they can still produce fresh, acid-driven grapes despite ongoing temperature shifts.

  Following the 2020 wildfires, Brooks Wines only made about 20% of its annual production due to the level of impact the smoke had on grape quality. “Once you’re under a blanket of smoke, there doesn’t seem to be much you can do about that,” Jarreau said.

  As a biodynamic winemaker, Jarreau has a limited number of tools in her toolkit from an organic standpoint to alter their wines. “We did a number of experiments. Some wines were really nice and drinkable, but others were obviously smoke impacted.” Ultimately they chose to sell their wine in bulk, and it was bottled and used elsewhere. Also, they launched a fundraiser to compensate their growers for their losses.

  Moving forward, they are exploring how animals can be part of the solution on site. Also, they seek to be even more selective in the cover crop usage and will try to leave a permanent ground cover in place, which will help lower tillage and soil destruction.

Cooper Mountain Vineyards, Beaverton, Oregon

  Family-run Cooper Mountain Vineyards was founded 40 years ago and has been Detmer Certified Biodynamic and certified organic since 1998. Currently, they own and manage seven vineyards located within twenty miles of their winery.

  According to winemaker Gilles de Domingo, climate change has influenced their vineyard, soil and lands. “We have seen more drought, different insects and a slow change of the ecosystem.” In biodynamic farming, they consistently adapt to nature. Because they spend their time observing the evolution of nature, they tune their method of farming in accordance with climate change.

  As a result of the more frequent temperature fluctuations, de Domingo said they have more insects issues in their vineyards. “Therefore, we are focusing on the implementation of insect and predator habitats in order to create a more balanced biodiversity.”

  While there are always challenges in farming, de Domingo believes that biodynamic principles work to prevent long-term challenges. “Because we are biodynamic farmers, our mind is focused on long term ecosystem establishment and not a ‘quick-fix-spray-toxic-product.’ We don’t fight nature, we embrace nature,” he said.

King Estate Winery, Eugene, Oregon

  Situated on 1,033 acres in southwest Eugene near Lorane, Oregon, this family-run winery founded in 1991 has been certified organic since 2002 by Oregon Tilth and Salmon Safe. They became Detmer Certified Biodynamic in 2016. According to Raymond Nuclo, Director of Viticulture, they’ve seen a reduction in water stress and disease pressure since instituting these practices. “I think that’s primarily due to improvement in organic matter in the soil for water holding capacity. Also, healthier vines have a greater ability to withstand some of those stresses.”

  Following the devastating 2020 wildfire season, Nuclo said they did a fair amount of due diligence in testing and micro fermenting to determine what areas could still be harvested and what areas were too heavily impacted to make quality wine. “You could not determine the impact the smoke had on the grapes simply by visual observation of smoke intensity in the vineyard. Vineyards that did not show noticeable visual differences in smoke intensity showed differences in both lab and sensory evaluations.”

  Hence, they could not harvest their grapes until they conducted these evaluations. Nor did they feel comfortable sending workers into the vineyard until the Air Quality Index went down to a yellow moderate rating.

  As 2020 was the first year the Willamette Valley experienced an issue with wildfire smoke that impacted the grapes, Nuclo believes they are relatively early in evaluating the long-term impact of wildfires on the region. In the event of another wildfire, Nuclo said there’s little known yet on how to protect crops from smoke.

  In 2021, their harvest was earlier due to summer temperatures that reached over 115 degrees. This early harvest produced wines with a higher alcohol level because the sugar development got ahead of the flavor development. Should this trend continue in the ensuing decades, they may need to look at other varietals better suited to warmer climates.

  Another impact of warming temperatures is the potential for the vineyard to become infested with those insect pests found in the warmer regions of Oregon and California. In Nuclo’s estimation, they can treat these pests using organically approved biodynamic practices such as releasing beneficial insects or utilizing organically approved sprays.

Maysara Winery and Momtazi Vineyards, McMinneville, Oregon

  In April 1997, Moe and Flora Momtazi purchased 496 acres of an abandoned wheat farm and began planting in 1998. Their vineyard and winery became Demeter Certified Biodynamic in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Moe Momtazi chose this approach as it follows his ancestors’ 8,000-year-old Persian wine culture while allowing him to refine their practices as they gain additional knowledge. He estimates that in the past hundred years, conventional farming practices have contributed to a range of problems for the environment and the health and well-being of people and animals.

  Situated in the Van Duzer Corridor, where the wind blows from the west towards the east, the vineyard did not suffer from the smoke damage that neighboring wineries endured in the 2020 wildfires. To help mitigate the hot days, Momtazi makes a tea from either mulberry leaves or stinging nettle. “This tea really calms down the plants, so you don’t have as much of an issue with heat.”

  Conversely, Momtazi noted that too much water could also present an issue. He cited the early fall of 2013 as one example. They were expecting a big storm. To prevent the plants from absorbing all this water, he watered the vines a little before the rain, thus preventing any split berries in the grapes after the rains passed. He also made tea from valerian and rose hips to get rid of any excess water in the vines. Since the rose hips contained lots of vitamin C, it boosted the sugar contents quite a bit.

  While his grapes cost more than other vineyards, he feels the customer gets rewarded due to the quality of their wines. “My hope is that we all wake up and realize what we have done to our environment and our own health. We shouldn’t have a bottom line that is only about making money; sometimes you make money by doing a bit of extra work.”

Wildridge Winery, Seattle, Washington

  Founded in 1988, Wilridge, a small family vineyard, orchard, winery and distillery, has the distinction of being the oldest winery in Seattle. In 2007, they established their organic and Detmer Certified Biodynamic vineyard in the Naches Heights AVA near Yakima, Washington. In addition to applying biodynamic principles, their other green practices include using solar power and refillable bottles. Then in 2017, they launched their Detmer Certified Biodynamic distillery to utilize the product from their grape skins to make grappa.

Paul Beveridge, Wilridge Vintner and Distiller, chose Naches Heights and its high elevation with climate change in mind. “We get long hot summers with no rain at harvest. Also, we don’t get a lot of disease pressure,” he said.

  According to Beveridge, from the vineyard standpoint, it’s amazing how resilient the vineyard is regarding weather fluctuations and fires. “We’re on a natural plateau. So we only feel the effect of a fire once it gets very close to us as there’s nowhere for the smoke to accumulate.”

  His biggest problems stem from weeds. “The same biodynamic principles that make the grapes happy also make the weeds really happy.”

  In his estimation, the reason there aren’t more organic vineyards in Washington is that the farmers rely on Roundup due to its ease and cost-efficiency.”You can spend $200 on Roundup and do your whole place and be done for the year. And I’m spending a couple of thousand dollars every two weeks having the vineyard hand weeded,” Beveridge said.

  As these wineries prepare for the 2022 harvest, they will continue to monitor for signs of both wildfires and temperature fluctuations. In particular, Jarreau points to ongoing research on the impacts of smoke on grapes in the U.S. and Australia that she believes could be beneficial for growers on the West Coast.