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French technology could save NZ wine industry millions of dollars

by Debbie Gregory Gisborne Herald

 

A GISBORNE company has made a big investment in technology that could save the wine industry millions of dollars in electricity alone.

 

The French-designed tartrate removal system, known as STARS, is already receiving good feedback as it travels the country, saysVintech Pacific director Guy Rutledge.

 

His Gisborne-based company provides a range of mobile services for the wine industry. The latest purchase is a first for New Zealand, adding to its cutting edge technology which is revolutionising the wine industry, he says.

 

Among the advantages of the new machine are massive electricity savings.

 

"For most wineries it has got a net effect of a 90 percent saving on the electricity bill. Industry-wide this is a saving of at least $20 million and could be $50 million."

 

The tartrate removal system replaced refrigeration in the process to get white wine absolutely clear.

 

A cloudy look or visible residue was caused by unstable tartrates (formed from naturally occurring tartaric acid) and was something wine drinkers did not want to see in their bottle or glass.

 

Traditionally, to remove tartrates and therefore stabilise wines, wine was chilled to minus two degrees, held, and tested until no more tartrate crystals formed. This process could take up to 15 days, depending on the wine.

 

The fact that the French for years did not care whether their wine was cloudy or had residue in it, and they did not have refrigeration, was one of the reasons New Zealand had taken over as a white wine producer, said Mr Rutledge.

 

In France, to go and retrofit all the old chateaus and wineries with refrigeration would have been a nightmare, so about 10 years ago the French were forced to come up with a machine that stabilised wine.

 

It had taken time to get the technology right and the stabiliser was only just starting to filter out to the rest of the world.

 

New Zealand, a young producer, came in on the back of the dairy industry with its refrigeration plants and insulated tanks, so had not needed to look at stabilising technology.

 

Wineries went to great pains to stabilise wine so it had a crystal clear appearance, because 40 percent of New Zealand wines travelled all over the world to different climates.

 

A recall of an order because one bottle of wine looked like it had gone off was expensive and something wineries did not want to even think about, Mr Rutledge said.

 

The new tartrate stabiliser used electricity to remove tartrates at the rate of 7000 litres an hour.

 

At one winery the machine used 2.7-kilowatt hours per 1000 litres. Through refrigeration it was 234kW for the same amount of wine.

 

Another bonus was not having to bottle wine until it was needed.

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"Among the advantages of the new machine are massive electricity savings. For most wineries it has got a net effect of a 90 percent saving on the electricity bill. Industry-wide this is a saving of at least $20 million and could be $50 million."

 

– Guy Rutledge, Armoutech

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