As a winemaker you face a great deal of variables during a typical growing season and many are contributed to that finicky Mother Nature. Will it be a mild or severe winter? Will there be a drought during the growing season or will the vineyard be flooded? What about disease and pest issues?
Weather is a culprit and uncontrollable, and add the nuisance of pest control, crop disease and canopy management and you start to wonder why you became a winemaker in the first place. Much like the postman’s creed, neither rain nor snow, nor sleet nor dark of night shall stay these winemakers from the swift completion of their bottled product.
At Chart, we understand that passion and have developed state-of-the-art applications to help your winery thrive and be more productive. And the best way to preserve the bottled product and get it successfully to the consumer is by implementing the Chart Industries UltraDoser® LN2 Dosing System into your production. The UltraDoser system is the multi-purpose, liquid nitrogen (LN2) dosing system that dispenses a precise dose of LN2 into every container every time just before the can or bottle is sealed.
Dosing removes the oxygen from the bottle and extends the shelf-life of your product. “Chart’s NitroFresh® Dosers are the most consistent and well-supported dosing systems in the world,” Chart Product Manager Tyler Jones says. “Whether the application is bottling, canning or another form of packaging, our NitroFresh Dosers can provide the product appearance, extend shelf-life or the desired cost saving.”
The Catch-22 of O2
Oxygen (O2) is the life-giving gas that comprises 20 percent of the earth’s atmosphere. It give life to your wine but also can be a detriment thanks to oxidation, which can turn your most prized chardonnay into rancid grape juice.
Winemakers are constantly participating in a balancing act with the amount of O2 that is in a particular bottle of wine. If you remove too much oxygen you lose the fruity taste. On the flip-side, if the wine is over-oxidized the drink is flat and loses its complexity.
That wacky Newton
Chalk it up to Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of physics that states for every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction. That applies to winemaking. From growing the grapes, fermentation and bottling, action and reaction are paramount in the winemaking process.
If you ferment the wine in cold conditions the beverage will taste fruitier, if it is fermented in warmer conditions you sacrifice the fruitiness for a more complex product. Oxidation is needed during the fermentation process. The life-giving gas helps develop healthy yeast cells, which softens and gives red wine its color. Hyperoxidation also helps stabilize white wines from browning during vinification.
Screw it or cork it
Studies show wine begins to taste oxidized at 8.6 parts per million (PPM) and the ideal ratio for wine is no more than 6 (PPM). Considering the aging process and the variety of tops – real and synthetic corks or screw-on tops, 6 (PPM) can be easily surpassed, spoiling your wine and your winery’s bottom line.
Natural cork varies in its oxygen transmission properties, some allowing very little and some allowing a great deal. Natural corks also can react with the sanitizing solutions used in pre-filling the bottle. The natural cork reacts with the cleaning solution, creating TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole), which is not dangerous when consumed but can spoil the taste and smell of wine.
To avoid TCA some wineries have moved to synthetic corks as their closure of choice. Cheaper than natural corks, synthetic corks allow a considerable amount of O2 transmission because they are made of plastic, which allows O2 diffusion and spoils the taste of the wine.
Fighting a perception
An alternative to cork is the screwcaps, which allows very little O2 transmission. The only problem with the screwcaps has nothing to do with the actual cap but the perception. Sure we don’t mind twisting off the cap when opening a gallon of milk or 16-ounce and two-liter bottle of soda, but wine? There is nothing romantic about twisting off the wine bottle and pouring a nice chalice of merlot.
You have to get the corkscrew, fight to get the foil off without stabbing yourself, then inserting the corkscrew in the center of the cork and twisting it all without chipping the glass bottle or getting bits of cork in the wine. You do all this just to get the romantic popping sound when the cork is successfully lifted from the neck of the bottle. Doesn’t a screwcap sound easier?
Dosing helps the O2 balancing act
The screwcap protects your product after bottling, but you can be proactive and protect your precious liquid prior to sealing by using LN2 to remove the amount of O2 in the bottle by dosing. Chart can help with our dosing application.
LN2 is stored in a Chart manufactured liquid gas cylinder. Chart has set the industry standard in building gas cylinders with its state-of-the-art insulation technology that helps increase hold time and allows your winery to run more efficiently than if you were using a competitor’s tank. The tank is also durable and comes with a seven-year warranty on the vacuum.
The LN2 travels from the tank to the UltraDoser system by a vacuum insulated hose and flows into the dosing head. The vacuum insulated hose helps maintain the temperature of the LN2 and prevents boil off or leakage. A sensor detects the speed of the production line, and a second sensor detects the presence of a bottle. The dosing head opens and dispenses the exact amount of pure LN2. The exact amount of LN2 is determined by the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), which is the brains behind integrating the sensors, controls and human interface.
The UltraDoser system is compactable and able to be programmed to deliver a precise, consistent, accurate dose or to a discrete dosing, which can dose up to 2,000 containers a minute. The winemaker also can remotely monitor and troubleshoot the system, which eliminates downtime on the production line and keeps the wine flowing and profits rising.
“In my opinion, the addition of the Chart liquid nitrogen dosing system to the bottling line resulted in the single most significant improvement in product quality during my 33-year tenure,” says Chas Chatherman, Vice President of Manufacturing at St. Julian Winery. “You can bet the ranch that a Chart system will be on the equipment list of every bottling line I spec.”
To learn more about Chart’s dosing application call 1-800-247-4446 to schedule a demonstration.