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June (No. 497)


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A basket press which meets winemaking, heritage considerations

Anita Donaldson

A new basket press, the first of its kind to be used in Australia, has come through the 2005 vintage in fine style, according to winemaker Ralph Fowler of Barossa winery, Chateau Tanunda.

Chateau Tanunda, both the historic building and the business, has been undergoing a painstaking renovation in the eight years since it was purchased by the Geber family.

Fowler’s appointment in February 2005 began the next stage in John Geber’s plans for the heritage site.

Geber wanted to recreate a partnership between Chateau Tanunda and the Barossa’s independent growers which originated more than a century ago, when the winery sourced and made super-premium wine from small parcels of fruit planted and nurtured by the region’s new German settlers.

“We’re following similar lines today, we want to buy small parcels of wine from a range of independent growers to produce individual parcels of high quality wine to restore that original concept,” Fowler said, explaining the philosophy that drives the winemaking business plan at Chateau Tanunda.

Chateau Tanunda purchased the Vaslin Bucher JLB20 basket press after liaison with Peter Keeghan of Vaslin Bucher during 2004.

“After seven years of slow restoration the business was at the point where it was ready to reintroduce winemaking at the Chateau,” said Fowler.

“The basket press is an expensive piece of machinery for its through-put – there are more efficient and affordable ways of pressing – but for us the opportunity to make super-premium wines was uppermost in our considerations when researching and choosing the press.

“Also, the traditional concept of the basket press fitted well with our heritage building. The basket press, and the Chateau itself seemed to have strong synergies and certainly, these aesthetics were key drivers in our decision making.

“We didn’t want to leave any stone unturned in our effort to build a winery to make super-premium wines.”
Vaslin Bucher’s Peter Keeghan said that as Australian and New Zealand winemakers sought higher price point product positioning in global markets, must quality from pressing would become increasingly critical.

“Particularly with the pursuit of making world-class reds, the amount of juice that can be extracted before phenolics turn too bitter is a critical factor,” Keeghan said, adding that air bag presses were still the most efficient way to achieve quality juice in large volumes.

Fowler said the JLB20 offered a juice extremely low in solids.

“Through vintage 2005 my experiences with the press were that we could reduce the amount of solids we have to deal with downstream from 5-7% to less than 2%. That gives us significant savings in dealing with solids; we need less clarification equipment and we don’t have the problems of dealing with large amounts of waste material through our waste water disposal system.

“This is important to us because of environmental and cultural values. We have to be sensitive about waste water management.

“The other key benefit is that we are getting juice with less phenolics, particularly less bitter phenolics. We get finer, higher quality product with finer tannins and higher varietal characters.

“We wanted to create a showpiece winery with which the public and visitors could interact. At Chateau Tanunda we’ve built a viewing platform and customers can get up close and personal with our winemaking process. In this regard, the basket press looks good and this was also a factor in our considerations when choosing this press. The basket press gives that age-old romantic image of winemaking and winemaking heritage, which again ties in with the business philosophy of Chateau Tanunda.

“Clearly, the basket press offers the opportunity to make wine that has a clear point of difference compared with those mass produced by the big companies.”

Fowler said the JLB20 had proved itself convenient and user-friendly in the 2005 vintage.

“Much of the hard work that was previously involved in pressing grapes through traditional basket presses has been overcome through automation.

“The press is loaded by forklift with rotating head attachment. With this design, the cage is raised away from the pressed marc which can then be removed via the forklift. It’s taken much of the manual labour out of using a basket press which previously may have turned winemakers away. We’ve found it to be a simple one-man operation without physical labour.

“The automation is user-friendly, even though we’re still learning, there is a huge amount of flexibility in programs we can set and timing, pressure and so forth which can be programmed into cycles,” Fowler said.

“We’ve also found it to be quick and efficient and our pressing times have halved from horizontal tank press designs, this is due to the large drainage surface of the JLB20.”

The only negative that Fowler said he encountered with the press during vintage 2005 was that the extraction rates achieved were not as good as other modern press designs. He put this at a general figure of 5-10% less litres per tonne. But all things considered, the disadvantage of the lower extraction rate was overcome through the prime advantage of being able to make wine styles which offered a point of difference from those made using conventional methods.

Peter Keeghan said winemakers could expect 20 years of solid and reliable service from the JLB20. He said pre-vintage maintenance would include checks of mechanicals, hydraulics and electricals through a test run.

“Over winter the pressing plate should be stored in the down position after vintage so there is no pressure on the hydraulics,” Keeghan said.
eeghan said capital investment for the Vaslin Bucher JLB20 basket press was in the range of $70,000 to $100,000 depending on available options.
For further information about the Vaslin Bucher JLB20, contact Peter Keeghan, Vaslin Bucher, on 0417 816 024 or email: [email protected]

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