Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bottle Filling Machine

My parents have just left Burgundy three weeks after arriving to help me bottle the 2008s. Now three weeks may seem like a very long time to fill 6000 bottles, but consider that we spent the first 2 weeks building this machine to fill those bottles in the gentlest possible manner!

We had to build this ourselves because I believe this concept isn’t commercially available – and presumably never will be given its top speed of 180 bottles per hour! Anyway, the objective of bottling is to transfer the wine to bottles with the minimum amount of disturbance or aeration and I think this concept is unsurpassed in that regard.

The bottles are filled by a tube descending to the bottom of the bottle - unlike a normal filling machine that fills from the top with inevitable aeration as the wine splashes to the bottom of the bottle. The second and perhaps more distinctive novelty is that the desired level in the bottle is achieved in the most simple possible manner – by equilibrium with the level in the vat being bottled. This means that the filling platform must be slowly dropped as the tank empties – hence the two threaded rods in the photo above. This avoids the need for pumps or indeed any unnecessary transfers.

A siphon is established at start of bottling and maintained by electrovalves which open and close as bottles are placed and removed. As shown in the video below, lights illuminate to show that the electrovalves are open and wine is flowing, as well as to help visualise the level in the dark glass bottles. To ensure that the wine is only ever in contact with inert materials we chose to use pinch valves, which stop the flow of wine by simply pinching the silicon tubing visible toward the top of the video below.

Whether this will make the 2008s even better that the 2007s I encourage you discover by tasting!!