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!!


Blogger Rara droppar said...

After using the bottling machine, do you sense any difference or is it to early to draw any conclusions.


9:04 AM  
Blogger David Clark said...

We’ve used this filler for two vintages now (2008 and 2009) and I do sense that these wines were very little altered by whole bottling process. That is a contrast to the 2007s which were bottled using a traditional filler and which definitely seemed to suffer ‘bottle shock’ for a couple of months. Unfortunately we don’t have a direct comparison of the two methods, but my impression of the new filler is certainly very positive.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Rara droppar said...

Thank's for the answer .

Just one more question.

Do you think your bottling method helps to reduce variation among bottles in the case of being affected by oxidation?

7:58 PM  
Blogger David Clark said...

Most of the recent problems with bottle variation and oxidation have concerned white Burgundy, and I only make red so this isn’t something I have been too effected by. I personally believe that those problems were due to the cork or changing winemaking practices rather than oxygenation at bottling, but none-the-less nobody wants variable oxygen pick up at bottling.
At least one study has shown that the first and last bottles filled from a tank pick up much more oxygen than the middle of the bottling run. For this reason I think it is important to minimize the volume in the hoses between the tank and the bottle, which this new filler certainly achieves.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Robomotic said...

what kind of electro valve did you use?
Do you use a membrane to prevent oxygen intake (negative pressure) which will waste the wine quality?

11:59 AM  
Blogger David Clark said...

The electrovalves are the largest ones shown here (9.5mm od tube):

No membrane used, although I don’t understand where you were thinking it might be.

Best regards,

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Rob Feckler said...

It's quieter when filling up the wine bottles since the wine isn't poured into the bottle quick enough to cause a splash. But what I like best about this is that it can automatically level the content of the bottle up to the black line on the lights. It probably takes a little precision to pinch the tubing so it won't need any sensors, right?

1:39 PM  
Blogger David Clark said...

For next year’s bottling I’ve found some neat little sensors which fit inside the bottle neck and automatically close the valve when the wine reaches the desired level, so no more need to move the platform down as the tank empties!


11:56 AM  

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