A biotech innovator develops a new way to lower costs for small wineries and reduce water usage across the industry
Posted: October 2, 2015
Not your father’s fermentor: This new device, in which fermentation is conducted inside a medical-grade plastic liner, can be installed in a small space and requires minimal cleaning.
A biochemical engineer by training, Vijay Singh spent decades working with pharmaceutical industry bioreactors in New Jersey. Quality wine demands spotless tanks, pumps, hoses and floors, and all of that demands a lot of water.
His answer has led to a new product, in trial this harvest at more than 15 wineries in the United States and Spain. Called GOfermentor, it involves fermenting wine in a disposable plastic bag. The device aims to make it easier for small winemakers to get started and help large producers make small lots, while dramatically cutting back water use in the process.
GOfermentor builds on that idea of trading vats for portable and disposable components. The device consists of a reusable rigid base; a control panel for monitoring temperatures, logging data and scheduling punch-downs; and a single-use, flexible, biodegradable plastic liner for either a 1-ton or 2-ton batch.
The process—which can be prescheduled or started manually with a tap of the touchscreen—takes just a few minutes. “This system extracts more, so even if you have some marginal grapes, you can get more color and flavor out of them,” said Singh. Using the same inflation technique, the GOfermentor can also serve as a bladder press for red and white wines, making that process cleaner and quicker.
No oxygen or potential contaminants touch the juice once fermentation is underway; even samples can be drawn without air contact. “With less oxidation, we can cut down on the need for sulfites,” noted Singh.
Singh and his wife, Meera, who helps him make the wines at their experimental, sustainable Sky Acres Winery in New Jersey, hope to launch GOfermentor commercially in January 2016, after incorporating feedback from the trials, which include small- and medium-size wineries in both cool- and warm-climate regions making white, red and fortified wines.
In Napa Valley, Clos Pegase winemaker Richard Sowalsky is testing GOfermentor with some estate Zinfandel. “A number of top producers look to diversify fermentation styles to gain complexity,” he explained. “I could foresee it as a great tool to augment more traditional fermentation, adding new nuances for blending.”
“My real interest is to make better quality,” said Singh, who hopes GOfermentor will help smaller winemakers get started thanks to lower costs and a system that can be quickly set up and broken down. “Maybe this will spur a whole new set of little guys making interesting wines.”
For the complete story go to: