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Winery Problems All Washed Up

18 April 2002


Oak Barrel Washer


The problems and costs faced by small wineries in washing oak barrels may be over, thanks to a new machine which was initially developed for the dairy industry.

A Hawera engineering company has developed a semi automatic, portable barrel washer that will enable wineries to wash out their oak barrels in preparation for the next vintage.

A grant of just over $18,000 from Technology New Zealand’s Grants for Private Sector Research and Development (GPSRD) scheme helped the company develop the technology, through to its present trial stage.

Challenge Engineering, part of the NDA Engineering Group, is a privately owned company with its roots set firmly in the dairy industry. However, its capabilities with stainless steel fabrication are increasingly coming to the fore in pharmaceutical, food and beverage businesses, and the wine industry in particular.

Richard Neale, NDA Marketing Manager, says many small to medium-sized wineries found the manual labour involved in washing up to 1,000 barrels was both time consuming and costly. Many New Zealand wineries are too small to put in a fully automated barrel washer, so the more usual option has been a hose and plenty of hot water.

“In our visits to wineries, for whom we make stainless steel wine tanks and fermenters, we discovered a real need for something that met their requirements both in terms of space and simplicity. Because the washers are only used for a short time, they need to be easily transportable so they can be pushed to one side of the cellar, and they needed to be simple yet effective to get the efficiency gains,” says Mr Neale.

“With a little bit of Kiwi ingenuity, we’ve developed a mobile barrel washer which takes two barrels at a time and more than doubles the output possible through manual washing. We’ve been trialling it at Te Mata winery and more recently in Australia, since revealing it at a wine show in South Australia. The feedback we’re getting it that we’ve come up with something that really helps the wineries, so we’re enthusiastic about its potential,” he says.

The washer has its own washwater catch tray and independent high-pressure pump. Mr Neale says there is still more work to be done on the spray head to improve the water jets before the company is ready to move to commercialising the unit.

NDA Engineering has a head office in Hamilton, a manufacturing plant in Hawera and is about to open another division in Timaru.

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