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Big backing for innovation in winemaking

Bragato Research Institute (BRI) is aiming high to produce innovation and excellence in viticulture and winemaking, and the Marlborough-based research institute is getting some top backing to support this.

BRI Establishment Manager Tracy Benge says the support from Crown Sheetmetal and VinWizard will help deliver new levels of innovation for the wine industry. “Both companies display innovation in how they do their work, and their support will help us to do the same for the wine industry as a whole.”

Crown Sheetmetal has the status of a ‘Foundation Sponsor & Preferred Supplier’ of BRI.

Crown is a leading supplier to the wine and beverage industry specializing in the fabrication of stainless-steel process vessels, access platforms, conveyors, receival bins and mechanical service installations.

Crown and others were part of a design team led by BRI to design and manufacture the more than 300 custom-made fermentation tanks for BRI’s research winery. These tanks are a world first.

As foundation sponsors, Crown will continue to work with BRI on new innovations, such as the trial work to develop the perfect egg-shaped stainless-steel prototype tank.

Crown Sheetmetal General Manager Crichton Purdie says that as the wine industry in New Zealand has grown, Crown has developed innovative ways to manufacture that allow the flexibility to adjust to individual requirements but also deliver capacity.

For example, in the six months leading up to harvest 2020, the three workshops in the Blenheim operation will process 1000 tonnes of stainless steel to add 22 million litres of capacity to Marlborough with 210 tanks ranging in size from the 17 litre Bragato Research Institute tanks right through to 500,000 litre fermenters.

It’s only possible to achieve these outputs with innovation and significant investment which is something Crown and parent company NDA has embraced, recently setting up an innovation division focused on manufacturing efficiency and reliability to support the industry.

“As founding sponsors, Crown has already built a strong relationship with the Bragato Research Institute and see it as the perfect environment to develop this piece of equipment further. We look forward to being involved at a different level with the new winery.”

The other Foundation Sponsor is VinWizard, a global company based in Blenheim, which supplies automated fermentation monitoring and control technology. This technology is installed in more than 160 wineries around the world, from as far afield as Chile and Napa Valley to Ningxia in China.

BRI’s research winery in Blenheim will be using VinWizard winery automation, monitoring and control software preinstalled on a VinWizard server, VinWizard stainless steel panels and tank control boxes.

The equipment is customised for the research winery. It enables automated pump-overs and agitation, automated temperature control, and remote monitoring and control of tanks, which reduces the amount of manual intervention.

This improves winemaking efficiency but also reduces variability between ferments, improving standardisation and therefore research trial outcomes.

VinWizard Managing Director David Gill says there is nothing like the BRI research winery anywhere else in the world.

“There are pockets of innovation, but nothing on this scale… It’s breaking all the rules and pushing the boundaries. That’s why VinWizard wanted to be part of it.”

For more information on BRI sponsorship go to

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