Growing & Winemaking


Italian Trade Show Draws 51,545

February 2010
by Peter Mitham

Tough economic times scaled back the number of exhibitors attending the 23rd edition of Salone Internazionale delle Macchine per l’Enologia e l’Imbottigliamento (SIMEI), Milan’s biennial exhibition of winemaking and bottling equipment, but visitors who traveled from around the world in late November to see Europe’s latest innovations in winery gear weren’t disappointed.

A million square feet of exhibition space offered vineyard equipment from trellising systems to fuel-efficient harvesters; fermenters, vats and stills (including small systems for home use); bottling lines, packaging and everything else required to get products to market.

Registered visitors totaled 51,545, with foreign visitors accounting for 9,575, thanks in part to aggressive overseas promotion of the show. Italy’s trade commission sponsored delegations of producers and industry observers from North and South America, while the show floor saw exhibitors from France cluster together to display what countries outside Italy have to offer. While opening comments touted the show as important in maintaining the competitive standing of Italy’s wine industry, the international attendance showed its broad appeal.

“The attendance of visitors has kept in line with 2007, and this has been a success, as there should have been reasons to suppose a downturn,” Cesare Bianco, president of SIMEI’s technical committee, said in a statement following the exhibition. “Currently, there is surely a tendency to dedicate fewer days to an exhibition in order to reduce costs, but important occasions cannot be missed.”

Large producers seek efficiencies
Attendees such as Brad Wells, a project engineer with Constellation Brands Inc. subsidiary Vincor Canada, said the show was an opportunity to scout equipment that many events in North America (where the focus is typically on small estate wineries) don’t showcase.

The shift among consumers to more affordable wine has put the pressure on Vincor to seek efficiencies in production, which meant that Wells was eyeing equipment that would help streamline production and improve wine quality without boosting costs.

“We are investing in new grape-receiving equipment, the latest pressing technology and advanced fermenters in order to maximize the quality that our viticulturists have worked hard to deliver to the crushpad,” he said. “The equipment at SIMEI is a key component in our current strategy.”

While factors such as shifting exchange rates and shipping costs make it an expensive prospect to purchase equipment made in Europe, Wells said the cost of new equipment is offset by improvements in efficiency. An equipment upgrade doesn’t happen in isolation; often it’s part of an overhaul of a particular area that provides an opportunity to streamline processes.

Moreover, key pieces of winemaking equipment are worth the overseas investment, whereas case erectors, sealers, conveyors, palletizers and other elements of the packaging and warehousing side of the business are typically sourced from suppliers within North America.

Graham Pierce, winemaker at Black Hills Winery in Oliver, British Columbia, offered a similar perspective. A growing winery, Black Hills currently has a 1-ton press, but Pierce wants to add a 4- to 6-ton press to increase handling capacity. He was also looking for versatile pumps.

Workmanship a sound investment
While many pieces at SIMEI were aimed at wineries larger than Black Hills, which produces fewer than 7,500 cases annually, Pierce was attracted to items built with workmanship that would last. A higher initial cost could be justified if a piece were less prone to breaking down later in its lifecycle.

Pumps by Italy’s Francesca Pompe Enologiche SRL were among the items that caught his eye. Vincor’s joint venture with France’s Groupe Taillan, Osoyoos Larose, has a few Francesca pumps, and Pierce believes they could fit the bill at Black Hills. Pieces beyond Black Hills’ current requirements offered Pierce ideas for features to look for in more affordable models from smaller manufacturers as he scoured the exhibition halls, spread among four pavilions.

While workmanship and low maintenance costs are appealing, Pierce said that winemaking is a capital-intensive business that requires constant investment in machinery so that wine quality measures up over the long-term, regardless of what people are willing to pay.

“You always have to be putting a little bit of money back into an industry like this,” he said. “Your gear doesn’t last forever.”

Milani Estasi destalker
Though already in place at several wineries in North America, including Southbrook Vineyards in Canada, Bella Vineyards in Sonoma, and three properties in Napa, Milani’s orthodromic Estasi destalker was new to SIMEI this year. Milani claims it delivers an exceptionally high rate of whole berries to the crusher. Gentle massaging of clusters through side-to-side movement of the conveyor belt delicately removes grapes, allowing them to be sorted optimally. The movement the system employs is also efficient, reducing wear and tear on the machine, which retails for approximately 40,000 to 50,000 euros.

Caterina bidirectional pump
A prototype of Caterina, the latest offering from Italy’s Francesca Pompe Enologiche SRL was on display at SIMEI in anticipation of commercial production beginning in 2010. Similar to designer Robert Manzini’s previous creations, Caterina features a minimum number of moving parts—and easy access to them—for simple cleaning. Described by reps as virtually indestructible—and low maintenance when parts do break, thanks to rubberized materials—Manzini’s latest innovation uses rubber lamella that compresses to allow pumping in two directions with the mere pull of a lever. The elegant design reduces the risk of break-down, speeds pump action (without any increase in pressure on the juice) and has garnered interest from winemakers in Chile, Italy and elsewhere.

Nortan single-turret capsuler

Smoother, seamless capsule application for sparkling wines is the aim of a new system from Nortan. A single turret holds the two heads for pleating sparkli ng wine capsules and pressing them flat. The two heads move, rather than the bottle, enabling precise completion of the packaging and more attractive finish to the bottle. Universal parts make the system, which costs more than 40,000 euros, easier and cheaper to maintain. Nortan estimates the cost at 30% to 40% less than conventional systems. Similarly, Nortan has debuted a pneumatic capsule applicator for still wines and other beverages that eliminates the need to recalibrate for new types of bottles.

Millipore Millichilling Normal Flow filtration system
Representatives of Millipore showed off the company’s new Millichilling Normal Flow Filtration System. The compact unit varies in price depending on size (a 7-cartridge unit was on display at SIMEI, but a Spanish winery bought a 48-cartridge unit for approximately 100,000 euros).

The system, an alternative to systems using diatomaceous earth, aims to simplify the filtration of wine, requiring just one passage of wine through the cartridge, thereby reducing the amount of water and energy filtration required and in turn, processing costs.

Wine quality also stands to improve. A closed system avoids wine oxidation while preserving flavor characteristics; meanwhile, avoiding the use of diatomaceous earth reduces wine turbidity by more than half and improves overall color.

Fimer automated valve for filling
A cleaner, more precise fill is the goal of new systems from Fimer. Two options on display at SIMEI both aimed to reduce the potential for air in bottles. One spout incorporates an electronic sensor that stops filling when the liquid reaches the sensor. The other employs a vacuum to complete the filling. Both differ from traditional methods, which force air out and can sometimes mean different content levels. Fimer’s new systems ensure a precise fill (it also has a system that fills by volume). The lack of air exchange with the filling system reduces the risk of air being trapped within a bottle and causing spoilage.

Korked Spin closure
Screwcaps are a sure way to prevent TCA, and a good way to preserve the integrity of wine. But preservation usually comes at the expense of the permeability that allows air to slowly polish wine. Italy’s Korked SRL has developed screwcap closures that it claims offer the best of both worlds.

Korked Spin closures incorporate membranes that provide “controlled permeability.” They provide three levels of permeability, according to a wine’s structure and aging characteristics, from what corporate materials describe as “perfect maintenance” through to “natural refinement.” Korked also produces controlled-permeability synthetic stoppers.

On its screwcap closures, Korked offers digital printing, giving wineries an additional means of distinguishing products in a crowded marketplace.

NeoSet label paper
Wineries seeking to reduce their environmental footprint can look to Stora Enso’s new paper incorporating up to 25% to 30% post-consumer waste. The label paper uses pulp made from fiber recovered from previous bottle labels, which have been retrieved from bottles during the cleaning process. Historically, the labels have been trashed. Stora Enso’s process uses produces a label with the same quality and characteristics required for printing high-quality labels, but incorporating post-consumer waste is win-win both from the point of view of recycling and reducing resource use.

Our Northwest correspondent, Peter Mitham, is a freelance agriculture writer based in Vancouver, B.C. Look for his weekly dispatches at Headlines. Contact him through

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