Vintage kicked off in great style earlier this month with the arrival of some stunning Marlborough Pinot Noir into the BRI winery, kindly supplied by Pernod Ricard.

Images above: Hand-picked Marlborough Pinot Noir at Pernod Ricard’s winery, about to be pumped into tanks

The main goal of this vintage’s trials is to test the efficacy of the new bespoke fermentation tanks, to assess their ability to provide consistent, replicable results. This will give us confidence that when we take wines through fermentation, any changes we see in the final wines are due to the research trial, not a difference between tanks. We are also interested to see the comparison between wines from research fermentations and larger, commercial scale ferments. We don’t expect them to be the same – and this isn’t the purpose of the tanks – but we do want to understand the differences.

As well as monitoring fermentation in both the new 200L tanks and 17L tank inserts, replicate fermentations are being carried out and monitored in a larger 5000L commercial tanks at Pernod Ricard, as well as in the standard 2L microvin tanks in Plant and Food Research’s (PFR) winery, all following the same winemaking protocols. These trials will provide essential information into the efficiency of the new tank design and how well the fermentation control delivers replicable results. This will provide an opportunity to identify any issues or improvements required before we manufacture a larger number of tanks for the new Research Winery.

The Pinot Noir for our trials was hand-picked during the morning and we were at the winery in the afternoon for processing and collection. We collected our portion of the fruit at regular intervals as it was processed to tank. This gave us the most comparable and representative sample of what went into the commercial tanks.

Image: Pinot Noir bin being prepared for transport back to the BRI Research Winery; LinLin Yang (Plant and Food Research) Standing with the bins ready for transport.

As the volume of the fruit needed was small it was a very manual process, and with all hands on deck, the team formed a bit of a production line (some of us getting messier than others!). The bins weighed in at around 35kg each, so a bit of muscle power was needed collecting and moving 19 bins of fruit onto the truck for transportation to the Research Winery…and then repeat this taking it off at the other end. This made for a bit of late night and the obligatory pizza delivery!

The bins of fruit were randomly placed into 3 groups. Each group/rep was then split between the different sized tanks: 3x 200L, 8 x 17L and 3 x 2L.

Image: Nick Hoskins (Project manager for the VE Research) and Vilma Martikainen pouring the Pinot Noir into one of the 17L tanks with the assistance of Jacqui Wood.

We’re stoked to have grapes in the winery and our first trials underway!