Our vision: A world-leading, sustainable, national Research Winery to serve the NZ wine industry, based in Marlborough.

Follow our journey from ‘vision to vessel’ with our new blog as we build a new Research Winery, develop bespoke fermentation tanks and carry out the first research trials of their kind.

From left: MJ Loza (BRI), Will Kerner (BRI), Vilma Martikainen (NMIT), Tracy Benge (BRI), Claire Grose (PFR), Jacqui Wood (BRI)

Green light for new national research winery in Marlborough


In June 2018 we submitted annual work-plans to MBIE as part of our funding requirements. This included a business case for an additional $2 million contribution towards developing a new research winery facility in Marlborough.

We were delighted to be advised in September 2018 that this additional funding has been approved, giving us the green light to develop a national research winery.

Photo courtesy of UC Davis

As well as being used for trials on wine research projects, the new winery will provide many other opportunities. The opportunities include:

  • A facility where commercial wineries can trial new winemaking methods, techniques or products
  • A centre for education and learning, allowing students to learn about winemaking and research
  • Opportunities for exchanges and secondments with other research institutions and research wineries abroad
  • A technology hub, trialling new winery equipment and technology
  • A drawcard for international and regional visitors
  • Modelling winery and winemaking sustainability

Vision to Vessel


February 2019 brought about an exciting milestone for BRI, with the arrival of the first of our world-leading custom-designed research fermentation tanks. The arrival of the tanks signified the culmination of a year of hard work and collaboration between a team of experts across an array of disciplines. This broad-reaching collaboration has resulted in a world-first, bespoke experimental tank design.

It is the tanks’ dual-purpose design and setup that makes them unique. Each tank can hold 200 litres and can be used for a single fermentation or have four smaller (17 litre) tanks inserted to house four individual fermentations, all controlled under the same conditions. This is an important aspect of the tank design, reducing variability between fermentations and providing greater validity to results in trials. Repeatability and trial setup were the driving forces behind the decision to have the four inserts. With most research requiring triplicate fermentations, the BRI tanks have offset the risk of losing statistical strength by incorporating a fourth tank in case of a mishap like a stuck fermentation. Once fermentation is completed, the inserts can be removed and the tank returns to a 200-litre capacity vessel, suitable for another trial, blending or storage of larger volumes if required.

Both the 200-litre tank and the 17-litre tank inserts have been designed to ferment either white or red wine, allowing further adaptability. When the 17-litre tanks are fermenting white wine, they will have an agitator insert in place and when fermenting red-wine this will be replaced with a plunger. All tanks have automated Brix and Temperature probes, maintaining optimal temperature control and real-time data analysis. This new data analysis and control interface system is the latest technology development by Vin-Wizard.

Tanks and trials


A total of six tanks were up and running for Vintage 2019, managed in collaboration with Plant and Food Research (PFR) and Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) at the NMIT teaching winery. One of BRI’s initiatives is to support education, research and innovation within the wine industry, and partnering with PFR and NMIT is one of our key relationships for the continued success of the wine industry.

Testing the tanks in vintage 2019 involved two trials. The first trial was an assessment of the tank’s efficiency in controlling fermentation The second will be a wine storage trial testing two different lid designs and any associated oxygen ingress. Both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir were used for the trials, with replicate trials being run at commercial wineries and PFR’s microvin winery, all following the same winemaking protocols. These initial trials will provide essential information into the efficiency of the new design and how well they replicate the control achieved by commercial sized winery tanks. This will provide an opportunity to identify any issues or improvements required before moving into phase two, construction of the new Research Winery and manufacturing of more research tanks.


Partners and sponsors


BRI would like to take this opportunity to thank the project working group, spanning both industry and research, who have contributed their time and expertise to bring this to fruition. They are:

  • Andy Frost (Pernod Ricard)
  • Heath Stafford (Indevin Wines)
  • Marcus Wright (Lawsons Dry Hills)
  • Claire Grose and Damian Martin (Plant & Food Research)
  • Peter Mann (ProMann Consulting)
  • Carl Butler and Crichton Purdie (Crown Sheet Metal)
  • The teams at Hydramech Plumbing and Martella Electrical
  • Adam Walker and Don McKay (Structex Engineering)
  • Simon Hall (JTB Architects)
  • David Gill (VinWizard)
  • The research winemaking teams at UC Davis and E&J Gallo, California

The 17L plunger unit; Tracy Benge (BRI – Establishment Manager), Will Kerner (BRI – Research Programme Manager) checking out the specially designed plunger for the 17L vessels.

Over the next few months we will be looking for companies or individuals who would be interested in sponsoring the new research winery and/or related equipment. If you are interested in being involved or would like further information, please contact BRI Establishment Manager