Paul Baggio, Della Toffola Pacific managing director, has worked in the wine industry for more than 20 years and has spent lots of time travelling the world, scouting out the best technology. From his latest ‘tech tour’ his key takeaway was around knowledge sharing, particularly around innovation, and how that can enhance rather than diminish the winemaking process. Nathan Gogoll put a few questions to him.
Q. Where have you been on your most recent ‘tech tour’ and what did you see?
Paul Baggio: Every year since 2003 I have taken a group of Australian and New Zealand winemakers on what has been colloquially termed ‘tech tours’. We have visited wineries in Italy, Spain, France and the USA. The trips are an opportunity to see different vinification technologies in operation and importantly for winemakers to ask and query their peers as to the performance and value of the technology.
Our latest tour in November focused on wine producers in the North of Italy. It included a stop in Treviso, the home of Prosecco, to a winery using high solid cross flow and continuous tartrate stabilisation, a winery in Soave using continuous floatation and cross flow filtration using high levels of Carbon and PVPP.
We visited a winery in Barolo using cross flow filtration on super premium red wines and also high solids cross flow for red wine lees recovery, which was allowing them to remove two 25 square metre RDV (rotary drum vacuum filters). The last stop on the tour was a winery near Bologna operating thermal vinification/flash technology.
It was a valuable knowledge sharing experience between Italian, New Zealand, Australian and American winemakers (the latter joined us for part of the tour), discussing the challenges faced by each region and the potential opportunity for Australasian winemakers to apply similar technology to the Europeans.
We also attended the SIMEI wine technology show in Milan, where more than 600 exhibitors showcased their latest innovations in equipment for winemaking and bottling.
The tech tour facilitated the collective sharing of ideas and processes which was mutually beneficial to each winemaker involved in the conversation. It was a refreshing change to the industry here in Australia where there’s a tendency for beverage producers including winemakers to work in silos.
Q.What are your thoughts on knowledge sharing when it comes to innovation in the wine industry?
PB: The most interesting insight is the manner by which the various Italian regions, well demarcated by their unique dishes and dialects and equally distinguishable by their individual wine styles, are very open to sharing their winemaking philosophies, technologies and various industry challenges. Italian wine producers welcome the opportunity to share processes and ideas with fellow winemakers which is very refreshing. It has led to an industry that is collectively becoming more competitive, instead of working in isolation through fear of provincial competition.
I have seen a similar approach in New Zealand, where winemakers are collaborating, allowing each other into their vineyards to learn exactly what they are doing. Oyster Bay, for example, is welcoming American winemakers into their fold to learn how they are using high solid cross flow and continuous tartrate stabilisation to see if it is something they would like to implement back in their US vineyard. Similarly, US winemakers are allowing New Zealanders to visit and exchange their ideas on technology and how industry challenges can be tackled.
Q. Is there anything the wine industry can learn from other industries when it comes to sharing information and getting the best results across the board?
PB: Technology enables our ability to compete globally and increase our export potential. Trying to gain insight into the most viable industry technologies more rapidly should be our highest priority.
The nature of working in silos has been the biggest restraint to faster adaption to technology and growth in Australia. The industry by virtue of only having one season or opportunity to trial technology each year has struggled to gain the confidence to invest appropriately in new vinification technologies to take on industry challenges. However, winemakers who are willing and more open to sharing information and ideas can fast track their processes by tapping into networks as offered by suppliers such as Della Toffola who have a high profile global footprint.
Delegats, Yealands, Giesen, Yalumba, Barossa Valley Estate (BVE), Pernod and Indevin are all companies who have been tapping into the international networks internationally scaled suppliers can provide.
Q. Who is using continuous tartrate stabilisation and cross flow? Are there success stories people need to know about?
PB: Continuous tartrate stabilisation has been used in northern Europe for decades; this has now been coupled with cross flow which has ceramic membranes allowing us to filter wines at cold stability temperatures of -4°, -5°.
This evolution and convergence of technologies allows winemakers to reduce the window from post fermentation to bottling and packing, from eight to ten weeks to two or three weeks.
It’s opening the doors for Australian and New Zealand white wine producers to capitalise on the demand from the northern hemisphere by addressing the challenges of seasonal variations and the timeframes of getting product ready for export.
The tech was engineered here in Australia and I firmly believe this will shift the paradigm in our ability to compete internationally.
Giesen has worked with the technology for 18 months with success. It’s enabled them to maximise their current infrastructure to achieve output, such as increasing their tank turnover, so payback on investment was quite rapid. The benefits of increasing the speed of post ferment process are cash flow and market access. Yealands and Oyster Bay have also adapted this technology which they will be putting into play come vintage.
Q. In the past, Australia has been held in high regard in the wine industry when it comes to innovation. Is this still the case? Where else in the world are the latest innovations coming from?
PB: At the height of Australia’s wine export boom in the early 90s we were at the forefront of technology. With no increase in export growth combined with the strong Aussie dollar over the past seven years (2015 aside), we have been idol.
Innovation comes from necessity. We are once again seeing green shoots of export growth and I believe this is creating a need to be investing in processes and technologies that enable us to become more competitive globally.
It was Australian engineers that brought continuous tartrate stabilisation and ceramic membrane cross flow together to create a solution specific to the Australasian region and were also fundamental in developing other technologies such as the ceramic high solids cross flow processes. I think we’ll see more innovation on home soil in the next few years. There is a huge opportunity here for us to embrace technology and work together to share our knowledge and challenges and champion innovation.
Italy, France and Germany in my view are currently leading the way. Italy in particular has been producing a notable percentage of the world’s winemaking technology for the past ten years. On the first trip tech tour I hosted 12 years ago we visited Villa Bamfi in Tuscany who was using Thermal/Flash, and just last year Delegat (Oyster Bay) was the first in Australasia to adapt this technology.