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NorCal Wine Blog

Scenes from an Industrial Winery

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to tour a couple of the world’s largest industrial wineries. It was an eye-opening experience. The scale is awesome, stunning really.

With the massive production volume come many challenges. Every aspect of winemaking technique needs to be re-thought and re-engineered. And I’m not talking about additives, interventionist winemaking and the like that fine wine aficionados tend to moan about. I’m talking about very fundamental things.

How do you move that many grapes? How do you sort them? When you have an insanely large fermentation tank, how do you keep temperatures under control? What do you do with a gazillion tons of grape must? The list goes on and on.

I came away impressed. I was amazed not just by the scale, but with the level of quality and consistency that is maintained. The focus on those things, the attention to detail and continual efforts to improve, were inspiring.

In between my equipment-ogling and question-asking, I took pictures. Many were just for my reference and not too exciting. I thought these were pretty cool though. [If you have one of those glossy screens meant to make movies look great, you might want to increase the brightness a bit to view these.]

When your fermentation tanks are massive, you need one of these to know how deep the juice is.

Gravity flow is not an option. There are vast networks of pipes to move juice and wine from place to place.

I like the braided hose on this fitting, and the condensation.

I love the form and shadows here. But this isn't just any set of stairs on a wall. They are just part of the staircase on a wine storage tank. It holds half-a-million gallons, more than the entire combined annual production of twenty 10,000 case wineries. If you drank the equivalent of one bottle a day out of this tank, after a full year you'd have dropped its level by one inch. There were quite a few of these tanks.

Safety first! Everyone at the winery has to wear a hard hat, except in the office areas. And the winery is so large, workers need bicycles to get around efficiently.


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This article is original to Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. Photos by Fred Swan. All rights reserved.