A new method for sanitizing stainless steel tanks and barrels using ultraviolet light is finding a receptive audience in California. The BlueMorph technology has been in development for four years and is coming to market at an opportune time. According to founding partner Alex Farren, a biochemist and toxicologist, the method known as Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) uses little or no water, no chemicals and only takes 30 seconds to install. Depending upon size, tanks can be sanitized in less than 30 minutes.
“The technology uses four ultraviolet bulbs and algorithms that calculate the distribution of light required to kill wine bugs,” said Farren. He worked with winemaker Chris Russi and optical scientist Noah Bareket in developing the technology, which is being manufactured and serviced by the Tom Beard Co. The device is inserted through the tank’s lower man gate and operated using a touchscreen.
Jackson Family Wines in Santa Rosa, Calif., is the first adopter of system, which costs
approximately $49,000 per unit. Winemaker Megan Gunderson at WALT winery in Napa Valley recently completed a trial that compared BlueMorph UV sanitation with standard methods using
steam and acid, and had impressive results. “We had ETS Bev Track run a clean tank test and were happy with the BlueMorph results,” she said. “The only water we used was a quick rinse of the tanks prior to UV sanitation.” Gunderson, who will retest the technology for efficacy during harvest when the winery has a higher microbial load, added, “We’re spending more annually on water than the cost of
a BlueMorph unit.”
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to water conservation inside the winery. According to Jeff Zucker, safety and environmental coordinator at J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines in Paso Robles, Calif., “It’s the 100 little decisions you make every day that contribute the most to water conservation.” Zucker noted changes in winery housekeeping practices and a constant dialog with the winemaking team as key to his water-saving success.
In 2003, J. Lohr averaged 3.5 gallons of water to 1 gallon of wine. Today that number is just 1.31 gallons, a low for the winery. (One caveat: J. Lohr doesn’t operate a bottling line, which can drive up a winery’s water use.) “We’re talking about conservation all the time, but it’s the simple things, like switching to high-pressure, low-flow nozzles that reduce the flow on each hose from 20 gallons per minute (gpm) to 7 gpm that have helped us significantly reduce our use,” Zucker
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