Barossa Valley brothers Joshua and Simon Schmidt started their South Australian company Vinnovate in 2012 and have developed a bottle closure that releases a solution to reduce the impact of preservatives or add subtle flavours to wine.
When activated, by pressing a button on top of the screw cap, the solution is mixed with the wine and binds to free sulphites, removing their preservative properties and reducing their ability to cause a reaction.
Co-founder and chief innovation officer Joshua Schmidt says the award – a $35,000 cash prize plus the opportunity to work with Pernod Ricard to bring the product to market – is a huge thrill.
“We believe that the Winexplorer Challenge has validated our idea and it now gives us a springboard from which to go forward,” he says.
Joshua says it will be up to the consumer as to whether they activate the solution or not.
“We’ve found from a lot of market research that more and more people are experiencing a reaction when they drink wine and it’s actually pushing people away from the industry,” he says.
“We wanted to create something that was very similar to an existing screw cap but has an element of functionality because across the wider consumer goods space there is a strong trend towards individualisation.”
Sulphites, which release sulphur dioxide, are preservatives widely used in winemaking because of their antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
Common reactions to sulphites include headaches and red, itchy skin.
“Being Barossa boys and children of the industry we set out to find a means so that everyone can enjoy wine,” Joshua says.
“We believe it freshens up the wine as well and allows it to be more of a consumer-centric experience rather than traditionally having to wait for 30 to 60 minutes after opening for the wine to ‘breathe’.”
“We want to do something good for the industry.”
Vinnovate Managing Director Simon Schmidt is a winemaker while Joshua’s background is in marketing, with a particular focus on the pharmaceutical industry.
The Schmidt brothers have developed prototypes and have commenced discussions with a number of wineries around trials.
Joshua says he hopes for a commercial release towards the end of the year.
“It’s our vision to see this as the next generation screw cap closure for wine,” he says.
“We are currently talking to some wineries about this and it’s our goal that this will be inclusive wine packaging.”
“We believe this has tremendous widespread appeal and application just like how Clare Valley was an early adopter of the screw cap 40-odd years ago.”
CEO of Vinehealth Australia, Alan Nankivell, who is leading the project, says phylloxera had a significant economic impact on the wine industry, as “the quality of our wines is based on the quality of our vines”. Eighty per cent of Australia’s vineyards have vines that are own-rooted, rather than grafted onto resistant rootstock; some are very old and the wines produced from these are highly sought after.
Phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae) feeds on grapevine roots and leaves them open to bacterial infection, which can result in rot and necrotic death due to cell injury. It destroyed substantial areas of vines in France in the mid-19th century and has affected several winegrowing areas of Australia; the only effective treatment is removing infested vines and replanting with resistant rootstock.
Financially, the cost of managing a vineyard with phylloxera is estimated to range from 10–20% in additional operating costs.
The current method of detection uses a shovel and magnifying glass to inspect sites in areas of low vigour; however, phylloxera may have been present for some time and the test is usually conducted in summer, one of the industry’s busiest seasons.
The new DNA-based test requires 10-cm soil core samples to be taken 5 cm from the vine’s trunk. The samples are then sealed and sent to a lab where they are dried and tested for the presence of phylloxera DNA.
Nankivell says the incidence of finding phylloxera using the test was very high (around 98%), even when the amounts of phylloxera present were low.
“At the moment, we’re able to find phylloxera at sites any time of the year.”
The new DNA-based test could help prevent the spread of phylloxera in Australia, as those who have it on their property can determine where it is and whether it is spreading.
Sampling in vineyards across Australia over time will establish a baseline for the maintenance of area freedom. Nankivell says with this baseline in place, the quarantine management and farm-gate hygiene of vineyards will improve industry knowledge about where phylloxera is and isn’t.
PBCRC researchers are currently working to establish the most suitable grid pattern for taking the soil core samples.
They will also compare the DNA sample method with two other methods: the ‘shovel method’ and another using emergence traps to catch insects inside an inverted container placed on the soil, to determine performance against selected criteria.
This research strongly supports the wine industry’s focus on identifying and managing biosecurity threats to ensure the ongoing health of grapevines. Healthy vines are the foundation for a prosperous Australian wine industry.
To learn more about phylloxera, click here or watch this video about the Phylloxera Rezoning Project carried out in Australia:
“I thought there must still be people out there being inventive, but it’s hard for farmers to put their hand up – they’re quite modest people,” Hackworth says.
The awards will be held on 17 July at Adelaide Oval. The four finalists have designed innovative ideas, practices and equipment that will be presented to over 200 wine grape growers.
“The criteria we assess them by is their ability to make an impact, to actually save money and make money, the cost of adopting the practice, and the ability of it to be applied across the state.”
The finalists include systems of delaying ripening across different areas of a vineyard, better sprayers for preventing Eutypa outbreaks, rapid processing of GPS yield data, and a grape bin with inbuilt scales.
“Most of them aren’t interested in commercialising the ideas – they’re just interested in growing grapes – but they’re happy to share them.
“Were looking at getting engineering plans made for the spray unit and the trailer, for example, and make them available so people can make them themselves or have them made.
“It’s classic farming – not wanting to get further away from what they like doing.”
Maturity delaying techniques for sloping vineyards
Kim Anderson, from the Adelaide Hills, has developed a suite of techniques to ensure more even ripening of his fruit across his sloping property.
Fruit at the top of the block ripens significantly faster (a difference of 1.5 – 2 Baume) than at the bottom, causing management problems come harvest time.
In general, fruit is ripening a month earlier than it was 30 years ago thanks to a warmer climate – the ability to delay and get more even crops is of increasing interest to growers.
Anderson has applied three trial methods. By using herbicide on the undervine grass in the lower block, and keeping it intact on the higher ground until budburst, the soil at the top of the block is kept cooler. At harvest the different between fruit ripeness was only 0.1 Baume.
Another technique was trimming the vines just above the highest fruiting nodes early in the season – this delays ripening by about a month and complements the other techniques well.
Finally, Anderson pruned certain vines very late in the season to delay their development and measured them against a control group. The results were a success.
Anderson’s techniques allow greater uniformity to vine growth stages across a sloping block. There are also advantages to fruit ripening in cooler months, enhancing flavour development and maximising the value of fruit.
Bin Trailer with built in scales
Bill and Phil Longbottom from Padthaway, South Australia, are independent grape growers who supply to a number of processors
Their bins were previously loaded in the vineyard before being driven to and offloaded at a weighing pad. This resulted in under or overloaded grape bins and a higher risk of accident – for example a forklift tipping when handling an overweight bin. There are also price penalties for over-delivering on contracts or overloading trucks.
The solution was to build a dual-axle trailer with suspension and built in scales, that displays a digital readout to the harvester operator. All construction was undertaken on their farm at an estimated cost of $6000.
Benefits of their innovation include being able to offload bins straight on to delivery trucks to save double-handling the grapes, better scheduling for trucks, better yield estimation during picking, reduced noise thanks to suspension, and it removes the problem of variation in volume weight between varieties.
They’ve paid for their device in one season by selling the fruit that is excess to processing contracts to other wineries instead.
Rapid GPS yield mapping and analysis
Hans Loder works in mining, but he has an ongoing association with Coonawarra’s Katnook Estate.
Katnook uses GPS yield monitors on its harvesters to accurately track yield across vineyards. The data collected was typically sent for processing in to yield maps that took several months to be processed and delivered, much too late to be of use in harvesting decisions.
Loder developed a script to process the data within 24 hours of the harvester moving through the block. It bypasses expensive mapping software to display data natively in Google Earth.
Pixels are colour coded according to yield for quick analysis. The data is also displayed in much higher resolutions than before – with data points down to 150 mm – allowing investigation of individual vines and selective harvesting of high value fruit.
Katnook reduced its data processing costs by 75 per cent, using the new yield maps to its advantage in pruning, nutrition and weed management.
Recirculating cordon sprayer
Ben Blows is an independent grape grower from Macclesfield. Cool and wet climate grapevines, like Blows’ vineyard, are often affected by Eutypa, a fungus which infects pruning wounds and shortens the life of vines significantly.
Blows designed and constructed a recirculating sprayer to reduce the spread of Eutypa. His cordon sprayer uses four nozzles on each side, targeted to hit pruning wounds while allowing spraying at up to seven kilometres per hour.
The sprayer was put together with components from other machinery and vineyard waste, including a mount from a leaf blower, pump from an older sprayer, and 44 gallon drums. The cost of the device was estimated at $6000.
Sprays are applied within 48 hours of completing pruning. The sprayer uses a reduced volume of chemicals, which directly results in savings and allows him to use a smaller tank, limited soil compaction in his high rainfall vineyard.
Long term, Ben expects that the greater protection from Eutypa will significantly improve the commercial life of his vines.