Final Days

My last week at Bin to Bottle was especially enjoyable, for a number of reasons. Despite the 6am wake up call one morning to see how the bottling line was sanitised, I got to have a look at some wines that had gone through the process of reverse osmosis, and see wines bottled with the use of Velcorin.

Most excitingly to me, of course, was the use of Velcorin. While I had heard of its use in the industry and of its effectiveness, I had never quite had the chance to neither use it nor see it in action, due to both its toxicity and price. So, this was, to me, to be something of an experience. Velcorin works by, as I am told by the operators, attacking the enzymes and preventing reproduction of the microorganisms in the wine. Use is limited to 200ppm in wine, as it breaks down into methanol and carbon dioxide. It has, however, been shown to be exceedingly effective and to not be harmful to humans in the tiny amounts dosed. Furthermore, the use of Velcorin allows wine makers to bottle their wines unfiltered, preserving, as they say, more of the beautiful qualities of wine that running it through a filter would otherwise take out.

Rather, unexcitingly, the entire apparatus looks somewhat like a giant metal box, enclosing two bottles of Velcorin, heat-injecting it into the wine every so often. As Velcorin has both a high freezing point and a high hydrophobicity, the bottles must be warmed up (and in fact, one bottle was frozen solid after having been left out in the open the day before) and injected in tiny amounts into the corresponding volumes of wine.

Sanitation of the bottling line was interesting but not fot the reasons immediately obvious. It rather unfortunately only involved using the steamer that came built into the machine itself to sanitise all the lines and thus required only the attachment of a hose and an electrical source. However, with the sanitation of the machine, came an explanation of how it was sanitised and an explanation of what each piece did in the grand scheme of things.

Finally, and rather intriguingly, I got to sample both retentate and filtrate of the reverse osmosis process. There was no requirement for either the use of Reverse Osmosis or De-Alcoholoyzing, and unfortunately, I did not get the see the machine. Tasting both products of the process was, in itself, a lesson, though. The filtrate was an odd tasting, somewhat wine-like, combination of water, acid and ethanol, while the retentate, was… well, wine. I am told, that reverse osmosis in and of itself, is illegal,whilst certain processes involving it are legal. How it all works, I could not quite wrap my head around and I suspect, it would take me sometime in the industry to tease apart the legality of it all.

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