Winemakers embrace a suite of French technology on the road to greater sustainability

10/02/2020
by Riversdale Estate

Overlooking the picturesque Coal River Valley in Tasmania's south, Riversdale Estate is preparing to use
European technology to produce high-quality wines, with an emphasis on high sustainability.

The family-owned business is about to open a new winery, which will use fully-automated processes.

Rainier Roberts from Riversdale Estate said the French technology would sort the grapes by using air blasts,
allowing them to be harvested and processed within 20 minutes.

An optical sorter takes more than 7,000 photos per second, and then air blasts remove discoloured berries, sticks and leaves.

The technology will enable Riversdale to sort out different berry colours in the winery quickly, aiming to improve quality.

Gone will be the days of physically looking out for mouldy berries, or the green berries in the case of a pinot noir.


And the process also saves some power compared to the old ways.

"The suite of technology here isn't that common — there's only two in Australia, but in terms of the full suite
we're the only ones to have it," Mr Roberts said.

After recognising a demand from consumers for environmentally-conscious wine labels, Riversdale
aims to be fully solar-powered by 2023.

"Solar power will allow us to keep everything, without affecting the environment too much," he said.

"Our plans are to put 100 kilowatts in the winery, and that will allow us to be self-sustainable.

"We predict by 2023 we'll get there, with [the addition of] some batteries as well."

And Riversdale won't be alone.

Moores Hill in the Tamar Valley in the state's north was the first winery to be 100 per cent solar-powered
in 2017, storing energy in batteries.

Other wineries in Tasmania have also invested in solar power systems.

The French technology will allow Riversdale to double the amount of wine it produces under its own label each year,
while continuing to supply other winemakers.

"We've got a lot of our pipework and plumbing in a central membrane, which will allow us to control all of the heating
and cooling in the facility," Mr Roberts said.

"It will allow us to be about 30 to 40 per cent more efficient in our electricity usage."


Automated technology the way of the future

Matt Pooley from Pooley Estate in Tasmania's Coal River Valley said his winery was conscious of doing what was
right for both the industry and the environment.

"We're looking at gravity flow and pumping, and again really minimising the handling of the fruit," he said.

"We are monitoring our chemical levels and spray applications."

Paul Smart from Wine Tasmania said automated technology was the way of the future for larger vineyards, but it was
not essential to make premium wine.

Mr Smart said there was a clear trend in Tasmanian wineries moving towards more environmentally sustainable methods.

"There are a lot of small producers out there, and they like the hand element, it brings in staff and they're able to put
that into their story," Mr Smart said.

He said automated technology was a major feature at the recent Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference.

"There was an over-the-row vineyard tractor that was fully automated, it would learn where to drive in the vineyard,
and it was fully autonomous," he said.

"In the winery there were things like blenders that cut the seeds to help with extraction of pinot noir, and tannin from
pinot noir, and there were also thermovinification methods."

Mr Smart said while technology brought innovation, it was more important Tasmania's wine industry continued to be
on the cutting edge of premium winemaking, no matter what method was used.