New technology that enables proper sorting at impressive speeds could be the next major change to improve the quality of South African wines. By Edo Heyns  

Hand-picked bunches go in, perfect destemmed grapes come out. This is the cutting-edge technology that Pellenc unveiled at a Stellenbosch demonstration of their Selectiv’ Process Winery two-in-one system for destemming and sorting grapes. Sorting aided by advanced technology, can play a crucial role to further improve the quality of South African wines, Pellenc’s Phillipe Bohn says. “I’ve worked in more than 40 countries and can vouch that technology continues to play an invaluable role in quality,” he says.

Sophisticated sorting

The Pellenc Selectiv’ Process Vision 2 is an example of advanced technology that enables winemakers to improve quality and efficiency with berry-by-berry sorting. Visionic sorting removes green waste, foreign objects and even unripe or unhealthy berries. “In a South African context, removing green material from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is particularly relevant,” Phillipe says. “After a somewhat slow start, there’s now real interest in sorting equipment from a wide spectrum of producers, ranging from smaller estate wineries to producer cellars.” Up to 2 000 items can be sorted per second, allowing for a remarkable sorting rate of up to 12 tonnes per hour. The Selectiv’ Process Vision 2 can be adjusted according to the harvest sorting level, depending on the quality desired. “While efficiency and significant reduction of labour costs are key considerations, the improvement of quality is difficult to quantify, but is the most pertinent benefit,” Phillipe says. “In fact the value of visionic sorting is actually most notable in difficult years, when it literally separates the wheat from the chaff.”

Compatible and adjustable

Pellenc’s wide range of winemaking and viticulture equipment has the distinct advantage of combining processes and equipment to further improve efficiency. The Selectiv’ Process Winery provides the sophisticated sorting of the Process Vision 2 with a destemmer, which would be the required setup for most wineries that harvest grapes by hand. The assortment of Pellenc equipment allows for a multitude of combinations to optimally utilize resources in both the cellar and vineyard. Napier cellar master Leon Bester did exactly that and has seen the benefits in the 2016 vintage. “By combining the precise sorting of the Vision 2 with our Pellenc harvester, we were able to significantly improve efficiency at the cellar,” Leon says. “This has also led to notable savings and quality improvements. If you consider these factors, it justifies the initial capital expenditure. In fact this investment will pay for itself faster than we initially projected.” Other notable advantages include the ability to harvest and sort at any time of the day, resulting in cooler grapes being delivered to the cellar. “We’ve also altered our systems so we can optimise the machinery. By using our harvester for other vineyard work, such as topping and spraying, we can use it more efficiently. The harvester is replacing tractors in many aspects,” Leon says.

Seeing is believing

Pellenc has demonstrated cellar and vineyard equipment at numerous wineries across the Western Cape. “Physically seeing the various devices work is the best way to present the value and efficiency of our product,” Phillipe says. “Anyone who’d like to see a demonstration at their cellar or vineyards is welcome to contact us.” w