Oxidation can damage must (grape juice) giving it a darkened colour and masking the characteristics of the grape variety and soil conditions it was grown in. Without the presence of oxygen at this stage, the volatile components of the grapes' which produce aroma and flavour are maintained until the bottle is opened.
Winemakers wishing to control the contact of must with the air during pressing have been using inert gas pressing environments for some time. Air, present in the wine press is replaced with an inert gas, such as argon or nitrogen, which does not effect the must.
Large amounts of inert gas are needed to maintain this neutral environment, particularly if a lengthy maceration - contact with broken skins - is desired before fermentation begins.
But, the gas consumption involved in this process has, until now, been wasteful and therefore extremely costly.
To solve the problem Vaslin Bucher has developed a system that incorporates a flexible gas reservoir in order to recycle the gas. The compnay claims that this reduces wastage by twenty-fold.
The design has won the bronze medal at the Vinitech exhibition in Bordeaux and is likely to prove popular amoung winemakers. As well as a significant cost advantage, the new system is also said to create a more pleasant and safer working environment.