Can winemaking go tankless and water-free?

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

Rather than steel tanks, the GoFermentor ferments inside disposable, biodegradable plastic bags.
Rather than steel tanks, the GoFermentor ferments inside disposable, biodegradable plastic bags.

Related tags Wine Wine industry Wine makers Winemaking Research and development

Wineries struggle with massive water waste during production, which is particularly hard on urban-based and small startup winemakers. The self-contained GoFermentor system wants to change that.

Husband and wife duo Vijay and Meera Singh developed the GoFermentor machines in 2013 after they began dabbling in wine in retirement. During his career, Dr. Vijay worked in water management in gene therapy, and found the winemaking process had a similar intensity and waste margin.

“I thought you could apply the same ideas and make winemaking a disposable system, in a cleaner environment,”​ he said.

The system takes up 4ft by 4ft of floor space and is designed to replace the conventional standard steel tanks of winemaking, which are expensive and use a lot of water in cleaning.

It’s been estimated that four gallons of wash water are consumed per gallon of wine made, according to the Singhs. It’s then wasted when contaminated with detergent residue, and small-scale winemakers face the challenge of properly disposing of the water, especially in urban areas that require permits.

Rather than steel tanks, the GoFermentor ferments inside disposable, biodegradable plastic bags. It can reduce water usage by up to 90% and cut back on cleaning labor. The wine ferments for about nine days each cycle, which can handle one ton of grapes and produce 170 gallons of wine.

The Singhs believe this is the only limitation, as most major winemakers work with 20 tons of grapes in one go. However, they pointed out that 80%-90% of wines in the US are from small companies, and they have seen a lot of interest from startup wineries and those based out of warehouses and strip malls.

Batch-to-batch consistency

Another challenge facing small winemakers is the expensive and labor-intensive press. The Singhs also manufacture a GoFermentor Jr system, ideal for home winemakers and use in academia. It handles 100lbs of grapes at a time and makes seven gallons of wine per run.

Other at-home winemaking machines on the market are known for using concentrates, because using actual grapes requires a ‘punch down’ press. These are too expensive for the average amateur winemaker, but the GoFermentor system builds in the pressing process.

Because the pressing can be controlled with GoFermentor’s smart device app, rather than hand-pressed a few times each day, the results are more consistent batch-to-batch.

“The system's innately gentle pressure and well-engineered filtration system ensure that excellent yields, 150 gallons/ton, are obtained with the richest, softest tannins possible,”​ GoFermentor said.

The Singhs have clients from small and mid-size wineries that have purchased multiple GoFermentor machines to keep up with production, finding this easier than keeping the traditional steel tanks.

The GoFermentor has been trialed in Australia, Spain, Italy and the US. The couple also maintains their own small winery for trialing the machine and testing out new grapes and yeast.

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