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As we pour wine, be it red or white, we know for sure there are no microbiological elements. And, if you find one in the glass, it definitely is not from the bottle. Churning out bottle after bottle of wine without any bacterial contamination may be a wonder for us but not for Viral Pancholia, CEO of Mercury Winery. “Good wine and intoxication are in the management of right sanitation and cleaning processes.”

The importance of cleanliness & sanitation within the winery cannot be unassuming, as it is a factor of utmost importance in the production of consistent high quality wine, product safety, ageing potential and retention of positive flavour attributes. Poor sanitation processes will, sooner or later, ruin the wine. Uncontrolled proliferation of microorganism usually leads to product deterioration and spoilage.


“Two general practices that can reduce risk are good winery sanitation and wine making habits. Wine making is an extremely complex process requiring sanitation levels at every stage to the extent of reducing viable cells to acceptably low numbers. The elimination of hospitable environments for microbial growth. The basic techniques of cleaning and sanitizing everything before and after use is essential. Barrels, tanks, carboys and drums must be totally cleaned to make them bacteria free. Hence, they must be sterilized inside and outside too.”

Area to be cleaned include :

• Pumps, hoses, hose clamps, fittings (these have the potential to be the most unsanitary items in the winery)

• Bottling equipment (must purge the siphon tubes)

• Crusher/destemmer (pull it apart)

• Press (scrub every part of it)

• Floors (dirtiest place in the winery – sweep them, mop them, remove clutters)

• Everything that touches your wine.

Basic cleaning means: Spray everything with pressurised water and use pressure steam and detergents after all the big stuff is removed. Detergents are required to remove surface adherents and there are many detergent products in several categories. “We, however, do not use detergents with scents, chlorine or other ‘odd’ additives. The household detergents are not used.”

“Alkalis (lyes, sodium carbonate, potash) are excellent for big operations, and can be obtained from commercial suppliers. Tri Sodium Phosphate (TSP) is a workhorse for many wineries and is a powerful cleaner. OxiClean or ProxyClean are good cleaners and initial sanitizers. Sodium carbonate peroxihydrate (granular form of hydrogen peroxide combined with sodium carbonate) are also used for this purpose. Water temperature is important in the cleaning process.

“Hot water (180oC) is a good sterilizing agent on its own and helps in activating cleaning agents. If you use steam or sterilize lines with hot water, there are specific application times that are recommended for effectiveness (typically 20 minutes). Don’t use chlorine based products (like bleach), as studies have shown evidence of chlorine promoting cork taint (TCA). Chlorine is used on porous surfaces like barrels but it could affect the taste of wine.

“Barrel management in a winery is a very complex job as the entire consignment of wine may get spoilt if there is any traces bacteria. The process of barrel management is:

• Keep your barrels hydrated throughout the year – every three months or so

• Rinse thoroughly three times to ensure you get all of the cleaner and detergent out of the equipment

• Citric acid rinse is often used to neutralize the base nature of detergents – barrel needs to be rinsed after application

• Always use a sulphur wick after hydration and tightly cork the bung hole

“Sanitizing is not disinfecting! Disinfecting is the 100% elimination of all living organisms. That is usually reserved for bottling microbially unstable wines – to produce a sterile finished product. Phosphoric acid based foaming sanitizer works within 30 seconds of contact. The foam helps to prolong surface contact time and gets into difficult nooks and crannies. It only takes one ounce for five gallons of water. It has no-rinse-long-residual protection capability. It does not contribute any off flavours.

“QUATS (Quaternary Ammonium Compounds) is a standard food industry sanitizer. Iodine based sanitizers are effective against bacterial endospores and fungal spores. SO2 (potassium metabisulphite) is very common sanitizer in wineries and can be kept in spray bottles around the winery for intermittent applications.”

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