A permeation barrier helps during the maturation process
A variety of container shapes and materials are used during the wine production process. Wine typically matures in barrels or – as a modern alternative – in steel or plastic containers. Protecting this oxidation-prone product from external influences is one of the main challenges in wine production. This factor also determines the choice of container, which must ensure that only small quantities of oxygen permeate in. Oxygen is the number one enemy of wine: it alters the flavour and character, accelerates premature ageing and diminishes the quality. However, wine also depends on oxygen to mature, as it influences the content of phenols, the colour, the tannins and other essential aroma substances. It is precisely here that the Wine-Store-Age IBC can show its true strengths! The container is part of the Schütz Foodcert line and is certified according to the highest industrial food standard, FSSC 22000. It has an EVOH barrier that prevents the permeation in and out of oxygen, nitrogen and other gases, allowing the wine to mature under controlled exposure to oxygen. All of these factors were clearly demonstrated in the first comprehensive study in Australia.
As a leading packaging producer with factories on all five continents, Schütz firmly believes that the demand for IBCs in the wine industry will continue to increase. For smaller wine producers in particular, the certified containers are a cost-effective and space-saving alternative for storing, maturing and transporting wines. This applies in particular to smaller vintages with lower yields, such as those recorded in 2017.
Successful comparative test in Geisenheim
In order to popularise the use of IBCs for the maturation of wine in Europe as well as Australia, Schütz started a cooperation with the Institute of Oenology at the world-renowned University of Geisenheim in 2017. The aim of the series of experiments carried out on behalf of the market leader was to test plastic containers (IBC) with an integrated oxygen barrier in comparison to containers made of inert materials such as stainless steel. The study compared the development of a test wine in the FSSC-certified Ecobulk Wine-Store-Age with an EVOH barrier with that in a stainless steel container over a period of three and six months, respectively. The results of the study showed that, in comparison to stainless steel tanks, which are chiefly used, there was no perceptible oxygen permeation into the IBC from the outside through the container walls. In the test a typical, good quality wine of this variety matured in the container, which passed the sensory tests of a board of experts. Due to the design of the plastic IBC, there was a slight increase in oxygen permeation into the wine because of the small volume of air that remained in the shoulders after filling. This led to a slightly higher reduction of the free and total sulphuric acid content in the first 2.5 months compared to the wine in the stainless steel tank. However, as maturation progressed, the EVOH barrier effectively prevented further permeation of oxygen, so that the measured values remained stable in the Ecobulk during the following 3.5 months of testing
Wide range of applications in the oenology industry
Professor Rainer Jung, deputy head of the Institute for Oenology at the University of Geisenheim, summarised the test series: “The results obtained in the experiment open up application possibilities for IBC containers in oenological practice. This easy-to-transport container is suitable for the maturation and flexible short- and medium-term storage of finished wines. It is also an efficient container for commercial selling and serving, e. g. at large events.” Other factors that speak in favour of using the containers include the small footprint and the stackability, which allows optimum use to be made of the often limited cellar, storage and transportation space.
Two other major advantages were also confirmed in the test: almost complete residual emptying and easy cleaning. For microbiological reasons, residual amounts in the container must always be avoided. The Schütz IBC can be emptied easily via an outlet valve. Residues, such as yeasts, can be rinsed out with ease.