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Case Study: Onsite N2 generation helps spread more Wild Oats

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article image Robert Oatley Vineyards’ primary bottling line
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Compressors and nitrogen generating equipment supplied by Caps Australia are helping a leading winery and bottling facility located in Mudgee, NSW achieve great savings, operational efficiency and product quality. 

Winemaking has changed little over the centuries. However, faced with the challenge of maximising output while producing wines that are true to traditional methods, winemakers are taking their craft into the modern era of automation by increasingly replacing oak barrels with stainless steel processing vats, and precision-controlled crushing technologies substituting for pounding human feet. 

Robert Oatley Vineyards is blending traditional winemaking values with precise management of processing technologies, from vine to bottle, allowing the Australian winery to increase production to meet modern demands, save overhead costs and minimise their impact on the environment. 

Robert Oatley is a fifth-generation Australian who established the Rosemount Estate in the 1960s, producing his first commercial vintages in the early 1970s. After a brief period away from winemaking, Oatley bought a Mudgee property and established Robert Oatley Vineyards. Comprising of a superb vineyard and the region’s largest winery, this property was purchased in 2006 to serve as the family’s winemaking headquarters. The primary markets for the vineyard include Australia, the USA, some of the Pacific islands, China and the UK.

Oatley's management and production teams combine experience, knowledge, innovation and enthusiasm to realise the long-term vision of the company. Its award-winning Wild Oats brand has proven a great success, becoming one of the nation’s top-selling wines within two years of its launch.

With a production capability of thousands of bottles per day, the Robert Oatley Wines bottling facility requires compressed nitrogen for nearly every stage of the bottling process. 

Compressed Air and Power Solutions (CAPS) Australia supplied the compressors that power a significant proportion of the equipment used in the winery and bottling facility. However, during a support visit to the winery, Matthew Broadbent, the Senior Sales Engineer in NSW for CAPS, noticed that the winery was using bottled nitrogen for some of the company’s processes. 

Realising that the winery was spending more than necessary on its nitrogen requirements, Broadbent put together a proposal that could save them money. The nitrogen generating equipment proposed was the Inmatec IMT-PN 1650 providing an output of 37 cubic metres per hour. The previous bottled nitrogen restricted the winery to 150 cubic metres per day.

After the winery decided to go ahead with the full nitrogen package as specified by CAPS, the resulting cost savings exceeded expectations. According to Broadbent, the new equipment at Robert Oatley Vineyards has cut the price per cubic metre of nitrogen per day by more than 75 per cent.

According to Philip Griffin, Production Manager at the winery, nitrogen can now be used throughout the winery, not just the bottling line, allowing the facility to refine their processes to enhance production.

On the bottling line, nitrogen is used to purge the lines after sterile water has been pumped through them. In order to minimise oxidation, nitrogen is also used while transferring wine to bottles. 

Crushing grapes is at the heart of the winemaking process. Robert Oatley Vineyards has several pneumatic wine-presses of various load capacities that squeeze the juice from the berries. The amount of crushing required depends on the type of wine. Griffin explains that compressed air provides an ideal means of accurately controlling the pressure of the press, which is crucial to the quality of the finished product. 

He adds that the reliability of the CAPS compressor unit provides them with high levels of product controllability.

Refrigerated dryers and filtration equipment are included in the compressed air system to ensure the food-grade quality of the compressed air. 

A vineyard’s success is dependent on the health of the earth, so it stands to reason that the company believes in protecting and nurturing its environment. The compressors and nitrogen generators use environment-friendly compressor lubricant while noise pollution is minimised. Though the compressors are installed in areas where a number of winery staff are permanently located, the relatively quiet units supplied by CAPS help maintain a tranquil atmosphere.

CAPS’ ongoing relationship with the winemaker includes a regular service schedule carried out by the compressor company's qualified technicians to ensure the reliable and long-lasting operation of all the compressed gas systems.

Griffin concluded that with the upgraded compressed air system and nitrogen generators operating effectively, the winery is able to concentrate on its primary job - producing Robert Oatley’s distinctive range of wines for the world.

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