NORD DRIVESYSTEMS has been supplying the leading French manufacturer of wine pumps, CAZAUX ROTORFLEX, with integrated drive systems for almost a decade. These units combining a geared motor and a frequency inverter also drive the manufacturer’s newly developed, patented lobe pumps. Due to their versatility and reliability, these pumps are popular with winemakers all over the world, including those working in the many traditional vineyards in the world’s largest high-quality wine-growing area, the Bordeaux region. CAZAUX has been firmly rooted here ever since the company was established in 1954.
The tradition of wine growing in the Bordelais goes back a long way to the Celtic settlement of Burdigala, today’s Bordeaux, in the first century BC. In our time, the Bordeaux region is the largest contiguous cultivation area of AOC-/AOP-certified wines. Over 3,000 vineyards, called châteaus, mainly grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc grapes. In addition to the cru and terroir (vines, soil condition, and location), the co-called élevage, a broad term for the tending to the product as it ages in the cellar, plays a crucial role in achieving a high-quality Bordeaux wine. As the vintners refine their blends, they are creating every wine’s unique character. It is an age-old tradition. Nowadays, though, it is more likely than not supported by modern technology every step of the way.
Tradition and terroir
Château Haut-Sarpe near the town of Saint-Émilion has been managed by the Janoueix family since 1934. Their estate is one with a colorful history. The winery was originally built at the behest of Count Jacques Amédée de Carles, one of Napoleon’s generals. It sits in the middle of 21 hectares planted with vines. Rooted in a soil rich in clay and chalk, the grapes grown here eventually become the Chateau Haut-Sarpe, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé, after 15 months of élevage. In two large cellar storage rooms, over one hundred barrels always offer enough room for two vintages to age to perfection. “A wine like this must express the complex character of its terroir,” says Didier Beillon, Haut-Sarpe’s chief oenologist. “We develop our Grand Cru Classé from the Merlot and Cabernet Franc varietals. The Merlot is the base that gives the wine a full body. The Cabernet Franc imparts elegance to the blend.”
Maceration and fermentation take place in large concrete vats that hold about 10,000 liters. Next, the wine is filled in barriques, small barrels manufactured from French oak, where it is left to age for 12 to 15 months. One barrique holds 225 liters. In such a relatively small container, a moderate amount of wine is exposed to a comparably large wood surface on the inside of the barrel. The liquid therefore absorbs much of the tannins in the oak, which give it a spicy note. “A barrel can only be used for two vintages at the most, because the wood hardly releases any more tannins after that,” Beillon explains.
Transfer by pump
In the wine cellar, the hand-picked, sorted, de-stemmed grapes are first pressed to open up the skins and bring the juice in contact with yeast. This triggers alcoholic fermentation and releases the tannins, pigments, vitamins, enzymes, and minerals contained in the grape skins. The mash is then pumped into concrete vats with massive walls that ensure very stable temperatures. Here, the processes of fermentation and maceration take place: fructose is converted to alcohol. The released carbon dioxide drives lees to the surface. The longer the mash remains in the tanks, the richer the final product will be in color and tannin.
The grape juice is pumped into barrels for the élevage (maturation) of the Grand Cru Classé. Suspended solids still present in this stage contribute to the refined character of the wine by imparting their aromas and fatty acids to the liquid. These particles eventually settle at the bottom of the barrel. The wine is then periodically clarified by racking, i.e. filling it into new barrels, leaving more of the solids and unwanted yeast deposits behind in every step. After about 15 months, the wine is finally clean and ready for bottling.
Innovative pump principle
From filling the fermentation vats to the repeated filtering of the wine, liquids are pumped from one container to another many times and in many different textures. At first, the mash is very viscous and interspersed with solids. After fermentation and during clarification, the wine becomes more and more fluid. The winemakers at Chateau Haut-Sarpe were looking for a pump suited to all these different operations. They found it in the CAZAUX lobe pump. LOB 300 series pumps can be used universally, from pumping de-stemmed grapes to the bottling of the finished product. Their patented double-impeller pistons ensure a strong, steady flow even of very viscous media containing large amounts of solids. These lobe pumps are the latest innovation from CAZAUX, the industry leader in France. The manufacturer offers a very wide range of pumps for vinification in various sizes. For instance, these include the Œnoflex series of impeller pumps, and the Doublexc series of eccentric rotary piston pumps with two consecutive pistons. The portfolio furthermore includes self-triggering, reversible centrifugal pumps, progressive cavity pumps, and Rotorflex pumps. CAZAUX equips all of these different types of pumps with robust, compact drive systems from NORD. Available in a versatile performance range, these drives can be connected directly to the pumps. The integrated drive units feature a frequency inverter mounted directly on a geared motor. They are highly compact and are also lighter and more economical than comparable drive solutions in this market segment.
CAZAUX owner-manager Yves Le Guillou says: “These days, we export most of our pumps, approximately 70% of our total production. They are primarily shipped to Italy, Spain, and South America, but increasingly also to China, where wine production continues to thrive. Our machines are good for 30 years of operation. This exceptional durability is very significant for their success. Out of 32,000 wine pumps we have delivered over the years, approximately 20,000 units are still in use today. NORD drive technology allows us to offer different options for pump operation. Users can take a remote control, potentiometer, or touch screen to precisely set the flow rate, pressure, and speed. This greatly facilitates work for winemakers, notably when producing blends of several varietals, which is typical for the Bordeaux region. They can preselect the exact share of all grapes in their blend, and the pump will automatically switch off whenever the designated volume for a varietal is reached. An integrated flowmeter enables precise volume control with less than 0.1% of deviations.” The pumps feature a very low-maintenance design. Worn-out parts can quickly be replaced with a few simple steps, without taking apart the entire construction. “Above anything else, wine pumps must provide high availability, because downtime due to equipment failure can seriously derail the winemaking process – especially at small wineries. Therefore, we make sure we always keep a wide range of components and spare parts stocked. And our service teams are ready to go anywhere in Europe within 48 hours,” says Le Guillou.
Reliable drive systems
CAZAUX has sourced electric drive technology from NORD DRIVESYSTEMS since 2009. “We contacted NORD France because we were no longer satisfied with the reliability of drives from our previous supplier,” says Le Guillou. Today, CAZAUX buys nearly 400 NORD drives per year. In 2016, that number included 230 variable-frequency drives. In addition to high reliability, CAZAUX has also come to appreciate the compact design, quiet running, and versatile functional range of NORD products. The aluminum housing construction is another remarkable advantage, as it makes the geared motors both robust and light. Mobile pumps must be easy to move to any place where they are needed next. Therefore, a lightweight design is paramount. “Wine pumps were a new drive application for us to begin with,” says the NORD regional sales manager for southwest France. “Up until then, most of our customers had bought conveyor drives. However, we were sure that our NORDAC FLEX variable-frequency drives were also perfectly suitable for wine pumps. After all, we continuously improve our products, working in close cooperation with OEMs and end users to integrate all the functions they need.”
High performance at low speeds
NORDAC FLEX frequency inverters achieve high-precision control, even at low speeds. Thereby, they reliably prevent excessive turbulence that might hurt the quality of the wine. The drive systems enable very fine flow regulation, and also support density, temperature, and volume sensor measurements. The inverter features soft starting and braking capabilities, autonomous speed control to achieve preset pressure ranges, and effective dry-running protection. “The simple and precise operation ensures that the desired volume is pumped into vats or barrels at the required pressure,” says winemaker Beillon. The drives also enable an easy reversal of the flow direction. They are available for 0.25 kW to 22 kW. The moderate noise level is also a great benefit for users, especially at peak times, when the pumps run all the time.
One drive system for all pumping operations
Didier Beillon summarizes what is vital for wine pumps: “since wine is a delicate product, it must be pumped as gently as possible. At the same time, high and uniform flow rates are required to ensure steady further processing of very viscous intermediate products.” The lobe pump with its innovative construction principle meets all these requirements and can carry out all necessary pumping operations in a wine cellar. The powerful drive is suitable for pumping distances of up to 80 meters and fills a barrel in two to three minutes.