A bin of Pinot Gris grapes harvested in the north Willamette Valley rests before being crushed at Ponzi Vineyards. The pomace and lees from these grapes would normally go to waste, but Okanagan-based company Winecrush is changing that. (Photo courtesy of Ponzi Vineyards)

A bin of Pinot Gris grapes harvested in the north Willamette Valley rests before being crushed at Ponzi Vineyards. The pomace and lees from these grapes would normally go to waste, but Okanagan-based company Winecrush is changing that. (Photo courtesy of Ponzi Vineyards)

An Okanagan company is crushing wine-making’s sustainability goals

Program utilizes derivatives from the winemaking process, rather than letting them go to waste

A new biomechanical process from an Okanagan-based company could soon turn the by-products from the wine-making process that are normally tossed away into natural food additives.

Okanagan-based company Winecrush has received research and development support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for the project called “Marlee.”

Winecrush describes the project as a “new biomechanical process to transform the food-grade wine derivatives — typically discarded after harvest and crush — into a high-performance flavour enhancement ingredient.”

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To fund the project, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has awarded funding to Winecrush through its Agricultural Clean Technology (ACT) program, which invests in the research, development, and adoption of clean technologies leading to the promotion of agri-based bio-products.

“We are honoured to receive support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Their ACT program was a perfect fit for our stage of development,” said Bill Broddy, co-founder and president of Winecrush. “The Marlee Project is designed to give wineries an effective alternative for the derivatives from the winemaking process, rather than let these food-grade materials go to waste.”

Sending waste materials to the landfill or leaving it on a winery’s property leads to methane emissions and soil contamination. The new process developed by Winecrush is designed to cost-effectively convert these materials into natural food additives suitable for a variety of health and food products, with both “high nutritional and monetary value,” according to the company.

As part of its pilot program, Winecrush worked with 10 Okanagan-based wineries to collect their pomace (the grape skins and seeds left after grapes are pressed) and lees (the sediment left behind). Winecrush said this saved a total of 150 tonnes of wine derivative from being dumped in landfills, avoiding the release of a total of 6,500 kilograms of methane.

“We weren’t sure what to expect when we signed up to partner with Winecrush, but their vision for sustainability and environmental preservation seemed to be in line with what we are trying to achieve here at Stag’s Hollow Winery,” said Okanagan Falls winemaker Kiera LeFranc.

Winecrush is now putting plans in place to use its technology for the 2021 harvest.

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jesse.day@pentictonwesternnews.com

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