“Thanks to technology we improve the quality of wines and sparkling wines”

How is the world of wine production changing thanks to technological innovation? To find out, we went to Cossano Belbo, between the hills of the Langhe and Monferrato, where the Cantine Toso company – active for over one hundred years and mainly specialized in wines, sparkling wines, vermouths and bitters – uses numerous technologies to control all stages of production, from grape to table. Among the best known brands of the company – which produces about 28 million bottles a year, of which 65% are exported abroad – are Toso wines and sparkling wines, Gamondi vermouths and aperitifs and Fiocco sparkling wines of Lives.

Between technology and ancient traditions

Accompanying us to discover how technology can improve all phases of wine production, first in the cellar and then in the warehouses, is Gianfranco Toso, the company’s managing director and fourth generation of winemakers. Cantine Toso, he explains to us, has decided to invest tens of millions of euros in digital and connected machinery that could follow and trace the entire journey of the wine, first, and then of the bottle, to guarantee the highest quality. A technology that speeds up operations but which, above all, controls the entire production cycle. “I am convinced – he tells us passionately – that this technology helps us to avoid all those mistakes that were once made, even in good faith. Just as in the future – he adds – we will no longer have many operators in agriculture, because the machines will be able to perfectly carry out many of the jobs that we do today manually, from working the land to harvesting, our work will also be increasingly dedicated to innovating the product and to control it”. But let’s go into the cellar.

The technologies in the cellar

Technologies have entered the food industry massively, as we wrote, precisely as a control and to help in the management of the production cycle. “We have never forgotten – says Toso – the tradition, the Piedmontese winemaking method, what our grandfather who was part of the first generation of producers taught us”. Now, however, technology allows you to keep everything more under control. For example, let’s start with the production of sparkling wine: one of the most important issues is the control of fermentation temperatures. An electronic system takes care of this which verifies the temperature at any moment through sensors which, if necessary, warn oenologists, wine technicians and cellarmen and go on to activate a refrigerator or a heat pump, continuing to make the fermentation completely natural with the same process as 200 years ago but at the most correct, controlled temperature. “This type of very precise controls allow us to standardize quality and always keep the level very high”, they explain to us. Another machine is able, however, to remove the excess CO2 through molecular sieves that insert nitrogen to push the CO2 away. While through tangential filtration and physiotartaric stabilization the wine is filtered and the product is prevented from “bottom” in the bottle. Speaking of filters and waste, Cantine Toso won the Sustainability Award in the ranking compiled by Credit Suisse and Kon Group and published by Forbes Italia for having implemented reuse and recycling actions and for the use of green energies.

bottling technologies

The most “scenic” department is certainly that of bottling: it seems to be in the presence of a large orchestra where each instrumentalist works independently, however, watching the director and “listening” to the work of the others. About 10,000 bottles per hour (or 130,000 per day) of wines and sparkling wines and 50,000 per day of vermouth and high-alcohol wines are bottled here. Following the path of the bottle, a first machine, the “depalletizer”, sorts the bottles arriving from the glassworks and moves them towards a second machine which checks their cleanliness, any defects and above all – thanks to four cameras – that there are no residues of glass. The next machine washes the bottles and fills them (after the wine has passed through another microfilter) while yet another corks them. There is the machinery that controls the “fixing” of the cork, a “wire-casing” machine that inserts the metal wire-cage and then a dryer that from 0 degrees of bottling brings the bottle to room temperature, in a few moments, to be able to label it. Every time the bottle leaves a machine, before moving on to the next phase it is analyzed in intermediate control points: among these, for example, a machine that checks that the labeling has been carried out correctly, that there is the presence of the bars or any bands (status, DOC, DOCG and so on). A robot then boxes the bottles while another places them on pallets and applies a protective film. The job of the operators is to check that all the machinery is functioning correctly and understand the reasons for any bottles automatically rejected from the line.

The automated warehouse

Even the warehouse – which is closed and where robots operate, therefore difficult to film – is really interesting. Here the temperature and humidity are constantly controlled and everything is managed by the production batch codes. The pallets enter the warehouse autonomously and are stored automatically; then when a new order arrives, the system, again automatically, prepares the pallet or pallets and takes them to a rack, from which the products are then moved onto trucks. Everything is based on the lot codes from which it is possible to trace the entire supply chain that generated the bottle, even down to the grapes contained in the product.