The St. Regulus PMP-uNDR™. Fermentor pat.pend.

by Dave Rule Inventor 12/26/07©

In introducing the St. Regulus PMP-uNDR™ Red Wine Fermentor pat. Pend., I become nearly speechless. How do you describe a complex research device that will easily do simple functions? Where do I start? Wine Business Monthly describes it in a nutshell, as an “automatic submerged cap fermentor” which in its self is a good description, but does not really describe the full control and advantages of this method and machine. I have to restrain myself. or say nothing at all. So then, with great restraint, I must say that the S.R. Fermentor provides winemakers with such control of multiple parameters they have never before had the opportunity to consider. I will touch on only a few of these.

Brief description

The S.R. Fermentor not only “keeps the cap submerged and moist,” but actively circulates fresh juice through it, adjusts the temperatures, and removes the gas and metabolic wastes from near the yeast cell. The chaos present in other fermentors does not give those kinds of options. I must restrain from describing all of the control and procedural possibilities, because I fear making the operation sound overly complex, when in actuality the opposite is true. If I tell you of all known repeatable options, you may just throw up your hands and say “Forget it! I just want to ferment red wine!” But left alone to a standard procedure, the S.R. Fermentor is both less complex and more labor saving, with higher quality results than any conventional method of red wine fermentation management. Note that I say “fermentation management,” not just “cap management.”

To control chaos the environment must be neutralized by overwhelming Isolation and influence.

In tasting and lab analysis comparisons with other methods, I see quality control and repeatability in the SR fermentor as a sure bet. This machine and method, from year to year, will be able to repeat the process more accurately and effortlessly than any other. Its immunity to ambient factors such as temperature, humidity, air flow, oxygen, and adjacent structure temperatures, is unmatched. Until now the fermenting processes of red wines had an exorbitant amount of chaos controlling them. There was very, very little control or influence of the chaotic inputs. In speaking of chaos I must again restrain myself from expounding on the massive chaotic nature of external influences during fermentation. (Chaos, in itself, is change and complexity of so many significant influences that there are no formulas or gut-feel judgments that can control or define the outcome of a particular set of highly complex circumstances).

The big factors in controlling this chaos are (1) “isolation from the environment,” and (2) provision of “overwhelming influence” on the cap, by placing

    1. fresh juice and wine into it

    2. at the proper temperature,

    3. preventing influence of air and adjacent object temperatures,

    4. preventing foreign chemistry and biology, and

    5. controlling the juice movement.

Each of these has the multiple and repeatable advantages and control, that makes me speechless, unable to know where to start or stop.

Example fermentation process.

On the initial fermentation set up at the winery I ask questions like:

This is a short list! These choices will be made at the appropriate point in the fermentation and repeated on the next fermentation, not depending on the chaos of the chance that a transient storm will change the temperature, air flow, humidity, or an ill child or worker will change the course of the fermentation.

We have, however, found an excellent starting place for the fermentation of most red wines in this fermentor. It has superb initial results and as you tune it to your current winemaking practices, and add some constants of your own, that only this fermentor makes available, your style will become more and more automatic, evident, and repeatable.

For special requirements, changes can be made easily to match a particular grape such as the the easily extracted Malbec, the difficult-to-extract, thin-skinned Pinot Noir, or the stubborn extraction of color from the Sangiovesi or Black Muscat, or even a unique batch of rhubarb.

The S.R. Fermentor does each fermentation of each grape as well as, and better than, other fermentation methods. Once a winemaker has used its attributes to make his wine stand out, he will recognize the superiority of this fermentor for the quality of wine produced, the labor savings, and the research device capabilities, that other machines or methods do not provide in one bundle, if at all.

A Basic Procedure Example

Following is an outline of a basic procedure that might be recommended for a first fermentation of red wine in the four-ton S.R. PMP-uNDR Red Wine Fermentor.

These procedures will be unfamiliar to winemakers, and are itemized here because few of them will be recognized from other methods. After the first fermentation, each successive step will become much more recognizable and logical with each successive fermentation.

The additional specifics of each of these steps will be described thoroughly in further consultations, and procedures included with the S.R. PuMP-uNDR Red Wine Fermentor.

Overview of Fermentation in the St. Regulus PMP-uNDR Red Wine Fermentor

The remainder of the fermentation will be a matter of monitoring and trouble shooting which will become more predictable and less work after the first couple runs.

Fermentation will be most vigorous on the second, third, or fourth days of fermentation. The resistance and permeability of the cap will require adjustment of the controls by approximately the third day.

The color and phenols will be fully extracted by about 8 to 12 brix. At a drop of 4 to 5 brix per day, this will occur about the third day. This is when users of rotary fermentors usually press off, thus increasing production and preventing what they call “over extraction.” However, I recommend going completely to dry, or to 2 brix at most, in the main body of wine, to obtain maximum softness from the continual fermentation in,and circulation through, the cap, where most of the fermenting and phenol extraction really takes place in a normal S.R. PuMP-uNDR fermentation.

Where is the fermenting done?

You will note the sparse amount of yeast at the bottom of the fermentor at the end of fermentation. This indicates an improved mode of fermenting that utilizes all of the constituents of the grape.

Short list of advantages

It is becoming more and more apparent that the following is only a very short list of the attributes of the S.R PuMP-uNDR Red Wine Fermentor.

    1. Skins and seeds are not pumped.

    2. Fermenting is done “in” the cap, not “below” it, unless chosen otherwise.

    3. It is possible to switch to any conventional method of fermenting, at any point if desired, but this may only result in conventional wine at a higher labor rate.

    4. The cap is constantly nourished.

    5. The wastes and heat are removed from the location of the active yeast cell.

  1. Only the S.R. PuMP-uNDR Fermentor can say this.

  2. Carbon dioxide is separated and actively extracted, and the filtered wine is injected back into the lower extremity of the mass.

  3. Waste gas is expelled out the top of the degassing reservoir, and the alcohol is moved away from the yeast as it is stripped through the solids in the cap and diluted along with the many other products of the complex biochemistry, preventing yeast from having to grow in its own wastes. Provides ideal growing conditions for yeast, in the cap, with bunches of nutrients and fresh juice supplied.

    1. Big time repeatability regardless of size climate or weather.

    2. Fast processing (generally three days to 8 to 12 brix, and 7 to 10 days to -1.5 to 2 brix.

    3. Less chance of stuck fermentation than any other method.

    4. Adjusts and limits temperature (hot or cold) to prevent over- or under-temperature excursions.

    5. Oxidation control. Add oxygen, or have the industry's lowest. Prevents oxidation and sensitizing of many oxidative issues and components, and allows for micro- oxygenation at your own required calibrated rate, although I am believing that minimum oxidation in this machine is a great attribute.

Often Asked Questions

Is the S.R. PuMP-uNDR Red Wine Fermentor complicated to operate?

The answer is “No,” but it will be unfamiliar to the conventional winemaker and is a new process to learn, since it bears little likeness to other fermenting methods.

How much supervision is required?

During the first-time fermentations, very intense study and monitoring is in order, to fully understand the process and prevent losses. A high degree of 24-hour monitoring may be required until confidence and proficiency are established, depending on the size and importance of the batch.

What space and equipment will I need?

Very dependable air compressor (½ hp per ton fermented, or more). Best to have one on stand by.

15 amp, 220 volt, single phase electrical for the chillier\heat pump

Forklift or hoist to safely lift lid assembly to 12 feet.

For the self-pressing model, a 4000 pound forklift, with rotating forks, is required and recommended. The system is very efficient for pumping off the clean wine, allowing the later dumping the lees in the waste, or in the press for final pressing if desired.

Where is the clean-out door?

The self-pressing option is recommended, as there is no clean-out door. In the absence of a rotating fork lift, the lees must be bucketed out, until further winery growth justifies rotating forks.

Two ton, and smaller, models may be dumped by hand with two people and the proper hoist.

Do I need a high ceiling? Will it fit in my basement?

Head room required depends on the hoisting devise, but is generally 12 feet to the lifting hook or forks. Unless we're talking about the new 15 gallon model.

Can I move the fermentor to another spot for dumping?

After the wine is drained off, the fermentor may be moved, with the lees in it, to another location for removal of the floating lid, which requires the most head room. Rotate to dump the lees, then return the unit to the location where the next fermentation will take place.

Is this really going to save me time?

Even though learning to use the equipment will involve more time at the beginning, once you are used to the equipment, the time involved is concentrated in a few hours of set up time, after which only occasional tweaking of the controls is needed, until the end, when you will press off the wine by switching the hoses to pump from the bottom of the tank, dump off the lees, and clean the equipment.