Cava, the Spanish equivalent of champagne, is fizzing with success. Cava producers are barely able to keep pace with demand: in 2009, cava exports exceeded those of champagne for the very first time. Capacities are consequently being upsized.
The biggest investment, thus far, is €42 million for the first-stage expansion at Bodega Jaume Serra, a subsidiary of the major beverage producer J. García Carrión (JGC). The upgrade and expansion project for the winery included a Krones line for bottle filling prior to in-bottle fermentation.
In 2009, JGC decided to revamp the plant and created an investment plan that runs until 2012. A new cava cellar was installed, providing storage for 60 million bottles with a unique storage system developed in-house.
JGC’s system sees up to 900 bottles placed horizontally on a single pallet, offset and supported by plastic layer pads. Over an area of 28,000 m2, the pallets are placed in storage by a fully automated system.
Also installed were driverless laser guided vehicles (LGVs) which convey pallets to high bay shelving. These keep labour costs down: the winery employs just 48 staff. Given the demand, there is an option for almost doubling the storage capacities by adding another 20,000 m2.
Jaume Serra now has four bottling lines. The most efficient of these is the Krones line, rated at 24,000 bottles per hour (bph), replacing an existing line rated at 7000 bph. Jaume Serra also operates a 7000 bph line for bottling still wine and 12,000 bph and 5000 bph lines for disgorging and bottling the cava.
The grape pressing and wine production systems handle 3 million kg of grapes, most of which is the base wine for cava. Fifteen storage tanks, each holding 100,000 L, plus 28 tanks of 50,000 L, are used. After cooling and filtering, the wine passes to a 200,000 L tank where sugar, yeast and finings are added, then passes via a 500 m long pipe to the filler for the tirage, dosed by Krones' new rinser filler monobloc, rated at 24,000 bph.
Krones’ Isofill VV-CIP vacuum filling system bottles still wines. The wine enters the bottle through a filling tube under natural gravity. A vacuum correction feature with product return capability ensures accurate fill levels. When the liquid reaches the filling tube, the vacuum correction function comes into play, returning any superfluous beverage to the ring bowl with maximised accuracy. The ‘no bottle - no vacuum’ principle ensures only bottles actually pressing against the filling valve are subjected to vacuum. The reduced suction rate is gentler on the product.
The CIP variant, where a closed CIP circuit ensures maximised hygiene during bottling, was also installed. The filler has a cleanroom enclosure featuring HEPA filters and an extractor unit. The Isofill VV-CIP is monobloc synchronised with a Variojet single-channel rinser. Two closer units for plastic plugs and crowns are linked to the monobloc. The fill level of the product in the wine bottles is monitored by a Checkmat FM-HF. A MultiDivider then distributes bottles among eight lanes, feeding to four robots, which then place the bottles on in-house developed pallet carriers where they are stored for in-bottle fermentation.
The line runs year round, with two shifts scheduled in the first quarter and three for the rest of the year. In three-shift operation, the line offers annual production of over 100 million bottles. Director of Jaume Serra, Javier Brunet Icart, said: “We’re able to offer our consumers an excellent price/performance ratio, we possess second to none technology, we’re not afraid to invest very sizable sums of money, but we also generate good returns.”