Your Guide to Gravity-Flow Winery Design and Construction

Our Winery Construction Experts Answer Your Questions About Gravity-Flow Wineries

Northern California is known for producing some of the most sought-after wines and is home to some of the world’s most renowned establishments leading the way as premier destinations for unparalleled winery experiences. It is clear to all those who visit wine country that these legendary vintners put an extraordinary amount of thought and care into the wines they craft, as well as the wineries they work in.

With over 50 years of experience and over 100 winery projects in our portfolio, FDC is proud to be deeply rooted in the development of Northern California’s wine country. In this article, we look at gravity-flow winery design and construction and the many benefits this winemaking method provides.

What is a Gravity-Flow Winery?

Regular wineries are built as a single-story layout and use pumps to move wine through various production phases. Meaning, they must use electrical pumps or other mechanical pumping mechanisms to move the wine across crushers, pressers, barrels, and tanks. 

Gravity flow or gravity-fed wineries, on the other hand, have operating systems that rely on gravity to move wine across different floors. As the name suggests, it moves wine downhill using gravity. This process is gentler, lowering the wine’s chances of becoming overly tannic, oxidated, or over-extracted.

Research shows that this organic method of wine processing supports the quality of the finished product and even enhances the flavors of the wine. This, among other reasons, has led to this method of production becoming increasingly popular among winemakers worldwide. 

Gravity-Flow Winery Design

You can design a gravity flow winery in several ways. The most common model is having grapes at the uppermost floor so that gravity can pull them downwards through the subsequent processes of crushing, fermentation, aging, and bottling.

The design-build team at FDC has had the pleasure of working alongside many local vintners to design and construct gravity-flow wineries including the historic Murrieta’s Well in Livermore, Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, and Trefethen Family Estates in Napa, Ca. 

What Are the Benefits of Gravity-Flow Winery Designs?

It Enhances the Wine’s Texture

Gravity-fed wine-making is gentler than relying on mechanical pumping. This pumping essentially keeps the wine in a state of constant motion until it reaches the bottling phase. Ideally, wine should undergo as few disturbances as possible, to aid in higher tannin polymerization.

Tannin polymerization is a process that makes wine smoother and enhances its mouthfeel. It occurs when tannin molecules bind together as the wine ages and form sediments as they fall out of suspension. The polymerization process requires as much calm as possible. The mechanical shear from pumps can significantly reduce or, in extreme cases, stop tannin polymerization. 

Underground Gravity-Flow Winery Designs Preserve the Wine’s Natural Taste

Mechanical pumping and exposure to heat usually reduce wine’s delicate aromatic compounds. They encourage oxidation which not only alters the wine’s taste but can also gradually eliminate its scent.

Underground gravity-flow winery designs reduce oxygen contact, which protects the aromatic compounds in the final wines. This technique also prevents extreme temperatures from interfering with the wine’s aromatic compounds. Preserving the natural taste and smell of the wine, as the maker intended.

It Helps Cut Costs

Wine-making is generally a capital-intensive venture. It’s pretty common for wineries to close down because of high operational costs without turning profits. Therefore, anything that helps cut costs is good for business.

The most cost-effective benefit of gravity-fed wineries is how this environmentally-friendly production technique can help vintners greatly reduce energy costs. Gravity flow wineries have lower electricity bills, require less water to run, reduced need for artificial heating or cooling, and can function optimally with minimal maintenance. 

All these lower your operational expenses, creating more opportunities of making money from what you love doing.

Contact The Winery Design and Construction Experts At FDC To Learn More

As a leader in winery design and construction in Northern California, the team at FDC understands the importance of designing an establishment that reflects the highest standard of quality.

We want to help bring your gravity-flow winery design project to life. We welcome you to contact the Facility Development Company online or by phone at (707) 523-1722 today.