The pomace problem … and why it’s a good thing!
What is pomace?
Pomace, or marc, is the remaining skins, pulp, seeds, and stems left over from wine or grape juice pressing. Though often considered a waste product (and a huge problem in wine producing regions), pomace has its uses. And it has for a long, long time. The ancients used pomace to craft a simple blue-collared wine called piquette. More recently, pomace has been employed in the service of brandy production.
Pomace is a byproduct of the olive, juice, and wine industries. In viticulture, red and white pomace exist, red wine pomace being the darkest of the two. Red wines need all the tannin and pigments they can get from the grapes, so the juice is left to ferment with the pomace for a time. The result is a pomace with more alcohol and richer tannins than that of white wine. White wine grapes are pressed and quickly separated from pomace, leaving behind a sweet and low alcohol mush. Because white wine is quickly poured off, the remaining pomace is full of sugar, nitrogen, and amino acids, the perfect raw material for sweet brandy.
Whether red or white wine, what’s left behind is a thick, messy goop of grape remains. What to do, what to do …
The problem with pomace
As worldwide wine demand skyrockets, pomace disposal is quickly becoming a major topic of discussion in wine regions. In the state of California alone, 100,000 tons of pomace are produced each year in production. Not even the feverish thirst of brandy drinkers is enough to stave the onslaught of all that pomace. Like manure, pomace is a natural waste product that, like any mass produced commodity, is anything but natural to dispose of. Many growers throw in the towel and send their pomace to the dump.
The pomace potential: from trash to treasure
Feeling bad about your evening glass of wine? Don’t! Pomace has a bright future ahead of it, and many winemakers and entrepreneurs are making strides to recover valuable materials from pomace, lowering their carbon footprint and adding revenue streams to the industry.
In recent years, wine producers have began employing their pomace as fertilizer. White wine, rich in nitrogen, is especially good for this. Pomace degrades rapidly, quickly transferring those untapped nutrients back into the soil from whence it came. Still other producers ship it off to be converted to biofuel.
Many winemakers have long stretched the mileage of their crops by pressing fresh grapes over the old, thereby extracting flavor trapped in the pomace. The Italian ripasso (re-passed) wines do just that, with a richer flavor to show for it.
New methods hold promise of extending pomace’s usefulness. Researchers are perfecting methods of separating largely non-biodegradable seeds from the fast-degrading flesh. Isolated seeds are a hot commodity for many industries, such as cooking oil producers.
Separating seeds onsite and composting the fleshy remains promises many benefits for the sustainability and economic viability of the market.
- It would eliminate hauling and disposal costs associated with pomace.
- In-house seed separating and/or processing would create a valuable new revenue stream and open up new markets for winemakers.
- The leftover compostable material is returned to the earth to help grow next year’s crop. This holds promise for extra revenue for winemakers as well as the agronomic benefits of fertilizer.
As consumers become more eco-conscious, responsible pomace disposal will almost certainly be a major brand boost for the eco-minded producer.
Seed reclamation and recycling will boost vineyard sustainability and the bottom line. Like many trends, this simple yet effective disposal method has been vogue in European viticulture for decades, but is just catching on to U.S. markets.
Seed recovery pioneer Nebraska Screw Press has been helping wine makers recover valuable products from their waste streams for years. The seeds are readily purchased by budding businesses like Whole Vine Products of California, which uses grape seeds and pomace in its sustainable food products and oils.
Ground breakers like Nebraska Screw Press and Whole Vine Products are forging partnerships with viticulture to infuse a healthy (and tasty) bouquet to the industry’s environmental footprint. Thanks to these and many others, winemakers are able to sync wine production in harmony with nature and the vine.
What’s the scoop on grape seed oil?
- Grape seed oil is coveted for cooking. It tastes delicious, and is totally unrefined (a good thing, trust us!).
- Grape seed oil is packed with powerful antioxidants and omega fatty acids, making it a super-oil unrivaled by many of its contemporaries. Sorry, canola and vegetable oils, ya don’t light candles.
- Grape seed oil lowers bad cholesterol while increasing the good kind. Plus, it’s a natural skin and hair moisturizer.
- Because it’s packed with omega-6 fatty acids, grape seed oil has several anti-inflammatory properties, great news for people with joint pain and swelling. There’s even evidence that grape seed oil can fight against Type II diabetes, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer.
All of these benefits wrapped up in a valuable little seed that until recently was destined for the dump. Grab a bottle today! We suggest a high-quality cold or expeller pressed grape seed oil. It almost certainly came to you compliments of passionate viticulturists.
So feel good about that evening glass of Shiraz! That glass is part of a movement creating more green for the planet and the wallets of your favorite wine producer. As icing on the cake, grape seed oil and countless other uses yet to be discovered will be brought to your home thanks to thoughtful and conscientious winemakers.
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