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The “Game Changer” optical grape sorter at Vineland Estates earns Premier’s Award


Vineland Estates Winery was recognized as a one of three provincial Leaders in Innovation at the 2015 Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation presented on Nov. 18. 

For harvest 2014, winemaker Brian Schmidt, with the help of his cellar team and Lakeview Vineyard Equipment, was the first — and currently only — winery in Canada (and one of only a small handful in the world) to install and operate an optical sorting system for wine grape processing. 

Aptly dubbed “the Game Changer” at Vineland, the Pellenc system, using super high speed digital photo technology, is able to select and separate individual grapes continuously at a rate of up to 2,000 berries per second (or 12 tonnes per hour) based on shape, size and colour; all the while removing anything other than grapes. Believing strongly in overall wine industry growth, Vineland has made the Game Changer Optical Sorter available to all wineries in Ontario.


Top photo shows perfect grapes sorted after going through the optical sorter. Photo above shows what was rejected.

As the Premier’s Award was being presented, plans for the annual, charitable, 5 Elves Yuletide Tour (5 local wineries) were taking shape and the decision was made, given that the innovation award comes with a cash prize, that some of the money garnered from the provincial government would be shared with the local community. As the 5 Elves Yuletide Tour benefits the Village of Hope in the town of Vineland, the winery decided to match dollar for dollar all monies raised during last weekend’s celebration. As the two-day event raised just over $3,000, Vineland has added to that total making an overall donation of $6400 to the Village of Hope. In practical terms, 40 local families in need will benefit from the contribution. The five local wineries that participated in the event were Vineland Estates Winery, Featherstone Estate Winery, Malivoire Wine, Ridgepoint Wines and Greenlane Estate Winery.

Further Details on the Game Changer Optical Sorter:

The new optical sorting system at Vineland combats many of the challenges faced by all Ontario winemakers, and in turn has enabled the quality of Ontario wines to improve.

Annually, Ontario wineries and grape growers have to delicately balance the effects of weather, pest pressures, and market demands to grow the grapes and produce high quality wines at affordable prices. 



The top picture above shows the Gamay in bunches fresh out of the vineyard. The second picture shows the quality of grapes emerging from the optical sorter (ready for fermentation). They are perfect and perfectly clean of MOG (materials other than grapes). The final picture shows the grapes and other materials that are being removed from the production stream. These are grapes that are under-ripe, blemished plus lots of MOG (stems, petioles, bits of leaf…the occasional happy frog or two). The materials shown in the last picture account for 2-4% of the total production going through the Vineland crush pad optical sorter. Not much eh? In terms of volume… not very much….. in terms of quality… you are looking at the difference between a good wine and a great wine.

The Pellenc Selectiv’ Process equipment at Vineland offers the Ontario wine industry a valuable tool to counteract these pressures and gives winemakers and grape growers more flexibility in how they grow and harvest their crops.

As Schmidt says “To make a great wine, you need to be choosy. No under-ripe grapes, no bits of leaves or stems and definitely no bugs. A couple of ladybugs can ruin an entire tonne of grapes. But hand-sorting grapes is a slow, expensive and back-breaking business.”

Now Vineland is able to process grapes much faster than hand-sorting, with superior results and at a fraction of the cost.

The optical sorter has even inspired a new series of wines at Vineland called the “Game Changer” – a set of red, white and rose wines that are dedicated to honouring the achievements of Canadian wine innovators who have advanced and continue to advance our industry.

The 2014 Game Changer Rose has been released since the early summer to great acclaim and the Red and White are both slated to be released in February.

Vineland is committed to supporting its Ontario wine industry partners and has offered optical sorting services to all wineries since 2014.

Wineries from the Niagara, Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore regions, have been experiencing the benefits and broader quality potential this machine offers.

Vineland Estates Winery believes that optical sorting is the key to revolutionizing Ontario winemaking (and global winemaking as a whole) and is committed to improving the quality and awareness of Ontario wines both locally and internationally.