Maximum hygiene in the wine cellar, maximum quality in the wine glass
The Erich Meier winery is located on the right bank of Lake Zurich with a picturesque view of the lake. He makes no compromises in the production of his exquisite and award-winning wines – neither in terms of grape quality nor hygiene. And since cleaning, like anything else, is subject to constant innovation, Erich Meier spent a week testing the Wetrok Bolero scrubber-dryer in his wine cellar. While doing so, he discovered a practical product feature that prevents the floor from being contaminated by yeast bacteria.
The name of the road that leads to Erich Meier’s vineyard on the idyllic Uetikoner hillside translates loosely as grape arbour street, making it immediately clear that this is a vineyard with years of tradition. The owner of the winery is Erich Meier, who has made an international name for himself as a successful winemaker with Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and more. Even SWISS Air Lines had one of his wines on seasonal sale. Erich Meier’s philosophy: independent, straightforward first-class wines with no compromises in quality. This message is also embodied by his logo, which takes the form of an exclamation mark. The quality principle he lives by applies not only to the production and the full-bodied bouquet of his wines, but also to hygiene. When you enter the sparkling clean wine cellar, you feel like you are in a recently opened business – you would hardly believe that the premises were built in 1999.
Scrubber-dryers trump high-pressure cleaners when it comes to floor cleaning
From the tank lid and the filling machine to the floor, everything looks as if it has just been built and installed brand-new – shiny appliances with no traces of use and no dust on the floor. Erich Meier is proud of his perfectly maintained premises and comes out with the following surprising statement: “One of the main tasks of a winemaker is cleaning and maintaining the equipment. I spend more than half my time cleaning.” Many of his colleagues use nothing but high-pressure cleaners. Erich Meier also uses high-pressure cleaners to clean his barrels, presses and other equipment. But not to clean his floors: “The jet would thoroughly remove the dirt in parts, but it would also spread it over the entire surrounding floor area and the equipment,” he explains, revealing himself to be not only a winemaker but a hygiene expert too. He relies on the cleaning power of a Wetrok scrubber-dryer to clean his floors.
Premium positioning dictates cleaning as well
As with the grapes in his vineyard, from which he tries to produce better quality wines year after year, his aim in terms of cleanliness is to constantly surpass his own level of hygiene. For several years now, he has been cleaning all his floors exclusively with a Wetrok scrubber-dryer. Since his current scrubber-dryer is slowly getting on in years, he has started the search for an alternative early. The only possible successor for him is a Wetrok model: “I am very satisfied with the cleaning quality of my current Wetrok scrubber-dryer and have had very positive experiences with Wetrok customer service. As a producer of premium wines, I also need premium equipment for cleaning,” explains Erich Meier. And as a technology fan, he decided to test the latest state-of-the-art scrubber-dryer from Wetrok: the Discomatic Bolero.
Visitors traipse dirt into the rooms on their shoes
There are three rooms in Erich Meier’s wine cellar: the working room, the tank room and the room containing the wooden storage barrels. All floors consist of a two-component floor covering with interspersed quartz sand to prevent slipping. Because wine production is subject to food safety regulations, the level of hygiene increases with each processing step. Erich Meier even has different boots for the different areas. Maximum hygiene precautions apply in the wine cellar with the storage barrels. Nevertheless, customers have access to all rooms of the welcoming winemaker. He frequently conducts tastings with tours of the company. Food is strictly prohibited in the wine cellar for hygienic reasons. Nevertheless, dirt and liquids find their way into the rooms – especially on shoes. Erich Meier is prepared for every eventuality and cleans every inch of every room before and after customers enter. In recent weeks, he has been doing so on a trial basis with the Bolero scrubber-dryer from Wetrok. “The Bolero has enormous suction power and a compact working width, which makes cleaning flexible and efficient, particularly in the narrow aisle between the wine barrels,” says the winemaker about his experiences.
Moisture: friend to bacteria, foe to winemaker
Erich Meier describes another product feature that is of real benefit to his business: “If I stop moving the machine for a moment, the brushes automatically move up rather than stay in place on the floor, preventing unsightly stains occurring when the machine is stood still,” says Erich Meier. He also praises the low height of the 10-litre model: “Cleaning under the wine tanks is always awkward – yet every inch of the room has to be cleaned. No problem with the Bolero. If I put the upright handle all the way down, I can get under the tank with the entire machine,” he says in amazement. His positive assessment goes even further: “The Bolero is one of the few machines that also provides suction when travelling backwards. This means that no moisture is left behind under the tank – essential for me because moisture is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.” Yeast bacteria are particularly dangerous in a winery. They must be eliminated immediately, otherwise they form a slippery film on the floor covering.
Tanks for wine and tanks for water
There are 42 tanks in Erich Meier’s tank room. And speaking of tanks, the Bolero has another trick up its sleeve. It is the only scrubber-dryer with two interchangeable tanks (10 litres and 20 litres) that can be changed in a flash, making the machine suitable for two completely different applications. The winemaker tried out both tanks during his trial period: “The idea itself is really innovative. A winery with many different sized rooms could easily save having to buy a second machine. However, since none of my rooms exceed 230 square metres, the large tank does not bring me any particular advantages,” he says with reserved enthusiasm. However, he adds with a wink: “Should I undergo a large expansion, it is good to know that with an additional tank, the volume of the machine can be immediately increased by 10 litres.”
Floor cleaning in a granulate sachet
Erich Meier’s ancestors cultivated grapes and sold them on to winemakers, but he is the first in the family to dare to integrate vertically in the value chain and produce the wine himself. The personable winemaker is always open to change. This also applies to cleaning product technology. He exclusively uses Wetrok floor cleaning products that are fragrance-free (Polex) – this is a requirement in food processing companies – for his three production rooms. There must at no time be any risk of fragrances coming into contact with the wine. However, things are different in the tasting and sales room on the upper floor. The floors here have also been cleaned using the Bolero for the last few weeks, but with a small difference: Instead of liquid cleaning products, he’s been trying the new cleaning granulate, which comes in a sachet (Wetrok Granufloor). “It’s pretty practical that the small granules come in individual sachets and are therefore pre-dosed. All you have to do is empty the contents of the sachet into the scrubber-dryer’s tank,” says Erich Meier enthusiastically. Despite his enthusiasm, it would be too much effort for him to clean his rooms with different cleaning products – so he’s sticking with his conventional floor cleaner for the time being.
Conversion to organic production planned
It takes four to six years for newly planted vines to become harvestable. Promoting good growth comes down to a number of factors: proximity to the lake, sufficient wind, a steep southern exposure and mineral-rich soil, etc. There are also a number of factors to consider when buying a scrubber-dryer, and the decision takes time. As long as his current Wetrok scrubber-dryer is still working, he will not replace it for environmental reasons. However, he was impressed by the Bolero’s well-designed and extremely practical features for everyday cleaning. And speaking of the environment: the passionate winemaker is currently in the process of converting to organic production.
Erich Meier: a man who not only knows exactly what he is doing – but who does it every day with passion, care and dedication.
Interview with Winemaker Erich Meier
“My wines should be reserved for the special moments in life.”
Mr. Meier, can you start by giving us a few facts and figures about your winery?
We are a traditional Swiss company with an innovative approach – traditional in terms of wine varieties and building on years of experience, innovative in the use of state-of-the-art production processes. I am the fifth generation to run the winery. We have been growing nine grape varieties on 6.8 hectares of vineyard since 1793. The grapes are processed into red wine, white wine, sparkling wine or spirits in three different workrooms. Last year’s grape harvest was 62,000 tons – from which we were able to produce 42,000 bottles.
How is your work spread out over the year?
The vines grow from April to September, while in the wine cellar the vinification (wine production) of the previous year’s harvest takes place in parallel. September/October is harvest time – high season for me. All grapes are harvested by hand and then mechanically removed from the stems in the destemming room. First they go into the tanks, and then into the wine barrels for storage. The wine is then bottled in late winter. The entire facility is then prepared for the new season, with every hose and every inch of every room made to shine like new again. Vine care, machine maintenance and cleaning work also keep us occupied on a daily basis, of course. There’s always work to do (laughs).
What are the current trends in the world of winemaking?
We are seeing three clear trends: greater demand for traditional varieties, quality over quantity, and more conscious purchasing behaviour. In concrete terms: people are buying less in terms of quantity, but are being more selective and buying better quality. People are turning from wine drinkers into wine connoisseurs, so to speak – a development that I very much welcome.
You sell your fine wines exclusively through direct sales, your own website and via wine shops. Was distribution through large Swiss retailers ever up for discussion?
No, selective distribution was and is a conscious decision for us. Carefully selecting the vines, caring for the grapes by hand, hygienically preparing each tank and guaranteeing that only the best drops of wine make it into the bottle – every decision and every stage of the process in my company is characterised by the highest possible quality. Each of my wines is therefore an independent, exclusive premium product. My wines should be reserved for the special moments in life. I maintain direct, personal contact with my clientele and I am thankful that wine lovers come here to experience the special atmosphere of my winery, and that I am able to create unforgettable moments for them during the tasting. These are emotions that can never be experienced through the retail distribution channel.