One world war later, the young Pierre Grassa arrived in the south-west of France. He was born in France to Spanish parents, worked initially as a shepherd boy, and after escaping from a prisoner-of-war camp he joined the French résistance. He met Hélène, they married, had four children and breathed new life into Tariquet. Two of their children, Maïté and Yves, were keen to continue the family tradition, and in 1972, together with their father Pierre, they set up a new company and developed a sales operation for the Bas-Armagnac produced at the château. In the meantime, they had around 40 hectares of their own vineyards available for this purpose.
The biggest vineyard owner on a single appellation
Today, Armin and Rémy Grassa are managing Tariquet in the fifth generation, together with their Aunt Maïté. Armin looks after the winery itself, while Rémy handles the marketing, and Maïté is the life and soul of the estate.
In its homeland, Tariquet already ranks among the best-known wineries, while in Germany its wines are gaining steadily in popularity. At the 2010 Berlin Wine Trophy, the Domaine du Tariquet Chardonnay won a gold medal, while the Tariquet Classic took silver. At the 2010 Mundus Vini International Wine Prize, the Sauvignon and the Les 4 Réserve both won silver medals. Something rather special is the dessert wine Tariquet Les Dernières Grives, whose grapes every year have to be defended against by the last thrushes, the “dernières grives” migrating to the south. A great wine of almost liqueur-like consistency, with aromas of black truffles, honey, ripe peaches, transposing into fragrant notes of vanilla.
Time for some new investment
Eight million bottles a year have to be filled reliably, hygienically and cost-efficiently. The existing bottling line was more than 20 years old, filled only around 4,500 bottles an hour, and accordingly had to be run in two shifts for 16 hours a day. And it was no longer able to fully meet the company’s stringent requirements for hygiene. The biggest risk, however, was a temporary failure of the line, since Tariquet does not produce for stock, but in response to orders in a 21-day rhythm. Another consideration was the necessity for certifications, which were no longer possible with the old line. Time for some new investment. Tariquet had already been working with a Krones labeller in the old line, “but at first we were unaware that Krones also makes complete lines”, admits Armin Grassa. And that’s precisely what the family decided on.
Tariquet built a new hall directly next to the small château. A modern, attractive tasting room is separated from the bottling line only by glass panes. The visitors look straight at the two main machines, the filler and the labeller, which have deliberately been positioned diagonally opposite. A showcase line. “Our privilege is that as a family firm we’ve been able to decide for ourselves what machines and which manufacturer we wanted. We didn’t have to follow any instructions or restrictions from managing or supervisory board. We had an idea, and we’ve turned it into engineered reality”, comments Armin Grassa. “It cost a bit more than what we originally figured, but it’s also a long-term investment for the next 25 years.”
“Simply brilliant in terms of hygiene”
The line begins with a Krones Modulpal bulk glass sweep-off depalletiser, which lifts off the bottles at right angles to the line and places them on the mass conveyors. After being spaced, they arrive at the rinser/filler/closer monobloc. “The Modulfill was the first filler from Krones without a front table in this small size”, says a gratified Armin Grassa. “We thought this system was simply brilliant in terms of hygiene. What’s more, the filling system VKPV-CF also provided an option for pressurised filling, which opens up new scenarios for the future. We likewise attached crucial importance to pre-evacuation and pre-flushing with targeted nitrogen injection for minimising oxygen pick-up during filling. At the Moduljet rinser upstream, we can, when we’re bottling Armagnac, pre-rinse the bottles with Armagnac instead of water. That’s an important point, too, in regard to the quality of the product and the flexibility of the system.” A Zalkin screw-capper is directly monobloc-synchronised with the filler. And alternatively a Krones natural-corker is monobloc-synchronised via a worm. After the bottles leave the monobloc, a Checkmat inspects them for the correct fill level.
On the way to the labeller, a capsule applicator and a dryer are interpolated. The Bonamatic labeller incorporates two cold-glue stations and three pressure-sensitive labelling stations for upmarket dress. To quote Armin Grassa: “Pressure-sensitive labels offer additional scope for marketing, are much better in terms of presentational quality, and are gradually getting more affordable, too.” A built-in camera enables the labels to be oriented, while an integrated Checkmat inspects them for correct placement. After a buffering section, a Krones Variocart machine erects the six-bottle cartons, and a Kosme Acepack packs them with bottles; a Kosme Sealpack then seals the cartons, which are finally palletised by another Modulpal and ultimately wrapped. All the valves in the bottling line are from the Evoguard range: “We were very impressed by Krones’ spectrum of corporate capabilities, enabling us to get all the machines from a single source, and interface with only one company for both the planning work and also the servicing in the future”, emphasises Armin Grassa. “The line’s four operators are very happy, and quickly got accustomed to their machines. It’s important to us that our people take pleasure in their work.”