Perhaps it’s the fact that they are so very versatile that makes them so endearing – just look at the many differences between a pale, sharp Riesling and a rich red Bubbierasco, for example.
Of course, we hold the final bounty of exquisite grapes in our climate-controlled wine cabinets, but now scientists from the University Of Adelaide have found yet another use for the botanical genus ‘vitis’.
Fuel me once…
When making wine, there is often a hard substance left over from the process made up of seeds, stalks and skins of the many grapes used, and it has been theorised that this waste product could be utilised to create a biofuel.
Known as ‘grape marc‘, the waste is usually simply disposed of by the winery itself, but the new research suggests that it could be used to for green energy purposes.
It was discovered that the carbohydrates present in grape marc could feasibly be transformed into ethanol.
The researchers found that, on a global scale, some 13 million tonnes of grape marc are disposed of each year. Hence, wineries could be missing a trick if the substance can indeed be transformed into an economically viable biofuel.
According to The Wine Institute, Australia produces the sixth-highest volume of wine in the world, so a great deal of money could literally be being thrown away by our wineries – but how can grape marc be put to better use?
Of the two grapes analysed (Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc), it was discovered that the carbohydrates present in grape marc could feasibly be transformed into ethanol.
The carbs that were unsuitable for this purpose were not rendered useless, however, as they could be utilised as either fertiliser or even animal feed.
In terms of pure numbers, a staggering 400 litres of bioethanol could potentially be made from just a tonne of grape marc.
With the average 13 million tonnes of the waste product created each year, simple maths reveals that some 520 million litres of bioethanol can be created, aiding the planet’s green aspirations and lending further profitability to wine companies.
“We’ve shown that there is a potential new industry with the evolution of local biofuel processing plants to add value to the grape for an environmentally friendly biofuel,” said Associate Professor Rachel Burton from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine.
Don’t start pouring your best vintage into your car just yet, though – best leave them in your home wine cellar for now!
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