By Elizabeth Hans McCrone
VA Filtration USA, a 2018 WINnovation Award Winner
For Bryan Tudhope, the CEO and founder of VA Filtration USA, solving problems through chemistry has always been second nature.
It started back in 1998 when he was a chemical engineer for water purification systems in South Africa. An engineering colleague asked him if he knew how to remove vinegar from wine and he decided to give it a try.
The method Tudhope developed worked so well, he started VA Filtration South Africa in 1999 to focus on vinegar removal for wineries in the Western Cape.
Two years later, he and his two partners decided to expand the business to the USA.
In 2002, VA Filtration USA was officially born and it has evolved into the leading provider of filtration and remediation services for the North American wine industry.
“I started with just one machine, running around California and couldn’t keep up with demand,” Tudhope recalls. “I hired a tech to help me, and the business just grew. It turns out a lot of the hardware used to remove vinegar can also be used to address other problems.”
The ’other problems‘ Tudhope refers to include VA/EA reduction, Brett character reduction, green character reduction, cork taint removal, smoke taint reduction, alcohol reduction, and CO2 addition/O2 removal.
Tudhope’s mobile system also provides wineries with crossflow filtration, lees filtration, and a system known as Sweetspotter, a rental unit developed specifically to address problems in small lot wine production.
“Our systems are capable of handling a lot of different operating procedures,” Tudhope explains. “We have different membranes and other elements that we load into the systems for high level filtration, as well as to the handle the critical, second stage processes that capture exactly what it is that you want to eliminate from the wine.”
The benefits of Tudhope’s technology are numerous. Among them, he lists:
- Zero oxygen pickup
- Filtration to .2 microns, resulting in complete removal of bacteria
- No DE needed in the newest Dynamic crossflow system
- No heat pickup
“Everything is mobile, mounted on trailers so that we can take it from facility to facility,” Tudhope adds. “We’ll take it to wherever you want, for whatever it is you’re trying to remove.”
VA Filtration USA is one of the winners of the 2018 WINnovation awards. Introduced by the Wine Industry Network (WIN) in 2013, the WINnovation awards were set up to honor companies that have developed groundbreaking products or practices contributing to the advancement of the North American wine industry.
VA Filtration USA was selected this year because of its commitment to designing, manufacturing and operating all products in-house, in the U.S. The company was also lauded for its outstanding technological achievements and its overall positive impact on the quality of winemaking.
When asked to describe the philosophy behind what he and his company have done to receive recognition as a leading wine industry innovator, Tudhope is very clear that it comes down to two basic principles.
“Number one is that we pride ourselves in offering excellent service in terms of the processes we deliver,” Tudhope affirms. “A good wine is a winemaker’s pride and joy. If it’s (filtration, remediation) not done correctly, you can really mess that up. But done correctly, the full effect of the wine comes back out.”
“The second thing,” he continues, “is really listening to what winemakers need, and even figuring it out before they need it … that’s what drives the innovation.”
Tudhope, who has been working with filtration and remediation for 18 years, did not know that VA Filtration USA was under consideration as a WINnovation Award winner.
“It’s exciting, I had no idea. This is quite a surprise,” he admits. “It’s nice for the staff too, being able to share this with them. For us, seeing what you’re able to achieve just by removing a compound – and being able to offer that service and repeat it day after day – it’s really important.”