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Turning red wine by-products into yoghurt and more

September 18, 2009  By Marg Land

September 18, 2009 — Two
years ago, a group of friends were enjoying a glass of wine in the Mosel region
in southwest Germany when their conversation turned to the health benefits
which studies attribute to the drink.

September 18, 2009 — Two
years ago, a group of friends were enjoying a glass of wine in the Mosel region
in southwest Germany when their conversation turned to the health benefits
which studies attribute to the drink.

During the fermentation
process of making wine, by-products are left over which are often just
discarded as waste and the friends reasoned that since these by-products
contain the goodness of wine in an even more concentrated form, and without the
alcohol, shouldn’t it be more often used and consumed by humans?


One of the friends was
Bernd Diehl, the 48-year-old co-owner of a German chemical analysis company
called Spectral Service. He proposed his company develop a method to turn the
by-products into a powder preserving as many of the natural, healthy properties
of wine as possible – the proteins, B vitamins, minerals and polyphenols, which
are thought to prevent heart or circulation diseases, inflammation and

As a relatively small
company, Spectral decided to partner with the larger
Technologie-Transfer-Zentrum (TTZ), German specialists in product development,
and the pair successfully applied to carry out their research as a EUREKA
. As well as developing wine powder, the partners also wanted to test
their powders in different kinds of products – in both food and drink, as well
as in make-up. Here Spanish natural cosmetics company Alfaverde Productos
Naturales was keen to help.

“We didn’t just want to
extract the nutrients from red wine and press them into pills,” says ProVino’s
project leader Gabriele Randel. “We worked from the principle that if
omega-3-fatty acids are good for you, it’s better to eat fish than to swallow a
-supplement. By adding red wine powder to products we also wanted to keep some
of the taste and colour of red wine.”

So the partners’ two-year
research program began. Diehl and Randel drove up and down Germany, collecting
wine material from vineyards in the Mosel, the Rheinland-Pfalz , the Ahr and many
more. They delivered the material to TTZ whose team carried out drying
experiments, producing different powders, which were sent to Spectral for
chemical analysis.

Other companies had
previously produced red wine powders from by-products, but the Pro Vino
partners felt earlier drying methods lost a lot of the natural nutrients or
required adding preservatives and artificial substrates to create a stable
powder. “We developed a gentle drying process which did not use much heat in
order to not destroy ingredients,” says Randel.

Once the researchers hit
on powders that contained high amounts of nutrients, including a high dose of
protein and polyphenols, they set out to find the tastiest combinations in food
and the best uses in cosmetics. Not all the products were successful. But the
experiments showed the powders’ strengths and limitations. “In some products
the powder is too acidic and it wasn’t nice,” she says. “In others, the fruity
taste of the grapes in combination with the acidic effect is refreshing.”

Randel’s personal
favourites were yoghurt drinks and other dairy products, like ice cream, and
pastries, cakes and chocolates. Skin creams using the powder were more
effective than red to violet eye-shadow and some wine properties could be good
for the skin, including having anti-wrinkle effects. However consumers would
have to get used to the idea of applying a cream which is initially violet
although does not stay red when absorbed into the skin, says Randel. A facemask
using the powder was successful because the tartaric acid in the grapes formed
crystals if preserved at a high level. “It had a softening and cleansing
effect,” she says.

Creating the combinations
is not a simple matter because, as the partners found, different wine varieties
produced very different tasting powders and different powder concentrations
were suitable for different products. Nevertheless, the successful products
they developed and tested have convinced the team that the ProVino product
could be attractive to health-conscious consumers. They also offer a good use
for red wine by-products, the disposal of which is now subject to tighter
European regulation and which cannot just be dumped on land. Every year in
Germany alone, there are about 120,000 hectolitres of wine by-products, enough
to produce 12,000 tonnes of dried red wine powder.

ProVino’s partners are now
talking to companies interested in the powder for specific products. If enough
firms want a powder to be produced for a product, Spectral may even consider
creating a new company just to manufacture the powder. Another alternative for
the commercialization of the powder is that a manufacturer buys the ProVino

One of the ProVino
products has already been tested on consumers on a small scale, thanks to
EUREKA, which encouraged the partners to market their results at the Innovation
Days exhibition held in June in Lisbon. ProVino set up a stand and gave out a
yoghurt drink containing the red-wine powder. “That was really invaluable
because we were forced to talk about the product, not just to companies, but
also to ordinary people. We were forced to ask do they like the product?” says

The response of those who
tasted the yoghurt drink was positive, even from those who were initially
reluctant to try it, she says. “Some Spanish and Italian guys told us they
liked red wine but that it seemed weird to have it in a powder. When they tried
it we convinced them.”

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