It might just be possible to take this recycling too far

At the close of the Rootstock sustainable wine festival in Sydney last year, Tasmanian distiller Peter Bignell looked around the tasting room at the carefully-spaced spittoons and thought: what a waste.

Together the spit buckets contained about 500 litres of discarded wine, which had been swilled then dumped during the two-day event.

Some wine had been dutifully spat out by responsible tasters keen to get to the end of their extensive list with tasting notes intact, but the majority was the largely untouched leavings of an overly generous pour.

For Bignell, whose Belgrove distillery in Kempton, Tasmania, is the only one in Australia that runs entirely on biodiesel, all this wasted wine was hardly in keeping with a sustainable event.

The obvious solution was to drink it again.

After 12 months at Poor Tom’s gin distillery in Marrickville, the spit bucket wine has been transformed into an 80-proof clear spirit that tastes something like an unaged brandy.

It is, reportedly, quite nice.

Distillation will obviously have thoroughly cleaned it. But still. It’s not as if the world is short of crap wine to turn into cooking brandy now, is it?

15 comments on “It might just be possible to take this recycling too far

  1. We’re obsessed with physical stuff and the value inherent in it is often grossly overestimated. Part of it is still an after-effect of being brought up by the war generation.

    To this plonker, throwing away used wine is a terrible waste. The fact that the residual value of something has to exceed the cost of reprocessing to make it worth reprocessing doesn’t occur to that many people, not being familiar with opportunity costs.

  2. “The fact that the residual value of something has to exceed the cost of reprocessing to make it worth reprocessing doesn’t occur to that many people, not being familiar with opportunity costs.”

    You don’t know how much he’ll be able to sell the resultant product for, given the ecobullshit he can spin around it…

    But 500L of say 12% ABV is a total alcohol volume of 60L. Let’s say that it’s 70% recoverable (seems reasonable), = 42L of pure alcohol. But a) you can’t distill to 100% and b) you sell at 40% ABV, you’ve got 105L of ecobullshit unaged brandy to sell at a premium with the help of the newspaper report. £40 a bottle say? 70cl bottles? That’s £6000 gross right there. If you’ve got a distillery sitting there anyway and you’ve got the time (one day? 2 days to process that?), it’s probably not a bad little earner compared to pouring it away.

    I suspect that this one works out on an opportunity cost basis.

  3. Repackaging the contents of spittoons is a calculated insult.

    He needs a bottle of his sick brew breaking over his thick skull.

  4. abacab, could be. But some loon in the US is going around hotels, collecting half-used soap bars, and reprocessing them. This stuff gets publicity for being good and environmentally friendly.

  5. @allthegoodnamesaretaken

    Indeed, but this is certainly not going to be marketed alongside that, otherwise it wouldn’t have been worth talking to journos about.

  6. Shouldn’t we be applauding this attempt to create additional value in the market? Or cheering this attempt to create additional usable alcohol? Both of which are important human endeavours in my view.

  7. @Watchman – well, I am. If it had been to turn it into a small amount of biofuel I’d have been agin due to opportunity costs, and it probably having been a net waste of energy.

    But boutique drinkiepoos for booze snobs? Fill yer boots with yer value-add there!

  8. @JuliaM “So THAT’S what goes into those ‘Echo Falls’ bottles….”

    Where’s the upvote button on here?

    Anyway, this makes a refreshing change from producing yoghurt, beer, or sourdough from yeast extracted from weird places that aren’t Marmite…

  9. Once upon a time, we all would have toasted Bignell for preventing alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse being not using the alcohol for it’s obvious intended purpose, getting drunk.

    The real question is can the system purify the ethanol in gasoline to drinkable standards?

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