Necessity is the mother if Invention.
This certainly proved to be the case for Armando Luis, CEO of one of New Jersey’s leading wine merchants, which led him to develop his patented VINFINITY® wine-by-the-glass wine preservation system.
In the late 1990’s Armando opened 2 restaurants in Hoboken. Naturally, as Armando was one the areas leading wine retailers the quality and selection of his wine-by-the-glass offering to his customers was uppermost in his mind for his new restaurants. He needed a wine preservation system to ensure every glass of wine he sold was of optimum serving quality.
As he consulted fellow restaurateur friends about the wine preservation systems they were using, he discovered there were two basic methods of wine preservation:
- Injecting an inert gas to displace the air as the bottle empties.
- Exerting a vacuum on the opened wine bottle to remove the air.
When Armando installed an inert gas system he quickly discovered major operational difficulties. -Inert Gas wine preservation systems work by injecting an inert gas, usually Nitrogen, into the bottle, which pushes the wine out of a tap mechanism and takes up the volume displaced.-
- Each bottle required its own tap valve and plumbing set up which meant in order to offer a reasonable selection of wines by the glass he needed a very bulky system.
- As these systems typically only use about 4psi, the actual dispensing speed was very slow. Also, as every glass poured had to come from the same dispense location this became impractical for his busy operation that had multiple bartenders and servers. Replacing empty bottles during service was also a clumsy and slow operation.
- He found the system was expensive to operate, as the cost of the Nitrogen gas cylinder fill, delivery and cylinder rental was not inexpensive.
- The plumbing required constant maintenance. If the tap mechanism was not connected perfectly the gas would simply escape from the mechanism and empty the entire Nitrogen gas tank.
- As the wine was flowing through tubing and tap mechanism, he found sanitation was a constant issue and that a cleaning procedure had to be implemented whereby the tap mechanisms would be cleaned in a similar manner to how beer lines would be cleaned.
The inert gas system solution was completely impractical for his restaurant so he turned his attention to the other method of preserving wine in an opened bottle which is applying a vacuum to the wine bottle after the wines were served. -In order for a wine preservation system that uses a vacuum to seal the bottle to be effective, the opened wine bottle must be resealed with a precise vacuum when the wines have been served.-
So one of his wine suppliers supplied him with a the only commercial wine vacuum system on the market at the time to trial in his other restaurant. The system is a single-user, single-location system that utilizes a small electrical pump that is activated each time the wine bottled was resealed with the required vacuum.
Much to his frustration Armando experienced major operational difficulties with this vacuum system too.
- He found it required up to 6 seconds or more to properly evacuate a wine which in his busy environment was simply impractical.
- As the system could only reseal one bottle at a time, staff were constantly waiting to use the system. Furthermore due to the limited size of vacuum pump the system could not be used more than 15 times in any 5 minute period according to the instructions from the manufacturer.
- It was located in only one area of his bar so staff and servers from the other side of his bar had to walk to the system every time they served wines.
- His customers also complained of the constant noise of the vacuum pump when it was being used by staff.
- Much to his annoyance he discovered that when he was not there the staff would only reseal the bottles at the end of service. This completely defeated the entire purpose of the system. If he wanted to only vacuum seal the wines at the end of the night he would have bought a hand vacuum pump for a few bucks and not spend thousands of dollars on the vacuum system he had.
It was clearly evident to Armando that the existing wine preservation technology had serious practical and operational limitations. Most people would simply struggle on with one of the systems. However, before Armando had taken over the family’s wine business, he had been a mechanical engineer in the hydraulics, nuclear and medical industries. Of the two proven methods of wine preservation available it was clear to him that the simpler, more flexible, less expensive and more reliable of the two was the vacuum preserving principle.
His solution to the problem was simplicity itself. A system having one central vacuum supporting multiple outlets was the perfect solution. A prototype was built from off-the-shelf components and after extensive testing and development, proved itself to be highly effective.
The result of his ingenuity is a wine preservation system called Vinfinity that has 3 patents and is now built under license by a specialised pneumatics company called Pneumadyne.
Vinfinity® delivers a silent, multi-user, multi-location system with response time of less than 2 seconds. Very simply, the Vinfinity central vacuum unit contains a strong vacuum pump and a vacuum tank. Standard half inch tubing connects this vacuum tank to any amount of vacuum stations that suits your bar or restaurant. The pump creates a vacuum that is stored in the tank and in the tubing all the way up to each of the vacuum stations. When the wines are served a special stopper is placed in the wine bottle and a vacuum gun in the vacuum station is applied to the stopper. As the precise vacuum has already been created within the system when the vacuum gun is pressed against the stopper the vacuum rushes into the bottle. This takes under 2 seconds even if there is only one glass of wine remaining in the bottle. As bottles are resealed the vacuum level in the tank drops each time until the vacuum level in the tank reaches 23 HG. At this point the vacuum pump kicks in for a few seconds and builds the vacuum level in the system up to 25 HG before shutting off. (wines can still be resealed when the pump is on).
As for the problem of staff only resealing bottles at the end of service when he wasn’t there? Well he thought of that too! He incorporated an “anti-cheat counting feature” in the software that allows him to see how many times the system was used during a day or a shift.
Necessity truly is the mother of invention.