Ask Wine Wizard

Wine Pump Options

TroubleShooting

Rob — The Philippines asks,
Q

I was wondering what I could use that is not very expensive to pump and transfer that won’t leave a plastic taste when I rack my wine from a 70-gallon (265-L) tank? I am living in the Philippines, and equipment is limited here! They have Italian water pumps here for bottled water business and fish and pond pumps as well. Any suggestions?

A

Wow, can I fly to the Philippines for a little research and equipment-scouting trip? We can sample some of your wine, do a little research into tropical fruit winemaking, go see what kind of Italian water pumps you may have in local stores . . . hmmm. Somehow I don’t think that idea would fly with the editors of WineMaker magazine.

I would stay away from using fish and pond pump systems for wine. First of all, there is no guarantee the parts will be food grade, and secondly they are built to handle water, which has a much higher pH (around 7.0) than wine (around 3.50). Thirdly, water pumps are not built to handle anything with alcohol in it, and alcohol is an even better solvent than water is. Parts (metal or plastic) in fish and pond pumps could therefore degrade and corrode in the more acidic and alcoholic environment of your wine, leaching potentially toxic compounds into your beverages.

Unfortunately the Italian water pump system faces this latter challenge too. Though presumably a food-grade system, it’s a system designed for water and not for wine. Unless you could get a copy of the manufacturer’s material specifications to find out what the water pump is made of or from, and then do a little research to see if that material will hold up to wine use. If its components are stainless steel, polyethylene or polypropylene or food-grade vinyl you are probably good to go.

There’s no doubt that international shipping costs can really add up. To that end, have you completely explored what might already be available in the Philippines? Googling around, I found some interesting references to winemaking in your country of residence. There seems to be an active fruit winemaking industry in the Philippines and a native tradition that is receiving some bolstering from the local universities and trade schools in order to further develop the industry. You might want to seek out some of your local wineries and ask them where they get their stuff, or make inquiries into the food processing, food science or agricultural technology departments of colleges in larger cities.

If all else fails, have friends bring you equipment in their suitcases when they come visit, or be prepared to pay overseas shipping costs. I made some inquiries into some of the larger winemaking supply houses and most will ship overseas wherever FedEx delivers. All you have to do is ask . . . and see how much it costs. I wish you all the best of luck!

Response by Alison Crowe.