International vintner, Kirsten Creasy leads a busy life splitting her time between France and Marlborough where she runs her ‘microvin’ production and testing company – Creasy & Co.
An experienced winemaker, Kirsten started Creasy & Co to meet the New Zealand wine industry’s growing demand for controlled testing of different winemaking products. “I have a number of different clients,” Kirsten explains, “they may want to test products that they’ve used in growing the fruits; commercial finings products; different yeasts; or even pesticide residue levels. They set up a trial to compare the different products and I make the wine (about 12 litres at a time) to facilitate the trial and compare results of different products they’ve used and what may be best.”
Combining a background in education, gained while working at Lincoln University, with her winemaking experience, Kirsten brings the best of the practical and scientific worlds to her work. She says, “It’s really a combination of scientific research, but done in a practical wine-making way. We’re not a science lab with white coats and safety glasses – I’m a wine maker first and foremost, who started this business when I saw a need for these small-scale wines to be produced. I’ve been able to look at it from a practical winemaking point of view, but also from a science background, knowing how to set up a significant, scientific test”
Exponential growth demands a purpose-built solution
A couple of years back, Kirsten was approached by a client experiencing a large increase in the number of microvins they needed produced. “I was working in a small office area which just didn’t work. I needed to have processes going on outside where there really weren’t the right facilities. Temperature control is one of the most critical things in winemaking, so I needed a controlled environment.”
Enter the customised Kiwi Box solution
Realising her need for more space and a controlled environment, Kirsten started laying the groundwork to procure a shipping container that would better meet her unique requirements. Some research and a Google search later she was on the phone to Greg Flynn from Kiwi Box, learning about what type of tailor-made solution they could come up with. “Greg’s been fantastic. He’s so organised, so knowledgeable and really thinks about things.”
Kirsten and Greg settled on a suitable 20ft refrigerated container that would meet her main criteria: ease of cleaning, modular shelving, security, reliable temperature control and mobility.
“It’s a great facility for winemaking because you can waterblast the stainless-steel interior to keep things clean. There’s a lot juice flying around and if you can’t clean properly you’re going to get a lot of mould growth,” Kirsten explained.
It wasn’t long before Creasy & Co reaped the benefits of a mobile workspace, either. The need arose to relocate from Christchurch to Blenheim, where Kirsten rents a space for her Kiwi Box container at an existing winery. “They (the containers) were just put on a truck and taken up there. If I had a winery site I wouldn’t have been able to do that – I need to be able to ship-in/ship-out. The winery site I’m at now – it may not be convenient in a year, so I need to be flexible. My clients are thrilled that I’m up here (in Blenheim). I get fruit flown in from Central Otago, Canterbury, Marlborough and Hawkes Bay – it’s ideal.”
The globe-trotting nature of Kirsten’s winemaking means she’s only in New Zealand running Creasy & Co for part of the year, spending the rest of her time in the Northern Hemisphere. This means she really appreciates the ‘lock-it and leave-it’ nature of the Kiwi Box refrigerated containers. “After the ferments are finished I need to be able to just lock the whole thing up with all my gear inside, and then I actually head back overseas to the rest of my life! I’m only over here in NZ for three to four months. I live in the south of France the rest of the year where I work as a commercial winemaker.”
How temperature can make or break a wine
Essential to successful fermenting of a wine is a temperature-controlled environment. Kirsten gives us the inside line on why achieving a specific temperature is so key – “Yeast like a certain temperature, if they get too cold they can stop fermenting which means you end up with a half-fermented wine, which is a fail. Or, they can start producing ‘off’ aromas if they’re stressed with a temperature that’s too high, which can flavour the wine in a negative way.”
Being able to recreate an identical production from one ferment to the next is also essential for Creasy & Co. “The most important thing about the trials is the ability to do exactly the same thing for each one, so any differences in the outcomes are true to the trial results and not in any way influenced by the winemaking process. So, for me, knowing that I have a constant temperature maintained for all of those ferments is critical.”
Living with a Kiwi Box container
The relationship between Kiwi Box and Creasy & Co got off to an aromatic start: “When Greg first sent me the container, it had been used in a chocolate factory and it just smelt divine! Then I fermented sauvignon blanc in it and it smelt like sav blanc and chocolate!”
“I’ve got one specialised container that we’ve fitted out to really suit my needs, but for harvest period I need one or potentially two extra containers with nothing in them, but still with trustworthy temperature control. I hire these for a really short period of time, and then send them back. It’s just so easy.”
Kirsten is more than satisfied with her container set-up, and with business booming her involvement with Kiwi Box doesn’t look set to slow down any time soon. “I have a four-year contract and we’re into year two. Last year I did 350 ferments, which is extraordinary considering a medium-sized winery producing about 1000 tonnes (of fruit) would probably do between 40 and 50 ferments. Obviously, mine are tiny volumes, sometimes as small as 750ml, and to do 350 is full-on. The previous year I did 80, and the year before I did 40. The process has worked so well here, I’ll probably take the same approach if I set up a similar operation in France.”