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Félix Solís opens wine world’s most advanced barrel cellar

Spain’s Félix Solís Avantis has completed the construction of the wine world’s most advanced barrel cellar, which is fully automated and powered by solar energy.

The new fully-automated facility can move 1,000 barrels per day

Following a €70 million investment, the Spanish wine group has just opened the new facility, which is not only state-of-the-art, but also vast: it can hold as many as 130,000 barrels.

According to Richard Cochrane, who is managing director of Felix Solis UK, the building is run entirely using robotics, which means that “there are no forklifts”, with everything from steam cleaning to moving the barrels done by machine (see video below).

The cellar is found at the Spanish company’s headquarters in Valdepenas, and replaces two former cellars, one of which held 60,000 barrels, while the other had a slightly smaller capacity.

With the new building, which is 18 stories high, Félix Solís Avantis can hold all its barrels in one place, and increase its capacity, while significantly improving efficiencies, including staffing costs, with the whole operation requiring just two people to manage it, down from 12 before.

Among other savings are energy costs, with the facility featuring 6,000 photovoltaic cells, which produce enough electricity to ensure the building is self-sufficient.

Cochrane told db during a meeting at ProWein this week that the idea for the modern barrel cellar had been come from a similar facility for Bourbon in Kentucky, USA.

“We looked at it and decided that it would be a sensible investment for us to avoid cost inflation in the long term,” explained Cochrane.

He also said that the major spend by the Spanish company was driven by an aim to improve its wines, with oak ageing being a key element to the quality of the wines from Félix Solís Avantis, which makes the best-selling Vina Albali brand of wines.

“Micro-oxygenation and oak chips do not produce the same results as an expensive barrel,” he said, adding, “If they did, then no-one would do this” – referring to the time and money required to age wine in oak containers.

The €70m investment was also made to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Félix Solís Avantis, which was celebrated last year, with the company’s foundation date being 1952.

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