You see shelves of wine stacked in stores, and the supplies seem unending. When one bottle or three get put into a cart, others come to take their place. It seems like a pretty easy Science, doesn’t it? But I wonder what actually goes into making each bottle. How does it go from vine to wine?
I sat down with winemaker, Jason Robideaux, to pick his brain a bit about the bottling process. New to the winery business, but not to loving wine, I was curious, and when I’m curious, I ask lots of questions to solve the mysteries that have me wandering the aisles in wonder.
For this particular post, I want to focus on the bottling line itself, after the grapes have already been picked. Let’s save learning more about harvesting the grapes for closer to harvest time, usually by the end of the summer between August and October for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere of the world.
According to Jason, our Clos LaChance expert in wine bottling and winemaking, our bottling line here at the winery came all the way to us from the leading bottling line manufacturer in the wine industry, GAI. Not only that, the line itself came to us all the way from Italy!
The line we use is known as a low DO, which stands for dissolved oxygen, and has three separate points of nitrogen sparging and deaeration. What in the world does that mean? It means that it helps to create a wine in bottle that is preserved in the most ideal way, promoting the shelf life and age ability of the wine by ensuring no added oxygen is picked up during the bottling process.
How many people does it take to operate the DO line and get all the bottles packaged and ready to ship?
Jason explained that the line is typically a 2-man operation inside, with a 5-man crew and forklift driver, dumping empty glass, packing cases, and stacking pallets.
It sounds like a well-oiled machine if you ask me! But, how many bottles can one machine fill and package per day?
Well, the answer is 2,000 cases per day, and with 12 bottles in every case, you are looking at 24,000 bottles filled in a single day! That’s a lot of wine for any machine to produce, but with Jason and his team, it is done with flawless precision. They manage to get 3,300 bottles/275 cases done in each hour that the line is running full steam ahead.
The bottles go through a nitrogen gas bottle rinse prior to filling.
After the bottles’ quick nitrogen gas bath, here is a quick line up going from empty bottle to fully corked.
Here the wine bottles are being run through and filled with wine using the “low DO (dissolved oxygen) line with 3 separate points of nitrogen sparging and deaeration,” as winemaker, Jason, mentioned before. It is so important to keep as little air from hitting the wine as possible before it gets put through the next step in the bottling process.
Once the wine is put in and the bottles are ready to cork, there’s a machine for that too! This machine can handle screw tops and corks, as well as any size bottle between 375mL to 1.5L. To give you an idea, your standard wine bottle holds 750mL.
The labels are on a roll that looks oddly like a film roll, where they will be glued onto the bottles as they take their trip down the line.
Here are the bottles, newly clothed in their finest Hayes Valley 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon labels, sailing their way down to the packaging line.
The wine is packaged into cases. The standard is to have 12, 750mL bottles of wine per case and 56 cases per pallet. Pallets are stored at a temperature-controlled warehouse before they make their way into stores and onto shelves where you will in turn, grab one from off the shelf and place it in your basket for a nice drink to have with dinner.
And there you have it. We have come full circle, and now I’d say it’s high time to pop a cork and pour a glass of vino, with all the knowledge that we’ve gained of how that delicious juice got there in the first place.