When thinking about the process of wine making most people would jump straight to the beginning. Growing grapes, pressing juice, fermentation, ageing in barrels and then bottle. However, many don’t consider the process that comes after that. In 2016, the UK imported 24.5 million nine-litre cases from Australia alone. We import most wine from them and we are also their largest customer. But how does it get from one side of the world to another?
Large wooden containers made of oak are common to use for ageing. This allows oxygen to enter and water and alcohol to escape, whilst the oak adds a woody flavour. The length of time that takes for wine to age is completely dependent on the wine itself. Most are consumed before they are two years of creation. If bottled earlier it will have a fresher taste and will offer lower costs for storage and handling.
Next step in wine making is bottling. Wine may go through another filtration process before bottling takes place. Bottle closures include screw caps or cork closures. Lower cost options often use screw caps. Wines that age in the bottle often use cork closures.
Taste can be impaired if storage is not correct. Wine is particularly volatile to fluctuations in temperature, therefore has to be stored in cool conditions with minimised temperature fluctuations. The ideal temperature is between 11 and 14 degrees Celsius. However, most importantly, once you choose a temperature, it must not change. The warehouse must be temperature stable and also have both air conditioning and insulation to ensure the temperature is maintained. This includes loading bays too, to ensure that products are protected at all times, even when loading and unloading.
If conditions are too try, the cork can shrink which can cause the wine to leak. Overly wet conditions on the other hand can cause contamination.
Taking Australia as an example, half of the wine produced is now shipped overseas to Europe. This equates to 32,000 bottles per shipment.
Typically, sea transport costs are based on volume, if you fill a shipping container with low-cost products it wastes space on the packaging. Also, if shipping larger volumes, the temperatures of the product will stay cooler, which reduces the need for refrigeration when the wine arrives in Britain.
Handle wine with care!
Featured image: © Scott Warman