We had such a great time bottling we wanted to share it with everyone to show you how much fun we have at the winery. Bottling time is one of my favorite times of year (and usually less exhausting than harvest haha) where we see great wine make its final part of its journey into the bottle. It is even more rewarding because it is now ready to be shared with friends, family members, and everyone else lucky enough to try some of these wines.
How does a small winery bottle its wine? So glad you asked. Bottling is quite an event and requires lots of expensive equipment. Yes you can get individual bottler like one of these machines.
We have used one of these before however they have their own limitations. To bottle say 60 gallons takes a crew of 3-6 people the entire day. Plus the wine that goes through one of these lines is not always airtight allowing oxygen in the wine. While it is possible to sparge the bottle with nitrogen it only adds the workload and time consumption of the job. To solve these problems the bottling line was invented. The bottling line stream lines efficiency and are able to bottle hundreds of gallons in about an hour, talk about time saver. They are able to minimize oxygen contact and sparge all bottles with nitrogen with help of automation. You are able to load a case full of bottles at a time while they get filed into line, sparged, filled with wine, labeled, and foiled all within about a minute. It is worth the time but what's the investment?
Going over the equipment needed to do this kind of production you are easily looking at the range of $60,000-100,000. Maybe you can get some of the equipment used and get it for a bargain total investment of $30,000, but again that is going to take a lot of time on your end. Now you have all the equipment, all you need now is people to work it. Bottling equipment takes some tech knowledge and mechanically minded individuals. Odds are, as with every piece of large equipment, it will one day fail. You need to be ready for this and have someone on hand to manage it. This equipment requires special cleaning and maintenance as well so someone at your winery will be very busy soon. This is a lot to take on, especially for a small winery. Space is also required for a bottling line, which is something else small wineries usually lack. Nope, high end bottling lines are pretty much reserved for the major producers out there making some 50,000+ cases so what are we little ones supposed to do?
Introducing the mobile bottling line(MBL)! Quite possibly the best idea for small wineries ever! A complete fully operational bottling line inside the trailer of a semi truck. We like to get all our bottling materials ready and ordered and once we do that all it comes down to is picking a date with the bottling line. They come to your facility, hook up to you water and electrical, clean and prep their line, and you are ready to go! Small note about the water and electrical, make sure and talk specifically with your bottling line to make sure you meet all their power and water needs.
The mobile bottling line takes about 1-1.5 hour to set up and then it is game time! We simply label the wines in the order in which they will be bottled and then each person to their stations! While the MBL supplies all the equipment you need it does not provide the staff, which needs to be supplied by the winery. To get the line up and running the winery needs to have at 3-4 people inside the truck, one person unloading the bottles, one person putting on foils over the top of the bottles (if necessary some MBL have automated cappers), and 1-2 people at the back of the line placing the bottles into boxes and sending them out of the truck. Experience has taught us that it is helpful to have atleast 2-3 people on the ground. These ground crew are responsible for supplying fresh bottles to the line, removing the full cases from the truck, placing the cases onto a pallet, wrapping the pallet up when full, moving full pallets of wine out of way, and case counting!
Sound like a bunch of chaos? It is! Glorious chaos! And to add to our chaotic delight it rained the day we were bottling! How does that even happen? Been a dry winter for southern California, no rain all through the new year until Feb 22nd? That must be a good luck right haha. We took it in stride of course and had the best time with it.
Here are some pictures. Enjoy!
When it comes to bottling there is also a method to the madness. White wines go first, followed by any rosè styles wines, then onto the reds. A general lightest to darkest method is used just in case any residual wine is left in the line. Always better to err on the side of caution, you do not want your white wine turning into a rosè cause there was some red wine in the line.
Once we have our order lined up we are pretty much ready to go. It took us about 3 hours and hardly any hiccups. However, in the pallet of new empty glass bottles there was one case of bottles that were bigger! This caused the bottle line to jam and all those bottles had to be removed. A minor issue that was quickly resolved and we were back to business.
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