Bottling and packaging is an often neglected, but hugely important part of the wine game, but how one bottles is hugely dependent on scale and available technology. Never having a bottling line, in the early years of winemaking our wine would be made on-site, then sent elsewhere for bottling. More recently, it has been possible to bring in a mobile bottling plant for a day and bottle on-site, with all the frills of a large-scale bottling line. We’ve gotten by with the bottling trucks, but as we produce more varieties of wine, each in smaller quantities, we have had a need for a bottling setup that offers more flexibility and less wastage.

Plenty of research has gone into putting together our new bottling line. We first had to identify what we needed then make strategic upgrades as we go. As we have learnt, knowing what you need well in advance, allows you the opportunity to pounce on good deal, rather than paying a premium. Good luck is when prior planning meets opportunity.

The problem:

  • Getting a bottling line on-site (or nearby) when you need it is a hard task, something that often gets in the way during vintage with tank space in high demand
  • The bottling line hire comes at a high cost in itself, with the added cost of us supplying several staff on the day.
  • Some bottling lines have over 200L wastage, not at all feasible when bottling less than 1000L of wine.
  • To have enough volume to justify a bottling line requires all wine varieties for the year to be ready at the same time to be economical.

Plenty of research has gone into putting together our new bottling line. We first had to identify what we needed then make strategic upgrades as we go. As we have learnt, knowing what you need well in advance, allows you the opportunity to pounce on good deal, rather than paying a premium. Good luck is when prior planning meets opportunity.

The aim, to have our own bottling line that is:

  • easy to setup, packdown and maintain
  • suitable for small runs (<300L i.e. a barrel), with minimal waste
  • capable of using Stelvin (BVS) screwcaps

So with that, we have put together a human powered bottling line. The first step was securing a bottle capper for Stelvin (BVS) screwcaps. We used corks in our first two vintages (2005 & 2006), with a $150 machine – like many home winemakers, but with the current market a screwcap was essential. We had researched new machines, all coming in excess of $6000 (the ideal machine was $10k new ex gst) so we waited before biting the bullet. Eventually, a second-hand machine popped up near Port Campbell at a good price and so we jumped on it and Spencer went on a road trip.

This was enough to start our bottling line, with the winery owning several single-head fillers for our Rent-A-Row winemaking. We had learnt from bottling barrels in previous years that a multi-head filler would speed things up nicely. Again, we had researched gravity fillers and eventually Brian found a bunch of winemaking gear for sale out of Bendigo. The main items advertised in the post were crushers and presses, but in the details was an old gravity filler, in good condition, so we jumped on the lot. (The crusher and press are quality and now used for our Rent-A-Row winemakers).

These two bits of gear, combined with our long-serving Benchmate labeller (first used with our 2006 Shiraz) round out our bottling line. The result for us is a cost-effective, self-sufficient bottling line capable of bottling 2000L per day, made enjoyable with a good team. The money that had been paid to a mobile bottling line is now kept on-site, allowing us to upgrade our bottling line and give our local staff more work. (We recently purchased a bottle rinser, that is brand new and incredibly helpful).

That’s right, our new bottling line is good for The Shiraz Republic local economy. Jobs, growth and all that. It’s also given us the independence and flexibility we need to produce a wider variety of wines with a high quality finish.

Here is a look at the Bottling Line in action below. When bottling our 2017 Shiraz, we trialled Cellastacs instead of boxes in an effort to save both time and cut down on waste. Not a lot of point packing wine in cardboard boxes if you are selling it a few bottles at a time through the cellar door.

We’re offering a limited online pre-release of the 2017 Shiraz ahead of a full release in 2019 (at a discount). You can view the product here, we’d love to hear your feedback.

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