Bottling Time

Have you ever considered how the picturesque, little vineyards you notice along country roads get their small harvest wines into bottles?  As with many elements of the wine-maker’s process, I hadn’t.  I guess I thought they hand-bottled it in a garden shed,  using a funnel and a manual corking machine.  Maybe that’s how it used to happen, but these days, when the wine is sold globally and the liability for selling a product with any kind of contamination is so great, the wine must be preserved perfectly.  For vineyards that produce less that 1,000,000 bottles per year, at least in Italy, a custom bottling company comes to the farm and sets up a mobile factory on-site.

Today, it is bottling time at the Marcciano estate for the 2011 vintage.  We waited and waited for ‘the truck’ to show up and when it did, it looked like the carnival was coming to town.  A massive 18-wheeled rig somehow squeezed down the twisting, dirt road to the farm and began to set up what looked like the Tom Thumb Doughnut stand.  Tacky county fair comparisons ended there, though, as the team of experienced engineers set up their mobile factory and began the routine of calibrating the machines to bottle this production.  They provide their own energy, through generators, as the voltage requirements would overwhelm what is available at most ancient estates.

The farmer must have everything on hand which means pallets of bottles, boxes, labels, and corks printed with their logo.

It all has to be set up and ready to go because once the system gets into full operation, it bottles something like 20-30 per minute and they have to be ready to box and store them on the other end.

It wasn’t long before bottles turned into cases which were stacked on pallets to be shipped.  The first 2,000 bottles are already sold to an American importer and Renato, the owner, has so much riding on this.  This bottling represents the end of an idea he said.  Once he successfully captures it, he then has to sell it, distribute it, and then wait for the public’s response to his creation.  All of this while those vines are bursting with the potential for next year’s growth.

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