- On June 18, 2017
It’s bottling time here at Northern Vineyards Winery. “Bottling? How hard can it be?” Well, plenty hard! Bottling is a very grueling process at a small winery because we can’t afford the expensive fully automated bottling lines that large wineries have. Bottling is one of the less glamorous parts of the wine making process, but it’s still very important. “So how does bottling work?” Well, let us tell you!
First, you start with finished wine in tanks and clean bottles. It is very important for the bottles to be clean because if there is even one bacteria in a bottle, it can cause the wine to spoil. Next, you inject a small puff of nitrogen into the bottle. Nitrogen is an inert gas and is used to replace the oxygen that is in the bottle that can cause unwanted oxidation of the wine. Then, the wine is pumped from the tanks into the bottling equipment and into the bottles. A second piece of equipment then uses high pressure to insert the corks into the bottles. Capsules are then placed on the tops of the bottles and shrunk into place using heat. Another piece of equipment then places the label on the bottle.
Here at Northern Vineyards, we have two options for bottling. Mostly, we use a semi-automated bottling line that we have in-house. When the semi-automated bottling line is used, a person has to load the empty bottles onto the bottling equipment, then load them into the corking equipment, then apply the capsule and shrink it into place manually using a heat gun, then load it onto the labeling equipment, then load the completed bottles into boxes for storage. It’s a lot of hard work! Using this method, 4 people can bottle and label about 100-150 cases of wine a day (1200-1800 bottles). Another option is to use a mobile bottling line that travels from winery to winery to help them bottle. This method is much more automated. People only need to load the empty bottles onto the line, then unload the completed bottles into boxes for storage after they have gone through the automated bottling line. An employee from the mobile bottling line also monitors the entire process and trouble shoots any issues that may arise. Bottling using this method is about 5 times faster than the semi-automated method, and the same 4 people can bottle and label about 500 cases a day (6000 bottles)!
Bottling may be tiring, but it is well worth the effort. At the end of the day, it is very exciting and fulfilling to have freshly bottled and labeled wine to share with our customers. So, what has Northern Vineyards been bottling lately? We have recently bottled our new Main Street White, Water Street Red, Oktoberfest, Prairie Smoke, and Downtown Red. We hope you’ll stop by the winery soon and try some!