To Bottle or Flexi-Tank?

So, which is the best? Let’s have a brief look at the different methods in which Marlborough wine is sent all over the world. 

Once we have made our wine, we face the final step- getting it to market and there are a lot of choices to make surrounding this decision. I think before we make any decisions, we must look at the market the wine is destined for and this will have a huge weight on the final decision. For instance, if we are making a 100,000l bulk blend of Sauvignon blanc for the UK market, then yes, it might be better to send it out in flexi tanks and have it bottled over there. However, this is probably not the best option for a small run of premium Pinot noir off to a wine merchant in Norway.  

Something we take for granted- the humble bottle. What does the bottle have going for it? Easily recyclable, even here in New Zealand. Each one has a lot number for batch identification, making recall very easy. You could argue the point of ownership of product along with Dr John Forrest, It “is really about trust in the integrity of what’s in the bottle is really what’s in the bottle. Fraud in food production is a widespread and real global problem”, sending bottles out into the world is an easy way to curb this problem.  There are a few down sides to getting these bad boys overseas in bulk: We can’t fit as many bottles in a container as bulk wine, something to consider cost wise and with the International container shortage currently happening. There is a lot more labor and money involved when getting wine into bottle, but at least it creates jobs in New Zealand rather than overseas.  

Definitive guide to wine bottle types and names | Wine & Spirit Education  Trust
5 bottles of wine on the wall…

The new kid on the block, so to speak, are the Flexi-tanks. Felixs are a shipping container housing a plastic bladder (think 20Ft goon cask). The container needs to have smooth sides and a bulkhead at the front for filling. These are fast and efficient, provided they aren’t overfilled, then you have a huge mess. Wine leaves the winery in a locked container, destined for another place for bottling. Indevin are pumping out about 7 a day! When bottled in country of sale, labeling and following regulations would be easier.  Although the plastic bladders can be recycled, there is nowhere in New Zealand that does it. Hopefully the overseas markets we are sending them does. Remember: if you send it and the tag number on the container doesn’t match the paperwork, it’s going to be sent back. All 24,000-26,000L of it.  

A look inside a flexi ready for shipping.

 

Either way: getting shipping containers is likely to be the hardest part of getting your wine overseas. There is a real shortage of these coming into New Zealand, so whichever way you send it, you are likely to expect a little delay getting it there. There has also been a lot of hold ups and disruptions at ports all over the world this year- Thanks Covid.   (Something else to think about: Pirates might steal it. The seven seas are a wild place! I’m guessing bottles are easier to steal than a 26,000l plastic bladder).  

I feel this is a good time to also mention that with the rise of Appellation Marlborough Wine you should also consider your commitment to the integrity of our product when choosing to bottle or send out flexis. One of the main criteria is that to have a wine with AMW, it must be bottled in New Zealand and this may sound trivial to some, but when you look at it like this, I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all. “Marlborough’s meteoric rise to international stardom occurred over a relatively brief period, and consequently it has attracted its fair share of opportunistic punters. Typically, these individuals and companies have no vested interest in the region itself and are purely trading off the reputation and demand for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc at the detriment of quality and many stakeholders’ hard work. Practices such as bottling offshore, blending with other non-Marlborough wine, and producing wine from over-cropped grapes with a low-level of ripeness or in dubious health all jeopardize the quality reputation of the region and our premium Marlborough wine brand”, Sophie Parker Thomson, Winemaker for Blank Canvas and founder member of AMW.  

At least, whichever way you go, lots of bottles or a flexi tank, there is a shipping company out there to help you get your product out to the world.  

References: 

Sophie Paker Thompson, (April 22, 2020)  www.AppellationMarlboroughWine.co.nz 

Personal email correspondence with Dr John Forrest.  

Warden. N (n.d) Main points from Indevin visit, CCO410 ‘Wine packaging and logistics’ Wine finishing and analysis S2-20 

Images: 

Bottles: www.wsetglobal.com/ 

Flexi: www.austwine.net.au/ 

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