Bottling Day


Below is the third and final installment of bottling our 2008 Tocai Friulano and 2007 Firebelle. As promised, here is an attempt at presenting the process with photos. At the bottom of this posting is a link to photos on the Kodak website - the photos you will find there (and some below) were taken by Joshua Liberman.

Larkmead is a relatively small producer. On average, we'll make 8,000 cases a year. Our facility is not set up to bottle our own wine. The main reason for this is that it is expensive to own, maintain and manage a bottling line, especially since it is only used a couple of times a year. Therefore, when it comes time to bottling our wines, like many small producers, we will bring in a ‘mobile' bottling unit. The beast of an 18 or so wheeler is outfitted with all the necessary automated devices – a filler bowl to fill the bottles, the filling machine, a corker, a capsule put-er-on-er (don't really know if it has a name), the label machine and two technicians who manage the process professionally.
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the empty glass gets pulled off a pallet and put on a conveyor.

In this photo Hilda is packing our first ever, half-bottle (375 mL) offering.

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Depending on the truck you hire for the day, you can bottle up to 400 cases of wine an hour, that's over 6 cases a minute. Although the process is fast and loud, it is ridiculously efficient with a focus on quality. To manage the day, you will also need about nine freelance workers to help get the empty glass on the truck (two guys), the finished wine in the case box (three ladies), and the cases labeled (two more ladies) and stacked on pallets for transport to storage (two more guys). And you will need a forklift driver (myself) to move pallets of empty glass and finished wine in and out of the way.

The empty glass bottle is sparged with either Argon or Nitrogen to displace the oxygen in the bottle. The bottle is then filled with wine (the wine gets to the truck by the use of a pump that is hooked up to a tank inside the winery). Once the bottle is full of wine, it is corked.

After the wine is corked, it slides down the line and a capsule is placed on the bottle.

The capsule is larger then the neck of the bottle, but it is spun and the air is vacuumed out of the in between space and the capsule is collapsed for a snug fit before it is sent to be labeled.

After the wine is labeled, it circles the other side of the truck and is placed in case boxes. Pictured below is our team manager, Hilda, who, with her team, circulate and work the starting and finishing aspects, as noted above, throughout the day.

Although the day is long (I'll arrive with the truck's technicians at 6 a.m. - we'll begin bottling at 8 a.m. - and leave, post clean up, at around 6 p.m.), there is always something to do during bottling, but there is one particular Larkmead cellar hand that gets to sleep on the job, my dog Sophie.

Dan has an MBA from New York University and worked as an Ad Exec in New York for several years, before switching it up and trading his suit for a move out west

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  • Adam

    Dan, great pictures. This reminds me of when I spent a summer working at a winery in France who also used a mobile bottling line. The major difference was there they had old men smoking cigarettes (extra flavoring in the wine?) moving the bottles around instead of young men and women. Their mobile bottler was definitely not as clean and modern too.

    May 20, 2009 at 9:27 AM

  • Rizzo

    Found ya on Twitter - these pics are great!

    May 20, 2009 at 12:52 PM

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