Saturday, 21 April 2012

Bottling at Domaine Ribiera

A picture tells a thousand words, but in the case of bottling wine just a few words make it seem simple. Move the wine from the vat into a bottle, cork, add a capsule plus label and box ready for shipment. The challenge is to make this scale to over 10,000 bottles and complete the task in a couple of days.

The approach at Domaine Ribiera (Aspiran in the Pezenas terroir) is to use a compact mobile bottling unit. The advantages include the ability to set it up in a confined space, minimal wastage of wine in connecting pipes and a reasonable bottling rate; I timed over 20 a minute. A big disadvantage is that at least 7 people need to coordinate and work flat out.

The equipment is aligned like lego but requires manual intervention at every stage. One person feeds bottles into the amazing kit that precisely fills each bottle and rams in the corks (at the back of the picture above). The bottles are spewed onto a carousel where the loose capsules are placed over the neck by a number 2. The 3rd person moves these bottles onto a line that seals the capsule over the cork and rolls on the label (left of the top picture and below). The 4th person will fold cardboard into boxes so the 5th can pack cases of 6 bottles. A neat device then tapes each box up so that number 6 can pile them onto a palate (picture below). Those left over need to manage the whole operation, perform quality control, replace rolls of labels and tape, ensure a supply of new bottles, remove rubbish, manoeuvre palates and make coffee.

David Caer (Clos Mathelisse) on box duty

The wine by the way is 2011 Causse Toujours 80% Grenache 20% Syrah. I'll be sampling some after giving it a chance to settle down.

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