In the beginning, like many small wineries, at The Meeker Vineyard we bottled our wine by hand. Wine was shepherded from the tank to the filler to the corker to the labeler by hand. While this process is quaint, it has several weaknesses – the manual process allows many variables to be introduced and makes it difficult to ensure each bottle is consistent. Also, it’s not very cost-effective.
In 2005, after many years of hiring bottling companies to bring their lines to us, we decided it was time to get real. We purchased our own, sophisticated bottling line. Encased in the back of a semi-truck trailer, this line can bottle about 38 bottles a minute – a lot more than our old manual process could accomplish!
This short video shows you the wine’s journey – the process for packaging each wine securely in a bottle.
The bottling process begins with two inputs:
- A hose and pump delivering wine
- A forklift delivering pallets of empty wine bottles
The first step on the truck is unloading each box of empty glass onto the conveyor belt. The belt brings each bottle to the sparger, which flips the bottle upside down and blows nitrogen into it to knock out dust and force out oxygen.
Next, the bottle gets flipped right-side-up and goes to the filler, which dispenses precisely 750 mls of wine into each bottle. From there, the bottle scoots down the line to the corker and foiler. We can also screw cap our wines with this truck – the corker simply rotates out of the way to make room for the screwcapper.
The final, and most finicky, step is the labeler, which slaps a label onto each bottle in precisely the right place. Our labeler can place either one label or a front and back label pair, as needed.
Since this video features our Winemaker’s Handprint Merlot, you’ll notice that these bottles look a little naked. In a few weeks, we’ll bring the bottles back out again for hand printing – another time-intensive process! Finally, the bottles are placed back into their cases and fly down the conveyor belt for stacking on a pallet.
We’re always pleased to get wines into bottle – it’s one step closer to the consumer and the cash register, of course – but it also feels like putting the wine to bed. The winemaker’s job is done, and the wine drinker takes it from here!