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Message in a bottle

It’s no trade secret that the highest volume of wine produced in Australasia lies with the reds and whites, but sparkling wine, with its smaller numbers, is actually the biggest in growth in production by percentage. And it’s certainly no secret that sparkling wine producers, like everyone else, want not only to attract more customers and thus a better profit margin, but to make the cost economies needed to achieve them.

Today, technology has come up with very efficient and high quality machines that have transformed the bottling line. Where up to 10 people or more were needed to man the earlier machines, now only three are required, one saving alone, and higher runs mean a better cost per unit. However, these machines do require equally efficient glass that is of both excellent specification and tolerances.

While it might appear an attractive and economical proposition to source glass from Asia, using any glass that has been made using moulds that are not up to standard or have passed their use-by date can mean a whole lot of trouble on the bottling line. So what could happen?

  • New generation machines get through a high number of bottles with each run, unlike the earlier makes with their smaller runs.. If a bottle explodes because of its lower tolerance and, say, jams the star wheels, that could bring the line to a complete halt, requiring a stop-and-clean, with staff standing by, all still on the payroll and the clock ticking on.

  • A bottle not conforming to exact standards of shape could mean labels won’t sit squarely and even. Crooked, bubbled or creased labels on a bottle aren’t likely to attract a sale in the bottle shop.

  • But say the bottle survives to be purchased and taken home by the buyer. If the depth of the internal bore doesn’t go beyond 23 mm, then there is nothing that any machine can do to avoid the cork “choking”. Knowing that general, domestic glass doesn’t always have the correct bore, it makes sense then to use European glass, with its guarantee of tolerance and bore, thus completely avoiding the risk of “choke” with the cork – and the customer! Imagine the thirsty consumer having to attack the cork and cut off its top, using an opener to get it out. Not a great way to ensure a happy camper or a return customer.

Europe now widely uses this high quality equipment. In Spain, for example, in Freycinet where Cava sparkling wine is produced, they only source and use high quality glass. And it makes sense for us to follow their example. Economy at the cost of quality isn’t always the answer.

PIPWIN has access to the best producers of glass in France, Spain and Italy plus their catalogues. Email or phone, and let us do the walking for you.

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