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Monday, March 16, 2009

Bottling

The big guns have recently shown how they bottle (Grgich, Selene, etc.)on their blogs, so I'll show how we kick it (relatively) old school. We bottled the 2007 Dolcetto today at nearly a record pace with a whole three people! Bottling is miserable for anyone and everyone, but our system is appropriate to our size and scope, and now that we have a pneumatic corker (we hand-corked everything until mid-last year), relatively pain free. The big guys have massive dedicated lines, or hire mobile bottling where the trailer backs up to the dock, hoses are connected, pallets moved and it whirrs like a finely tuned machine.

Our bottling "line" moves from right to left in the picture: the weird looking box with two prongs on the far right is the sparger, blowing compressed air into the bottles to remove any foreign debris (when we get really cool we will use nitrogen instead). Next to it with the six spigots pointed in the air (wrapped in cling wrap for cleanliness) is our filler. It is a nice, simple design with a float that controls the fill height in the reservoir and then simple gravity feed into the bottle. Our overworked 3/4" diaphragm pump moves the wine from the tank to the filler at nice low and gentle pressure. Sparging two bottles at a time and cycling through six bottles on the filler times out just right with corking six bottles on our snazzy new corker (the big chunk of metal in the middle of the picture) that is air operated, nice and clean. It has a large cork reservoir in the top with a wheel that feeds them into a tube as the two operating buttons are pushed. The cork is compressed and punch into the bottle. From the corker bottles are passed finally to capsuler, which is basically just a little platform that is operated by a lever that moves the neck of the bottle up into a heated element, and the PVC capsules then shrink around the top (we don't use foil which requires a much more expensive machine). Grgich does 350 cases an hour/2000 a day, we can do 200 in a day, 150 if there are only two of us. This does not include any labelling either - which is presumably performed for them at the same time. On the other hand, I think Grgich spends about 35 days a year bottling; we only spend eight or nine days a year with our little production of 2000 cases a year. Grgich has earned every bit of their fame, and I hold them in very high regard, but no way am I gonna spend a month bottling every year!

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