‘No danger in bulk shipping’

Misconceptions about technological advances in bulk shipping and UK bottling are preventing the industry taking advantage of cost savings and offering better quality wines, it has been claimed.

Justin Knock MW, winemaking consultant at specialist firm Cobevco, believes large portions of the trade see the process of shipping in large containers and bottling in market as opposed to at wineries as “a danger” and are concerned about quality.

But he claims the bottling industry has made significant investments to improve standards – including Cobevco, which has invested £350 million in its processes and facilities.

Knock said that, although attitudes to bottling away from the source had changed over the past 10 years as eco- nomic conditions and the increased surge in consumption led suppliers to seek cost savings, there was more work to do to convince other businesses.

Knock said: “Attitudes to bottling have changed so much in the past 10 years. Back then the trade was in growth. Three to five years ago, 20% of all Australian wine was shipped in bulk, now it’s 80%. So most wineries have made the shift. There is now a big opportunity with other regions, such as South America.

“Most of the trade seems to think bulk shipping is a danger [to quality]. Not many people understand the difficulties of shipping in small bottles. We can deliver wine that’s much fresher.

“We have invested £350 million in our facilities – no wine company could afford that. We have also raised our level of service. If your only business is shipping and packing wine, like ours is, you can be very focused.”

Winemaker Neil McGuigan said he believed UK bottlers have the skills to deliver wine to retailers in the condition intended by winemakers in response to suppliers’ becoming more demanding.

He said: “We employ a technician to ensure the wine bottled in the UK is the same quality as we bottle in the winery. I believe that, as a company, we are changing the face of the UK bottlers because we are passionate about making sure the expertise and attention to detail is in place so our wines are handled correctly with care.

“When I took over as chief executive, I said anyone who calls wine liquid didn’t have a place in the process of bottling our wines. We are changing the attitude of bottlers and making them more professional so that the quality we have at the bottlers here is the same as we have at the winery.”

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