It’s fall (almost), and I’m thinking about wine. Seems like many others are as well.
As a consumer, I don’t think too much about shipping wine internationally, but of course U.S. vinters do exactly that, and it’s typically done in bulk. Most wine shipped from the U.S. is from California – which is probably not surprising.
American wine exports reached a record $1.62 billion in 2016, with a volume of 412.7 liters or 45.9 million cases.
Now, when we say “American wine,” we’re really talking about California wine since the Golden State accounts for about 90 percent of all American wine exports. And, by the way, when we talk about California wines, we’re not speaking exclusively but to a significant degree about the good folks at a little outfit named E&J Gallo which—with numerous brands spanning the entire spectrum of price and quality—accounts for a quarter of all U.S. wine sales.
If you’re like me and hailing from the 80s, you’re perhaps remembering the TV commercials of “We will make no wine before its time” and that E&J Gallo stands for Ernest and Julio, but I digress into that little vingnette.
Shipping wine – that’s the interesting part here.
For all that activity, there are actually only two methods that wine can be shipped by bulk. The first is ISO tanks, which are stainless steel vessels that fit directly onto standard trucks and can readily be transferred to rail or sea transport. These kinds of bulk tanks have a capacity of 26,000 liters and are reusable. The other are Flexitank Products’ flexible bags that can be fitted into a standard container with a capacity of 24,000 liters. Though they can be re-used, Flexitanks are usually used only once.
Now, the fact that wine is shipped in bulk in no way means that it is bulk wine; i.e. low quality. In fact, in most cases, shipping wine by bulk tanks tends to better ensure the quality of the wine. Research has shown that apart from top end wine specifically made with bottle ageing and longevity in mind, the great majority of wine effectively begins to deteriorate from the time it is filled into bottles, and it is at this filling point that the shelf life is deemed to start. Bulk shipping defers the moment of bottling and thus the start of the shelf life.
It also means more product can get to those shelves quicker. Consider that a standard bottle container holds between 12,000 and 13,000 bottles, while a standard Flexitank holds approximately 32,000 bottles and an ISO tank can hold nearly 35,000.
Since I’ve quoted a large portion of the article, I definitely find it worthy of a full read. Link here: http://www.globaltrademag.com/features/time-for-wine
And, since I was curious – here are the E&J Gallo brands.