We just bottled our 2016 sparkling wines, around 43,000 bottles and 3,200 magnums. Until this year we had been bottling at 2,500 bottles per hour, which worked fine for smaller production. We are now starting to get volumes of wine that require higher speed for bottling and this is the kind of equipment we have been looking at for when the time comes to purchase.
One reason is that prior to bottling we need to start a yeast culture, which is a process that takes several days until we have a healthy culture with a sufficient concentration of live yeast. It can be challenging to keep a good yeast culture for several days so we decided that we’d create one and use it over two days. This is why we wanted a fast bottling line. With a lower speed line we would have had to create different cultures to maintain healthy levels of live yeast throughout several days.
Empty bottles, rather than being transferred by hand to the conveyor, one by one or two by two, were transferred with a semi-automatic robot, taking 142 bottles at once (one layer from the pallet). Quite a difference! A big rotating filler bowl with 32 spouts did the trick even though the shape of our bottles’ neck tends to create foam when we fill them, which sometimes require to slow the line down. Not this time – the wine was coping with the speed easily.
Even the team coped really well with such speed: In the past at 2,500 bottles per hour we felt quite relaxed, but at 5,000 bottles per hour there is a very clear difference: we filled not 6 cages per hour, but 12. These had to be brought from outside, picked and replaced with empty ones when full, and stacked in the cellar, up to 5-high.
Needless to say, we were all very busy and the pace was very fast. It will be interesting to see how it works when we are at full production with a line capable of bottling at 6,000 bottles per hour and have to bottle over a period of 20 days.
The wines are now resting in the cellar and as we just heard a bottle explode, we know that fermentation is happening! Every year a couple bottles explode because of the 6 bars of pressure generated by the second fermentation – this is often due to a small defect in the bottle. Sad to think that wine is wasted, but a good indicator of a nice fermentation.
Good job guys.. Well done.