Shippers need to convince trade of bulk wine benefits
Companies offering bulk wine transport services must work harder if they are to win over the wine trade.
Justin Knock MW, a consultant winemaker for Cobevco, which bottles drinks, said new technology means bulk shipping often means wine arrives in the UK in a better state than if it has been individually bottled.
However, he admitted shippers must do more if they are to convince winemakers and sellers that the process is not only an effective one but can offer cost benefits too.
Knock said: "People in the trade do have the perception that bulk shipping will be bad, is only for cheap wine and things can go wrong.
"The fact that wine is bottled in the UK instead of Australia or Chile can be a positive and if it means getting a better quality of wine to the consumer for a cheaper price then I don't see why people should be up in arms about that."
He added bottled wine stored in containers can be just as susceptible to heat damage during shipping even if it is below decks while temperature differentials of up to 30ºF can be found between the top and the bottom of a container.
Knock said: "For many customers it is the variation in quality that is more of a problem than perhaps a constant and slight reduction in quality for the whole batch."
He added the two main types of tank used in bulk shipping – ISO tanks and Flexi Tanks – are both proving effective in allaying winemakers' concerns over everything from preserving the fruit flavours and freshness to consistency and minimising oxygen pick-up.
"When it comes to bulk shipping you just have to know your target market," he added.
Knock admitted certain constraints apply to the practice, for instance the requirement for Rioja to be bottled locally in order to be sold as such.
While winemakers also remain concerned about how the wine is bottled once it reaches its destination, Jacob's Creek had solved the problem by moving one of its winemakers in the UK to oversee the operation, Knock said.
He added economies of scale often mean the wine is cheaper, the availability of dry goods needed to bottle and market the wine is improving while countries with strong foreign exchange and high inflation will also benefit from the practice.
Knock said bulk shipping also reduces the wine's carbon footprint and is becoming increasingly popular in many of the New World regions wanting to export.
He added: "Overall managing expectations is really important, the initial assessment is that bulk shipping is simply an area where things can go wrong; the only thing you can do is work with leading [wine shipping] companies to match quality."