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English bottling

Would just like to add that not ALL members require this information @laura.

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That’s a peculiar response Laura? Would it really be a massive technological upheaval to add EB to the WS glossary and leaflets? One of the best things about TWS descriptions is the provenance details “made for us by” etc etc. Surely adding EB where applicable wouldn’t hurt would it? Or do you think it would put people off?

Hi @AnaGramWords - not sure if you’ve misinterpreted my answer there, but I wasn’t giving a response to your question yet because I have no idea whether English bottling even applies to any of our wines, so I can’t give any opinions on that or any followup questions re: labelling/literature etc until I know more. :slight_smile:

As I said, I’m asking some of the people involved and getting back to you as quickly as I can.

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Personally I don’t so much see EB as a bad thing, I just feel that it should be disclosed. I look forward to seeing if it happens or not. Thank you for looking into it Laura.

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have a vague recollection that wine bottled by any one other than the producer must state so…and if in the UK has a “W” in the code

but i’m sure @Laura will get the correct answer …not my 10 year old fact / bad memory answer :wink:

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An interesting topic @AnaGramWords. I can’t claim that this is an official TWS response as I don’t believe we have an “official” position but with my Quality Control hat on, a few thoughts:

We do have a few UK bottled wines in the range - all deep sea shipments - Fistful of Schist from South Africa, Peltier Ranch from the US and our Californian Zinfandel is bottled in Germany. In each case, the wine states on the back where it is bottled, for example, “Bottled by W1740 at DH9 7XP, UK”. This is only a handful of wines and I don’t think the concern has been raised before so it hasn’t been a consideration for including in the list. Other signifiers such as for vegetarian, vegan, biodynamic, sustainable etc I think are higher up the list in the fight for space. Our marketing department are keen to tell us that more symbols means potentially less space for wine and so we do have to strike a balance. Obviously if this is a high priority for the membership generally then it will be prioritised over other symbols.

Our buyers always buy on quality and value and therefore regardless of where a wine is bottled, they believe the wine deserves a place in our range. There is a significant cost saving that can be made in buying wines this way and passed on to members - often a few pounds for no discernible difference in quality.

New arrivals, particularly of our larger volume wines are tasted on arrival by me and the relevant buyer if they are available to ensure that they are as they should be. Wines are also regularly sent for analysis to ensure that chemically they are legal and in line with our expectations.

At the less expensive end of the wine market, where UK bottled wine is usually found, wine often moves around a fair bit before bottling, be it within a region, a country or internationally. Fundamentally, the challenges remain the same regardless of distance - keep the oxygen out, keep it cool and remember what is in each tank.

A few more thoughts:

Environmental
Life cycle analysis of a bottle of wine is complicated but research indicates that bulk shipping in tank and bottling in Europe uses less fuel and emits less CO2 because space and weight isn’t used shipping glass. This where the cost savings come in.

UK bottling helps with glass recycling – the green glass used in many bottles isn’t much use for anything other than wine bottles so the UK bottling industry is helping use this surplus without shipping them back overseas.

Quality

Having audited a number of wineries, I am not convinced that bottling at the property is necessarily better than a dedicated bottling facility elsewhere in the country, or overseas. The big quality issues at bottling relate to oxygen management and to an extent, filtration as well as the hazards of glass and foreign bodies in the wine. A dedicated line will have solid procedures, checks and up to date equipment to manage these. They will most likely be bottling under CO2 or nitrogen and will be checking throughout the bottling run for dissolved oxygen, SO2, correctly applied closures and other quality issues. Smaller producers may only use their bottling line occasionally or may call in a mobile line – the quality of which also varies significantly. In some of these cases, procedures are outdated, equipment might not be working properly or the mobile line is taking shortcuts to get the job done quicker. In all cases, it is the attention to detail that matters and I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other.

As has been mentioned above, wine shipped in container will be protected by SO2 but even here the same limits apply, with red wine having a maximum of 150mg/L total sulphur in bottle. Fistful of Schist 2016 had a total of 96mg/L SO2 so still well within this limit.

Temperature
Again as noted above, the thermal mass of a container of wine actually helps to avoid the extremes that could be experience en-route from the southern hemisphere in particular. That said, we do ensure our carriers stow all of our wines in the best protected parts of vessels and use refrigerated trucks as necessary so I don’t think this will make a massive difference for us.

Traceability/Provenance

We work closely with producers and agents on all our wines and we audit a number each year to ensure they have full traceability of where the juice comes from. This is a legal requirement and whilst there is plenty of generic bulk wine on the market, it would be wrong to write off all large volumes as anonymous, characterless “supermarket wine”. Again, we aim to offer value across our range and so whilst a £6.50 bottle won’t be mistaken for a £20 claret, it will still be amongst the best in class.

For a number of less expensive wines, it is common practice for a buyer to be presented with a number of tank samples by an agent or negociant and to create a blend from these rather than working directly with one grower. In some cases, this might be tanks of wine already in Europe, or still in the region of origin. As I mention above, as long as the quality is preserved, I’m not sure it matters where exactly this process takes place.

Why don’t labels shout about it more? I guess because not enough people want the information. As my points above suggest, the pros and cons are a bit involved and people prioritise other information above this. Perhaps as environmental considerations become more of a concern, UK bottled will become something to shout about much as some Bordeaux producers still use “Mis en bouteille au Chateau” on their front labels.

Apologies for the slightly rushed answer.

Simon
QC Buying Manager

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Many thanks Simon @wineboar for taking the time to share an interesting and informed view of the various approaches to bottling. Seems to me, that irrespective of the approach taken to bottling wine, the TWS QC dept have it very much under control :+1:

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I second @alchemist’s comments. Thanks so much @wineboar for putting this detailed explanation together for the benefit of all the members. It is indeed insightful, thorough and transparent. It must definitely was not rushed and appreciated.

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Thanks for this great explanation.

wrt - why labels don’t shout about it more…the whole process has gone full circle where producers didnt bottle, but shipped barrels - now they ship Flexi tanks! I think there is still something of a “rose tinted” view on wine production, that its small production and everything is lovingly completed at the picturesque Chateau surrounded by vines. The reality of larger scale production is very different and it certainly has a place when producing to a price point

Im glad to hear about the QC employed by TWS - and certainly to use a full time bottler rather than a line used part-time by a producers does make sense (QC and commercially). Having come from the Petrochem industry we regally shipped in bulk for breaking down to pack (drums/IBC) in the sales territory…so no difference to what you do.

ps. can’t believe I’d remembered the “w” being UK!

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Whilst Simon’s extensive response is welcomed and very informative, I do think his comments on pressure of space are incorrect. I have just thumbed through the latest list and there is more than ample room (I suggest just after the alcohol by volume statement) to indicate the wines provenance correctly and openly.

Does his response constitute merely a personal (albeit informed) view or is the WS likely to consider it further?

Thanks for this. :slight_smile: We’re always reviewing our procedures and I hope Simon’s explanation has shown that English bottlings are very much on our radar and being given due consideration, so I’ll make sure your feedback about this is noted. :slight_smile:

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No it’s not, it’s a perfectly valid and sensible point of view. There is limited space, and including every piece of information from the alcohol level down to the colour of the winemaker’s underpants is unecessary and would look dreadful. Hence the point about priorities. I can’t imagine this information is top of the list of the vast majority of members, but if it is it’s clear that TWS will bump it up the priority line accordingly.

What is perhaps disingenuous is insisting on flogging a personal bugbear and trying to insinuate that TWS are lacking in their duty and professional competence by not catering to the smallest whim of every member, on a site that is really for member to member chat and not official complaints or queries.

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Hear hear! :+1:

This information is certainly not top of my priorities and if I’m bothered about it - I will check for the code on the bottle.
I’m sure that ‘The centre will hold, and mere anarchy is not going to be loosed upon the world’.

Sorry that you think requesting additional information, that there is clearly room for, about provenance is a “personal bugbear”. It seems more relevant to me (and possibly other members of TWS) than chit chat about who’s drinking what etc.

@Inbar How can I check the code on the bottle before purchasing it? That’s the reason for adding it to the list surely.

I’ll rest my case and await whatever outcome occurs!

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Point well made Tom, and AnaGramWords if you are not interested in chit chat about who’s drinking what, then the answer is simple, you don’t have to read it.

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That’s a fair point - but for that you got Member Services.
This community’s raison d’etre is precisely “chit chat about who is drinking what”, as you call it.

Perhaps the question is - why does it matter so much?

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Maybe you read it here :wink:

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I hadn’t “read” that but flicking past may have jogged my memory…on one of my WSET courses we were lectured by David Bird MW on wine technology (inc legislation) and in the section on bottling he told us lots of fascinating facts …besides the Country codes another was lot numbers - when was your wine bottled down to the day and time !

I would recommend his book “understanding wine technology - the science of wine explained” to anyone slightly geeky

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By law wine sold in UK must have a lot number, but while some are decipherable, others are not and some just have a lot number to meet requirements, e.g. ‘Lot 1’ (probably small production that bottles all the vintage on one go)

I frequently buy the Society’s Montepulciano and record the lot numbers on Cellartracker so I may drink earlier bottled wines before later, the lot number being year and month. Thus I am almost finished with Lot 1706 of the 2016 vintage and next will be Lot 1801.

Some larger wineries use inkjet printers on bottling lines to put detailed lot info and abv on labels at time label is put on bottle.

All fascinating stuff to those of us of a geeky nature.

You were lucky to get David Bird on your WSET, he is fascinating to speak with.

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For many it doesn’t, and I suspect users of this forum are more interested in all aspects on wine than the majority of members.

I think why the information is important to some has been mentioned in this thread.

In summary:

For Bulk Shipping

  • Greener, less energy/CO2/space used than shipping wine in bottles halfway across world.
  • More hygienic and efficient bottling at destination than at winery.
  • Cheaper wine

Against Bulk Shipping

  • Loss of authenticity
  • Loss of jobs in poor countries
  • Blander wine
  • Invented brands that vary source of wine

Does it matter? Does how a bottle is sealed matter when TWS has approved it and has a satisfaction guarantee, yet TWS website and catalogue identify plastic, screwcap, natural cork and DIAMs?

On the website there’s a 2 column grid showing 7 items info about a wine including closure; adding an 8th wouldn’t take any more space and there would be two columns of 4 items instead of one of and one of 4.

Alternatively the website could show both the front and rear wine labels; these should be available from the seller so wouldn’t require extra photography from TWS.

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