Bottling day! The day you stand and stare at bottles going by you, one after another, in what seems like a never ending march, or as Mia calls it, ‘the last chance the winemaker has to ruin the wine’.
Inside this tractor is the entire bottling line! We are bottling the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc first, and Mia started very early with the 375ml bottles, then they changed the line over to the 750ml bottles (different bottles and different labels).
The empty bottles are loaded on at the beginning of the line.
Then they are fed through this sparger which fills them with nitrogen. The idea being that it keeps out oxygen during the filling process.
These are the fillers. The bottles are pushed up by the pistons from the bottom, which makes the fillers put wine into the bottle, then as the piston comes down, the filler stops.
The corker has a big funnel that is loaded with corks, and it feeds each cork down to the corker.
Then the corker puts a cork in each bottle.
Then the bottle heads on down the line to the capsule machine.
The capsule is placed the bottle, and heads into the spinners.
You can see the loose capsule on the bottle on the left and as it goes around it gets lifted onto a spinner, which spins the capsule on and it comes out looking like the bottle on the right.
These are the bottles with capsules on them (you can see the spinners at the top of the picture and how the bottle is raised up into the spinners) before they go through the labeler.
It’s at this point in the bottling line that Mia or I usually stand watch. From this point, you can see bottles coming down the line from the corker, so you get a chance to see if the bottle actually HAS a cork before it gets a capsule slapped on it. You can also make sure the capsules are spun on correctly, and that they look nice.
We had some problems with capsules being mangled on the 750′s of the Sauv Blanc first thing, and it was spotty all day. So we’d watch, bottle after bottle go by. If you saw a mangled capsule, you pull the bottle off the line (before the labeler), pull the mangled capsule off the bottle, and place the bottle back in line before the capsuler.
The last thing on line is the labeler. This is pretty cool. It has rolls of the front and back labels wound around so that it applies both to the bottle in one pass.
The light blue square thing you see on the right is an electronic ‘eye’ that sees a bottle and turns on the belt with the labels. The bottle is sandwiched between the belt (which is moving) and the stationary padded board on this side. That makes the bottle spin as it goes through, applying the label to the front and then the back of the bottle.
Here is a closeup shot of the sticky side of the label being held on the moving belt.
After the bottles get their front and back label, they make a u-turn on the line and head down the back side of the whole line to the beginning, where they get put in cases.
The women working this section are great, and catch bottles with problem labels, or capsules, and send them back to us for us to re-do.
The cases get labeled on the outside and stacked on pallets.
This thing is cool. You can set the height on it, and as you add cases, each layer, it lowers down (automatically), so you aren’t having to bend over, or lift a case over your head.
Once you have 4 layers, it’s a full pallet for the Sauv Blanc, so they tie the upper layer, and then they wrap the whole pallet in shrink wrap.
This went on all day long. We finished bottling the Sauvingon Blanc, but we didn’t have time to do the Rosé. – Skippy