In the past 11 years bulk shipping of wine to bottling plants in the UK has exploded with an astonishing 50% of all wine sold in the UK now being bottled on British soil. Everyone is at it, even Marks and Spencer does it for their volume wines. The wine is taken from source in what is called a flexi tank (essentially a massive bag in box). Each one takes on average 25, 000 litres – that’s 33,333 bottles and fits into a normal container. Being one massive “swimming pool” of wine in transit keeps the temperature much more stable in comparison to individual bottles whose temperature will fluctuate depending on where the bottles lie in the pack, or in the container ship. This is much better for keeping the wine fresh & fruity. There are several bottling plants in the UK now, with the 3 main players being Kingsland, Greencroft and Accolade. Accolade alone bottle over 74 million litres a year at their plant in South West England which is the size of 12 football pitches and runs 24 hours a day, 363 days a year. These plants are almost futuristically high tech and all have on-site labs where the bulk wine can be tested, analysed and adjusted (acid added or alkali added for instance) before being bottled in an oxygen-free, sterile environment and then labelled with constant checks and tests being carried out at every step. This not only hugely reduces the cost and carbon foot print of a business - by reducing the weight and size of shipments all the way around the world - but also gives the big brands huge control over their final product and allows them greater flexibility in order to move with the highly dynamic and competitive bulk market. There are down sides. For instance, the move to E.U. & U.K. bulk bottling has not been popular in South Africa due to the many jobs lost that were dependent on the local bottling plants there. So where next? These kind of operations only become financially viable when dealing with wines for the mass market and somehow I can’t see top Bordeaux like Chateau Petrus being bulk shipped in the next 1,000 years. Is “Joe-Public-wine-drinker” aware of where their wine is being bottled? Do we care? Some drinkers don't even care where it is grown, never mind where it is bottled. Some of the top U.K. Brands are purposefully vague on this front. I wonder, with ever improving technology, in the not so distant future, will wine come in three categories: Rare, artisanal, interesting & expensive wine bottled in the area/country it is grown. Reasonably-priced, but relatvely bland wine sold in bottles that has travelled the world in a giant bladder. Or finally, cheap as chips “drink-me-now” wine in cartons and bag in box? For people who don't really care...


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