My attention was caught by a typically sensationalist news heading, enough that I was compelled to interrupt your regular weekly article to put in my two cents.
Wrath about grapes: critics angry after New Zealand winemaker uses Australian fruit
Montana, which is credited with starting country’s sauvignon blanc revolution, says grapes from Australia are cheaper
By law, New Zealand wines must display the wine’s origin, but the vast majority of New Zealand wines – including Montana – print “Wine of Australia” in small-type on the back of the bottle next to the barcode.
From a consumer perspective, let’s face it: this sucks. You’re going through aisles of bottles trying to pick out a nice bottle of wine, see a familiar label and a cheap price and you buy it. Only after you get home do you read the fine print and see that you did not buy what you thought you were getting.
Sure, technically speaking they may have followed the letter of the law, but don’t expect your average consumer to merely grin and bear it. More likely than not they would feel a bit miffed, maybe even ashamed for being deceived. Another customer lost.
Let’s not dwell on the negatives any longer. Might there be other solutions?
Alternative Cost-Saving Ideas
Coincidentally, for my WSET Diploma our class was given a business-oriented research assignment. It’s focus: Bulk Wine Shipping.
Like anyone else I naturally assumed that all wine came in bottles (or goon bags). So it came as a surprise to learn that wines did not necessarily have to be shipped in glass bottles.
Wines could instead be pumped into large, standard-sized tanks. These would then be shipped to their destination, and bottling would then be performed locally.
There is a huge cost-saving in not having to pay to ship over heavy glass, and tanks can contain a larger quantity of wine than a similarly-sized shipping container full of bottles.
If you are interested, I sourced much information from this report by WRAP.
This in particular was enlightening:
Most wine bottles shipped in containers are first packed in boxes and then stacked on pallets. The number of bottles that can be transported in a container is usually determined by the internal container dimensions, rather than by the consignment’s weight. In simple terms, a 500g bottle holding 750ml of wine would weigh 1.25kg and therefore a 20ft container could transport 17,336 bottles (21,670 divided by 1.25). In practice a 20ft container may only hold 12,000 to 13,000 bottles i.e. the quantity transported is limited by the container’s volume. [i.e. 9000-9750 litres]
ISO tanks (Figure 1) are stainless steel vessels which are designed to fit directly onto standard trucks and can readily be transferred to rail or sea transport. The vessels used for wine have a capacity of 26,000 litres [i.e. almost 3x the above example!]
Selling triple the quantity of wine, without paying for the weight of glass? Sounds good to me, but I will let the more experienced accountants and business people at their mega-corporation do their own calculations and SWOT analyses.
Wine in Can
Just to throw in another alternative, wine in a can could possibly become a thing, offering both cheap wines and more serious examples.
I am personally less enthusiastic about this format, as metal is a more efficient conductor of heat, which is generally not good for wine.
However, if we are talking only about keeping wines at a low price, then perhaps this would not be as important an issue in the grand scheme of things.
As much as we like to romanticize wine, at the very bottom it is a commodity, and economic decisions will have to be made, both by consumers and companies.
Consumers, armed with the right amount of knowledge, want to get the best quality their money can buy.
Companies, with various options that affect production and marketing, want to maximize profits and/or lower costs.
Both parties are acting rationally. When these two goals are aligned, everyone benefits.
Can you think of any other ways to save production costs? Leave a comment below!
Read more: Advice For The Neophyte Sommelier