A wide range of packaging options are available to Australian wine producers, with the appropriate choice often determined by the size of the wine business, the equipment and expertise available, costs and export market requirements. These options include:
- Manual filling and closure application (typically used by hobby winemakers, very small operations, or for super premium small volume parcels)
- Conducting packaging in-house using equipment owned by the wine business
- Using a mobile contract bottling operation to conduct on-site packaging
- Transporting wine to a commercial packaging facility which would typically process wine quickly and provide a range of pre- and post-packaging analyses
- Exporting wine in a flexi-container for packaging in the destination country.
Information on this page focuses mainly on bottling in glass bottles, although other packaging formats are mentioned, when relevant.
For wine businesses conducting their own bottling, the equipment for rinsing and filling bottles/wine containers should ideally be situated within a sanitised room separate from the rest of the cellar or winery. The area should be tiled or have walls and flooring that allow for regular washing and sanitation. The rinser and filler equipment are generally in an enclosed housing, and the path from filler to closure application should also be covered with canopies to prevent any airborne contaminants entering wine after filling and before the wine package is sealed.
Wine is most commonly packaged in 750 mL glass bottles, but various bottle sizes are available and are detailed below.
Different bottle sizes available for wine packaging
|Bottle volume capacity (L)||Bottle name(s)||Equivalent number of 750 mL bottles|
|0.1875 (187.5 mL)||Piccolo, split||0.25|
|0.375 (375 mL)||Demi, half-bottle||0.5|
|0.750 (750 mL)||Common bottle||1|
(Jeroboam for sparkling wine)
(Rehoboam for sparkling wine)
Other containers include soft packs or casks (bag-in box), with 2 L, 4 L, 5 L and 10 L formats. Plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and lightweight glass bottles are also available. Other convenience packaging formats include pouches (187 mL) and aluminium cans (250 mL). Lightweight packaging options are chosen by some wine businesses as their use reduces transportation costs and associated emissions.
There are five main bottle shapes standardised across the world: the Alsace, Bordeaux and Burgundy bottles (used for table wine) a Champagne bottle and a Port bottle. The bottle shapes vary in height, width, weight and the shape of the neck and shoulders of the bottle.
There are several suppliers of glass wine bottles within Australia and glass can also be imported from overseas. Wine Packagers of Australia detail the current domestic packaging suppliers available.
Each bottle shape produced by a glass supplier has a product specification which should be sourced before using the bottle. The specifications should be used to adjust the bottling filling equipment to match the bottle type to be packaged. The specification includes detail on the bottle type, colour, finish (the required closure type for the bottle), fill capacity, bottle height, diameter and weight and any tolerances of these measures.
A fill height is specified which is required to achieve a 750 mL wine volume and also a fill point which marks the point where the closure will extend to, for the different bottle bore of each bottle shape. The bottle bore is the cylindrical internal diameter and length of the bottle neck, which can range from 17-19 mm in diameter and between 20 and 50 mm in length, which together allow appropriate small headspace volumes to be achieved at filling. As these values are quite specific, it is essential to use the appropriate closure with the appropriate bottle type. The finish of the internal bore and the top of the bottle mouth is particularly important, as this is where the seal is made with the cork or screwcap closure, respectively. A typical 750 mL glass bottle weighs approximately 400 g, but can range from 900 g to just 350 g for lightweight glass bottles. Packaging equipment should be adjusted for the specific bottle weight, so that it can identify non-conforming product, over-fills or under-fills using balances incorporated into the packaging lines.
Empty bottles generally arrive shrink-wrapped on pallets as six layers of around 200 bottles, subject to bottle type, separated by carboard or equivalent pallet dividers. Bottles can contain residue cardboard fibres, or sometimes dust or insects if pallets have been opened between bottling runs and left unprotected. In most cases these types of physical contaminants will be removed during rinsing prior to filling (see below). Occasionally wrapped pallets of imported bottles may have been pierced and sprayed with fumigants to prevent biosecurity incursions. When this occurs, it is advised that the bottles should be rinsed using water before use. Bottles can be transferred to the bottling line by hand or a de-palletiser can pick up layers of glass bottles at a time and transfer to a conveyor belt of a packaging line.
It is recommended that bottles and cases be numbered during packaging, generally using the Julian date (calculated by counting the number of days between 1 January and the current date) and a 24 hour format time stamp. If an incident arises with a production run, it can be tracked to a particular day and time in the run, meaning only a small amount of product may need to be investigated, isolated or reworked, rather than the whole run. This also allows any non-conforming product or future customer complaints to be investigated by consulting bottling records.
Empty glass bottles stored outside can sometimes become ‘weathered’. Amorphous silica can form an unusual deposit in wines, caused by the ‘bottle weathering’. When a glass bottle is blown, soda vapour condenses on the inner surface of the bottle and partially reacts with the glass surface to form an alkali-rich skin. Weathering of an empty bottle occurs in humid conditions when water vapour condenses on the inside of the bottle and reacts with the alkali layer. With a low level of weathering, a sodium carbonate layer forms on the inside of the bottle, known as a ‘bloom’, which is easily removed during bottle washing prior to filling. When there is a large amount of water present during storage, this bloom is washed away, leaving a silicon-rich layer which can lead to the formation of needle- or scroll-like amorphous silica structures in wine. If bottle weathering is suspected, the test for weathered glass can be used.
For logistics planning, and assuming no wine loss due to lees, spills, filtration or other processes, the table below indicates the approximate number of bottles of wine for each size cask or tank volume.
|Vessel||Number of bottles per vessel||Number of 12 bottle cases||Number of 56 case pallets|
|Barrique Bordeaux (225 L)||300||25||0.4|
|Barrique Burgundy (228 L)||304||25||0.5|
|Hogshead (300 L)||400||33||0.6|
|Puncheon (500 L)||667||56||1.0|
|Puncheon (600 L)||800||67||1.2|
|1,000 L tank||1,000||83||1.5|
How many cases of wine fit on a pallet?
There are a large number of different pallet sizes available. Pallets are generally made of either wood, plastic or occasionally steel. The Australian pallet size is different from international pallet sizes and this, along with bottle and case shape, affects the number of cases per pallet, the pallet stacking configuration and also how many pallets fit within a shipping container. Typically, between 48 and 56 cases are stacked over four layers on an Australian pallet to keep pallet weight under 1,000 kg, but this is dependent on the pallet material and weight rating and the pallet dimensions. If planning to export wine, the appropriate pallet type required for the destination country needs to be requested from the distributor and used during packaging to palletise the packaged wine. Chep and Loscam have a pallet hiring system whereby the pallets remain the property of the company. Approved heat treatment and fumigation are required for timber pallets, and a fumigation certificate is required for shipment. Standard pallet dimensions for key markets are listed below, or can be found by selecting the appropriate destination country on the shipper’s website.
|Pallet type||Dimensions (width x length)|
|Australia||1,165 x 1,165 mm|
|China||1,200 x 1,000 mm|
|EUR, EUR-1||800 x 1,200 mm|
|EUR-2||1,200 x 1,000 mm|
|North America||1,219 x 1,016 mm|
There are multiple ways to stack cases on a pallet. The aim is to maximise the number of cases on the pallet for the weight tolerance of the pallet and shipping requirements. Note that complex stacking schemes can lead to increased loading and unloading times and possible higher costs for palletising.