Small scale bulk wine transportation | Q&A with our supplier of IBCs and One-Trip containers

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As premium quality private labels are becoming a popular strategy, smaller batches of high-end wines need to be shipped from winery to winery. A small addition of a carefully selected wine can make miracles to a final blend. Wines are also taken from wineries unbottled for bottling at a contract bottler, this is especially common if the wine is to be packaged in cans or any other special format, wineries seldom have specialised bottling lines. When making market tests of new brands it’s also common to start with small volumes. It saves a lot of money to start smaller, there is instances where a 25,000 litre flexi-tank is just way too much. 

In fact, small scale bulk wine transportation is nothing new, Amphorae were the ancient world’s standardised way to transport wine and oak barrels took over hundreds of years ago. Whoever studied the great wines of Bordeaux or Burgundy know well that small scale bulk wine transportation was the norm until chateau-bottling gained popularity in the early 20th century.

Due to several factors, such as the environment and economic pressures, the global craze of in-house bottling seems now to be in decline. The industry is currently re-learning about what is commonly called `small scale bulk wine transportation´. To get valuable insights we sat down with Nick Jones, head of technical sales at Arlington Packaging (UK). Arlington is a company having a range of innovative products for the efficient and economical handling of bulk quantities of liquids. 


Arlington’s tagline is “the future of liquid handling” how does that future look like? 

– In a world driven ever increasingly towards improved quality standards, risk management as well as lower cost within the supply chain the products and services supplied by Arlington Packaging become more and more relevant. Arlington’s tagline “leaders in liquids handling” reflects the company’s industry leading expertise in the area of one-trip and returnable bulk liquids handling with single use liners. To answer the question more directly, the future looks busy. 

What sizes do the containers come in? 

– The containers range between 250 and 1000 litres. Obviously volumes larger than 1000 litres simply require more containers and volumes of less than 1000 litres can be filled into the nearest available sized container. Where a container is only part filled however the liner bag inside ensures the product is not in contact with the unused headspace removing the need for gas flushing and any risk of oxidisation. Arlington containers are optimised to maximise shipping, general transport and storage efficiency thus further work to help drive costs down.

Will operators in the wineries require training?

– Arlington work with their customers to ensure the correct fit of packaging for both the product and the environment in which it is to be used. The systems are not by nature complicated and Arlington will advise on best practices and minimum operator intervention procedures. In general  operators can be instructed through the use of dedicated on-line videos. 

Do the wines need special preparation in terms of filtering or higher levels of sulphur dioxide?

– By matching the product to the correct liner – in this case one of our range of metallised ultra-low permeability liners – no special preparation should be required.

What is the most common reason your clients ship a few thousand litres of wine? 

– There are many reasons why our customers will ship smaller volumes of wine, everything from supply into the food preparation industry to supply into UK en vrac wine shops. The main reason however is the need, particularly at the very cost sensitive lower end of the market, to remove every extra penny of cost from the supply chain. Shipping heavy and space inefficient glass bottles around is not the most cost effective way. This area of the market has in the past used large lined containers for shipping in bulk however Arlington’s bag-in-box IBC’s offer more flexibility, a better containment environment at lower risk and generally cost

Is there any wines you discourage clients to ship in an IBC? 

– The main thing to remember with this kind of liquids transport container is that it is not a pressure vessel. As such it would not be appropriate for any liquids that need transporting or storing above atmospheric pressure eg sparkling wines. Fine for products which may produce low level fermentation or similar gases but not for anything more volatile.

Do you consider the bulk wine industry to be a interesting business focus? 

– As specialists in our field we have a number of niche industries that we have made our own. We’ve done this be taking the time to understand the issues facing producers solving problems and tailoring our offering so suit their needs. Our experience of the wine industry so far is that it is an environment with producers who are passionate about their product and who appreciate working with suppliers who take any issues as seriously as they do. We supply some of the industries we are in because they require our specialist knowledge to resolve problems which are specific to them. This is both interesting and profitable for us.