An extraordinary amount of work goes into producing wine, from cultivating the delicate grapes to harvesting the fruit, making the wine, operating a tasting room and marketing the product. Bottling companies are critical to the success of Virginia wine, providing wineries fast, efficient and cost effective alternatives that eliminate the need for bottling equipment at a winery. We had the wonderful opportunity to be invited again to Fabbioli Cellars to witness their bottling process on Saturday June 15th. There we met with the ever friendly Fabbioli team in their new winery building to see the process in action.
Fabbioli Cellars usually bottles about four times a year and seeing the action is truly fascinating. The winery uses the Canadian Hunter Bottling company, offering its clients the latest in wine bottling technology. Virtually self-contained, the mobile bottling line enables small scaled wineries to save space, maintenance and time by bringing the bottling equipment to them. The company's owner, Randy Hemphill, took us back stage in his new state-of-the-art enclosed truck, housing the equipment. Needless to say, Randy's ears are perfectly tuned to the music of the equipment. In the middle of talking to us about the bottling process, he would pause to fine tune his instrument and listen to the subtle sounds of the machinery.
The whole process went very smoothly, from filling, corking and labeling to putting the bottles back in the cases. The bottling process starts at the back of the trailer where the empty bottles are fed down a conveyor line to be passed through an orbit air and nitrogen bottle rinser. Then, the bottles are filled with wine through a spinning centralized filling system connected to the winery's wine hose. From there, the cork is compressed and inserted, and a foil capsule is dropped on top of the bottle and pressure spun into place. Front and back labels are then affixed using a pressurized sensitive labeling system and the finished bottles are then moved along the curving conveyor line toward the back of the trailer, where they are put into cardboard cases. At the end of the line, each case glides down a roller coaster ramp into the waiting arms of Fabbioli Cellars' staff applying labels to each carton. Seeing the process was truly amazing, with so much precision and speed!
On that day, they bottled five wines in less than 8 hours, bottling nearly 3200 bottles per hour! By the end of the day, they had completed a total over a thousand wine cases, including 130 cases of their new 2012 Chardonnay, 150 cases of their Aperitif Pear Port, 220 cases of their Royalty port-style wine, 380 cases of their new 2012 Chambourcin and 100 cases of their new 2011 Padrino. Not bad for a day's labor! Fabbioli Cellars bottles their wines using this mobile bottling line, except their Pear in the Bottle, which is hand bottled and labelled due to the delicateness and shape of the bottles.
In addition to seeing the bottling process in action, we also visited Fabbioli Cellars' above ground wine cellar buildings, which hosted several stainless steel wine tanks and wine barrels. Doug Fabbioli talked to us about how everything at the winery is aimed at conserving resources for sustainable practices. All the barrels in the cellar are reused barrels from other wineries. He has even started reusing his French oak wine barrels, crafting them into stunning wine racks that he sells in his tasting room. Furthering the life of the wood used in the barrels, Potomac Woodworks makes gorgeous handcrafted repurposed wood pens, some of which come from Fabbioli Cellars' discarded Raspberry Merlot wine barrel staves!