This summer, Fenestra has installed and started using a new bottling line. (All the images can be clicked to bring up a full sized image.) A bottling line is a production line that allows us to bottle, capsule, label, and box finished wine. Previously, Fenestra would rent a large mobile bottling line for a day. Click here for a Lanny's description of what it takes to get ready for a bottling. This meant that we had to get all of the wines ready for bottling. However, typically, we only scheduled a few number of bottling days, in which we bottled upwards of 2000 cases in one very long day. By purchasing this new bottling line, Fenestra can do smaller, more frequent bottling. This gives Fenestra more flexibility to plan and schedule a bottling.
Linked below are two versions of the bottling line in action. What you will see is the bottling from start to finish. The movies are narrated by your webmaster, as he describes the line to his children! Not the most high brow description ... but it gets across the basics :)
Lower Quality Movies: Quicktime, 4 MB , Windows Media, 2.3MB
Higher Quality Movies: Quicktime, 13 MB , Windows Media, 12MB
A bottling starts by dumping the empty bottles onto the conveyor belt. Then, the bottles are blown with air, or nitrogen, to remove any particulate matter. The empty bottles move down the conveyor belt to the sparger, which injects nitrogen, and then to the filler.
The filler fills the empty bottle with wine. Our filler can fill eight bottles at a time. Before the filled bottles advance to the corker, a machine takes out enough wine such that the bottle has the correct amount of wine in the bottle. Why is this done? As Brent, our assistant winemaker explained to us, it is easier to calibrate one machine to remove some wine, than to calibrate eight fillers.
The filled bottles are then corked using the corker. The corker removes any remaining air in the headspace, and corks the bottle. The corked bottles follow the right turn of the conveyor belt to the capsuler. The capsuler. puts a capsule onto the bottle, taps it down, and smoothes out the capsule.
Afterwards, the filled, corked, and capsuled bottles moves to the last machine in the bottling line, the labeler. The labeler applies an adhesive label to the front and back of the bottle. The finished bottle exits the conveyor belt, where staff put the finished bottle into a labeled box.
The new bottling line is mostly automated. We only require workers to dump empty bottles onto the bottling line and take the finished bottles off the line to box and palletize the finished goods. Nonetheless, it some times is fast and furious work!