Trade divided over bulk wine shipping

13 July, 2007

Wine suppliers are keen to cut their carbon footprints by importing wine in bulk - and 37 per cent are so convinced that wine quality doesn't suffer in the process they would like to see more of it, an OLN survey has found.

"The industry could make a real impact on reducing the amount of natural resources used up by manufacturing and transporting glass and other raw materials around the globe, as long as neither the quality nor the integrity of the product is compromised in any way," said HwCg marketing manager Henry John.

Twenty-three per cent of those questioned said they would like bulk shipping to stay at today's levels, and 17 per cent wanted to see less of it.

United Wineries' Anthony Collet pointed out that it would be "unthinkable" for regions with strict production rules, such as Rioja.

"Any wine producer with half a brain cell will always privilege his own fill as opposed to wine sold in bulk," said one French specialist. "The more British-filled wines on the market, the less the quality for the consumer."

Waitrose wine buying manager Justin Howard-Sneyd said: "The primary motivation for large retailers to move to bulk shipment and bottling in the UK is one of cost saving.

"The environmental argument is complex and needs to be properly understood so we do not have examples of bottles being shipped in empty from Italy and bulk being shipped from France, in order to be bottled in the UK.

"Where there is a genuine environmental benefit, it must be offset against an almost guaranteed quality degradation. This is caused by the extra handling and by placing the bottling into the hands of a contact packer whose primary interest is safety first, efficiency second and ­quality last, rather than having the bottling being conducted by, or overseen by, the producer who has taken so much trouble to produce the wine in the first place."

Others were undecided and said change would be driven by market forces. South African specialists said any moves towards bulk shipping could damage Fairtrade and black empowerment projects.

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