Ever wondered how Asda and Tesco can sell their supposed £6 a bottle wine for 3 for £10. One trick is to cut the distance between the manufacture of the glass bottle and the place where it is filled with the unctuous liquid. In the case of Lindeman’s Tollana Shiraz/Cabernet the distance is probably about a few hundred yards.
If you look very carefully at the label you’ll see the wine is bottled at CH2 4LF — doesn’t sound very Australian as it’s not. It’s actually on an industrial estate, not near South Australia’s Barossa Valley, but next door to the picturesque Stanlow Oil Refinery on the plains of the Dee outside Chester (yes, in Cheshire). You can see an aerial view here.
It’s a long way from the old French ‘mise en chateaux’ guarantee of quality as the Aussie wine is transported in bulk to its export markets and bottled close to its eventual consumers. There’s a sound environmental reason for doing this — it prevents carbon being wasted by unnecessarily transporting the weight of glass bottles around the globe (and it also means the recycled bottles don’t need transporting back again.) However, it’s an interesting reminder of how economics and globalisation have made the wine come to the bottler and not vice versa.
The concept is taken to its extreme in Chester as the bottler is also the glass maker — a company called Quinn Glass. They even have a video on their website of the 400 bottles per minute production line where your Aussie plonk is put into bottle — get to it via their filling page. They also operate a bonded warehouse which means they can hold their customers’ stock so they don’t have to pay duty until the wine leaves the premises just before delivery. It’s a clever and lean operation with the cullet (smashed up recycled glass) arriving at the factory and conceivably being turned into a full wine bottle within hours. There’s no doubt this ingenuity must knock a substantial amount of the cost of a bottle of wine — which makes the con of something like Hardy’s Crest being retailed at an RRP of £9.99 even more ridiculous than most people already realise when they see it perpetually ‘on offer’ for £4.99.
Quinn don’t just do wine. They do beer, spirits, alcopops — the lot. One interesting page on their website exposes the manufacturing process for a lot of drinks: ‘Product can be processed at sales gravity or high gravity product then diluted and carbonated. Flavoured Alcoholic Beverages and soft drinks can be made from concentrate or from a recipe.’ That is to say that a lot of commercial drinks are watered down on bottling. Again, it might be an economic and environmentally smart idea to produce alcopops or even beers in concentrated form although it makes the stomach churn to think of what some concentrated version of WKD or Smirnoff Ice might be like.