Wine goes by train

Many things go by train – even wine.

Australia wines for sale in China - 'Jacob's Creek' and 'Yellow Tail'

Off to Mildura

Mildura is one of Victoria’s many wine regions, and also the origin of a freight service that carries containers of export goods to the Port of Melbourne.

Melbourne-bound Mildura freight passes through Bannockburn

Among those loaded containers is bulk wine, loaded into 20 foot long ISO ‘tanktainers‘.

Eurotainer carrying alcoholic beverages

The giveaway is the scrawled ‘alcoholic beverages’ text on the emergency information panel.

Just don’t go tapping the wrong tank – this similar looking Orica container is located with sodium cyanide!

Orica tank container carrying sodium cyanide

And up in New South Wales

Mcwilliam’s Wines based in Griffith took things further – they had 11 dedicated tank wagons to transport bulk wine from their processing plant at Yenda to their bottling and distribution plant at Pyrmont, which later moved to Chullora.

4882 shunting Mcwilliam's Wines. (scan) 1998
Robert Cook photo

Further reading

In 2014 British wine critic Jancis Robinson wrote this piece on bulk wine exports from Australia:

In the last few years there has been a huge structural change in how wine is delivered to those who drink it. The UK, for example, is the most important market for one of the world’s most enthusiastic wine exporters, Australia. In 2008 fewer than three in every 10 bottles of Australian wine on British shelves contained wine that had been shipped from Australia in bulk rather than in bottle. Four years later that figure was eight in every 10, and the total amount of wine shipped out of Australia in bulk overtook the volume exported in bottle.

The reason for the switch to bulk transport?

This was when Britain’s major retailers and food producers signed the Courtauld Commitment to reduce packaging waste, which had the result of dramatically increasing the proportion of wine brought into the country unencumbered by heavy glass packaging.

But there is one big downside.

But what may have been good for the planet, has been bad for Australia and bottlers in other major wine-exporting countries with their mothballed bottling plants. The big bottle producers are international companies that have merely switched their supply bases, but in countries such as South Africa, bulk shipping has had a serious effect on local employment.

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2 Responses to “Wine goes by train”

  1. mich says:

    Most of that wine will still be bottled in the UK anyway, before it is sold.

    And most of those bottles will be thrown away, same as it ever was.

    It seems to me, the environmental saving is going to come from the reduced cost of shipping, and not the disposal of the empty bottles as packaging waste.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Good point there – but to take things even further, the savings from bulk shipping will only apply if the bottles themselves are made locally, and not imported from overseas.

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