Materials used for wine storage have adapted tremendously over many years. As cultures learnt more about winemaking, they developed different methods of storage and transport which has led to the development of world trade. As trading became more popular, secure and practical storage of wine was needed for ease of transport, and more recently cost effective trading. Through the ages, the most common types of materials used for wine storage have been animal skins, clay pots knows as Amphorae, wooden barrels, concrete, steel and glass. As the quality of the wine produced began to increase, value of the product did also. People could not afford to loose wine due to broken storage vessels or risk of wine becoming oxidized because of poor sealing techniques.
The history of wine is understood to go back to the Stone Age around 6000 BC. Although there are not many archeological clues as to when the first wine was actually produced, it is understood that the first wine was probably produced as an accident. Grapes were more than likely left in storage and naturally began fermenting, creating wine (Weibe, 2013). Wine was originally used as a medicine, because of its antiseptic qualities and its ability to be added to water to kill the bacteria (Foulkes, 1994). The first extensively used storage container was probably made from animal skins (Jackson, 1994), although it is not known when these originated because of the degradation over time. The waterproof nature of animal skin would have worked well, however the amount of air that would be in contact with the wine would have caused it to go off very quickly, leading to the development of the clay amphorae.
Clay vessels were the popular choice for storing wine from the days of the Greeks thorough until the end of the Roman Empire. The design of the amphorae spread from culture to culture as trading between the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans grew. The amphorae is a type of clay pot, their shape allowed them to be tied onto ships using rope though the handles. This ensured the neck was up and so even if the twists of cloth or leather that was used to seal the amphorae didn’t leave it watertight, the wine wouldn’t spill out (Bershad, n.d.). The shape of the bottom of the vessel also allowed the pot to be pushed into the soft ground to cool down the contents.
When not being used in transport, the amphorae were placed in stands such as this so the vessel remained upright.
The interior of the amphorae were often covered with pine resin and put into a kiln at a temperature between 800 to 1000°C. This gave the amphorae’s a glass glazing which made them non porous (Jackson, 1994). The Egyptians were the first to stamp their amphorae's while the clay was still damp, leaving information about the place of origin and winemaker (Foulkes, 1994). This method became the first wine labels. Amphorae and earthenware were used for a considerable amount of time and enabled the first wine trade. Their heavy and fragile nature, as well as limited storage length (Unwin, 1996), lead to the development of the wooden barrel.
Sometime round 100BC the Gaul’s began using large wooden vessels for beer storage. This was adapted by the Romans as they realized that the barrels were more portable, lighter and stronger then their amphora's. Wine barrels were first used in the Bordeaux region where the Romans found better grape varietals which could withstand the weather (Bershad, n.d.). The cooper techniques and design of the barrel used today is very similar to that of the Romans. Oak was considered the best wood to use because of it allowed the wine to breathe (Jackson, 1994). Wooden barrels became the primary container for aging and transportation of wine until the 20th century, when glass began to replace barrels for transportation (Jackson, 1994). Oak barrels were still used in winemaking, but because of their size it was found that once a barrel had had its cap removed, the air was able to get in and the wine began to turn to vinegar. A smaller storage vessel was needed.
(The History of Wine Part III - Wine Storage – Barrels, 2009)
Glass vessels were first used by the Romans for decanting wine from amphorae’s to the table. It was not until the 17th century with the development of sparkling wines that coal-fueled furnaces replaced the previous wood-burning ones and made it possible to produce thicker glass which is needed to hold the pressure of a sparkling wine. (Jackson, 1994)
Corks were first used to seal the glass bottles from 1800-1900 AD. During this time, work by Pasteur illustrated the oxidation affects of wine exposed to air. He found that the small amount of oxygen which a wine carries in bottle, leads to important chemical reactions and maturation (Foulkes, 1994). The wine style changed with this as winemakers began to understand that they could mature wines in bottle and so wine drinking progressed from consuming young wines, to the ability to age wine. Stoppers were produced which were made of ground glass. This effectively removed the problem of cork taint, but they were very hard to remove without breaking the bottle (Eastern Institute of Technology, 2009).
Prior to the 17th century, glass blowing technique wasn’t very accurate and was generally just one breath of the glass blower, producing a bulb shaped bottle. This caused a dramatic range in glass sizes and so wasn’t accurate enough for selling quantities of wine. In the 17th century, sizes and shapes of glass were experimented on (Foulkes, 1994). It was found that the longer, flatter shape made the bottles easier to store on their side, which helped keep the cork wet leading to wine tasting better when it was stored for longer.
In the 1800’s the industry found ways of making standard sized bottles and regions began to settle on what they found to be the ideal bottle size. The maximum standard bottle size was around 800ml but in some areas magnums and larger format bottles did exist. Up until 1945, wines from Burgundy and Champagne came in 800ml bottles and other regions and countries used their own preferred bottle size. In 1979 the USA made a push for 750ml bottles to be the standard requirement. From this, the European Union adopted the idea that 750ml should become the world standard so all winemakers could ship to the US with ease (A short history of wine bottles, 2009).
Many different shapes and sizes of glass bottles have been used through the ages. During the late 17th century bottles of wine being transported from Persia to India were wrapped in straw and packed into a wooden box, possibly the first uses of a case as we know it today (Foulkes, 1994). (Richards Packaging, n.d.) (Lascabanes to Moissac, 2008)
Winemaking today is generally made on a much larger scale. This has lead to different materials such as stainless steel and concrete tanks being used to ferment and store wine until it is ready to go to bottle. Most wineries have a variety of different sized tanks. Vineyard lots are generally fermented individually in smaller tanks and larger tanks used for blending small batch components to produce one finished blend of wine. Temperature of tanks can be controlled by refrigeration plates either inside the tank, or incorporated into the wall of the tank. This generally has a glycol system attached, allowing the temperature of the wine to be controlled by an automated system. Oak barrels are still frequently used in winemaking. They are favorable to winemakers because of the characteristics they give to the wine and the ability to use them for storage for months at a time with minimal care.
“Today’s bottles are shaped logically and scientifically. Bordeaux bottles are shaped with a short neck and high shoulder to trap sediment during pouring and to allow long and stable stacking and storing. Burgundy bottles have a longer neck with a slanted shoulder. Champagne bottles are thicker and shaped to handle more pressure and to fit in special racks during the lengthy production processes.” “Green tall slender bottles were German Rieslings. Chianti retained the onion shaped bottle wrapped in straw.” (A short history of wine bottles, 2009).
Wine can now be transported anywhere around the world by airplane or ship, without any noticeable decrease in quality. With major advances in quality materials used to store and transport wine, world trade possibilities have arisen. Generally the wines are put in 6 or 12 bottle cardboard cartons and stacked on pallets which go into containers or the cases themselves are stacked into the container, known as ‘loose stacked’. Refrigeration units are used to control the temperature inside the container, especially if the container is going across the equator where the temperature can be about 52°C which would be detrimental to the quality of the wine. There are even companies called Freight Forwarders who will arrange all details of the journey, container packing and even insurance to insure your wine gets to its destination in top quality. A far advancement from transporting wine in amphorae’s tied onto a boat as was the norm back in 600BC.
Flexi tanks are used for bulk shipments of wine. Here up to 24,000 liters of wine is pumped into a 20 foot container. It is pumped into a type of large plastic bag, which is impermeable to gasses. Small versions of the flexi tank design are available, down to 1,000 liters. These are called pallecons and are small enough to fit on a standard pallet. The advancement in quality of these is so strong that wine can be transported half way around the world in flexitank with no change of analysis or taste. ISO tanks are also used, generally for domestic train and truck transportation because they are a lot heavier than flexi tanks and pallecons.
These advantages of bulk transportation techniques have lead to the possibility of cheaper offshore bottling. Bulk wine can be shipped to off-shore bottling plants, where dry goods and bottling rates are cheaper. This way, dry goods don’t have to be shipped to New Zealand to be used in bottling, then shipped to markets close to the origin of the dry goods. This cuts back on CO2 admissions and provides a better carbon footprint for the winery, let alone the reduction in cost.
There is currently a consumer driven push for wine to be produced in smaller sizes from the 750ml standard. Within a day of opening, a 750ml bottle of wine will have a noticeable decrease in quality (Jackson, 1994) and so small format bottles bring the convenience of one or two glasses of wine, without the extra volume that would push most people over the drink driving limit if consumed. The use of glass for storage and transportation also has some disadvantages. Glass tends to be quite heavy and fragile. Glass manufacture also requires a lot of energy with sand having to be heated to about 1500 °C in a kiln to produce glass. Recycling glass also has its downfalls. Glass has to be sorted into many different categories because of the multitude of different glass colours now available. For this reason most glass doesn’t actually get recycled and tends to end up in the landfill.
PET (polyethylene tetrephthalate) plastic bottles in single serve portions are becoming more and more popular for outdoor events. Historically, wine has been offered at these events but has had to be poured into plastic cups because of safety regulations with glass. This has lead to longer queuing times and a lot of wastage with spilt glasses (Schmitt, 2013). Trains and airports have taken on board the concept to enable customers to enjoy wine where previously wine hasn’t been on offer. Tetra packs have also been produced for wine storage. They are made from cardboard which takes considerably less energy to made and are much lighter than glass. The future of storage I believe will push toward smaller pack size than the current 750ml and a development of another medium which is chemically inert, light, durable and impermeable to gas will replace the current glass standard. (Lo, 2013)
In the future of wine transport, I think there will be a push for lighter packaging materials and to eradicate the use of unnecessary packaging. Dividers use wi;; be eradicated with a change in package design maybe leading to a more rectangular shape to lessen dead space in transportation. Pallets will no longer be necessary and containers will be hand stacked as the industry standard. I also believe there will be an increase in offshore bottling, especially for countries like New Zealand who are quite isolated but sell a considerable amount of their wine to markets in other continents, where contract bottling facilities are available.
Technology transfer kate franklin
Changes in the materials
and containers used to store
and transport wine.
Kate Franklin WSC 5.05 2013
Evolution of wine storage
Earthenware – Amphorae
Concrete and Steel
First wine and storage
Wine produced as an accident
Used for medicinal purposes
Animal skins were thought to be used
because they were watertight, but couldn’t be
used as containers for transport
Earthenware – Amphorae
Egyptians, Greeks and Romans
Trade and selling spread the design to other
Shape of amphorae
– Provided easy transportation
– Pushed into soft ground during fermentation
Development of the amphorae
Stamps of origin and winemaker
For transport, amphorae became too heavy
and were easily broke.
Leading to development of barrel
Wood – Barrel
100BC Gaul’s began using barrels for beer
Romans noticed this and adapted the vessel
for wine in Bordeaux
Design much like barrels today
Barrels were too big, wine stored in barrels
began to turn to vinegar
Used previously for decanting, not for
storage and transportation until 17th
Sparkling wine made glass storage
Previous wood-burning furnaces were not
adequate to produce thick enough glass
Glass bottles - Stoppers
Corks used 1800-1900AD
Progression to aging wine from work by
Ground glass used to remove problem of
cork taint, hard to remove from bottle
Glass bottles - standard size
Prior to 17th
century, bottles weren't
standardized and were just a ‘breath’ of the
century, cylindrical shaped bottles
were found to be easier to store and kept the
Glass bottles – standard size
1800’s industry standardized bottles –
dependent on region
Up until 1945, Burgundy and Champagne
came in 800 ml bottles.
1979 USA set requirement for 750ml bottles,
EU regulated to 750ml so winemakers could
ship to US
Present day storage
Stainless steel and concrete tanks
Different sized tanks for different winery
Barrels still used
Present day storage
Bottles shapes used today are still localized
– Bordeaux bottles: Short neck and high shoulder
– Burgundy bottles: Long neck with slanted
– Champagne bottles: Thicker and fit into riddling
– German Riesling bottles: Green tall slender
– Italian wine: Some have retained bulb shaped
bottles wrapped in straw
Shipping wine in containers
– On pallets or loose stacked
– Refrigeration units
– 20 foot or 40 foot containers
– All organized with a Freight Forwarding
agency and insurance included
Long distance and Bulk transportation
High quality transport methods now available
Flexi tanks – up to 24,000L in a 20 foot
Pallecons – 1,000L
– Membranes are impermeable to gasses
– Very heavy, used for domestic transportation
Bulk Transport – cheaper production
Ability for cheaper offshore bottling
Cheaper dry goods and bottling rates
Decrease in shipping of dry goods to New
Zealand for production, then shipped to
customer close to origin of dry goods
Future of wine storage
Consumers pushing for smaller format
– 375ml and 187ml becoming popular
Glass has many disadvantages
– Energy required to produce
– Lack of recycling
Future of wine storage
Production of PET single serve plastic bottles
– Outdoor events and Festivals
– Trains and airlines
– Made from cardboard
Both have only a 12 month shelf life
Future of wine transport
Lighter packaging materials
Limiting use of excess materials
– Eradicating use of dividers
– Change in ‘bottle’ design to reduce ‘dead space’
– Loose stacked containers
Increase in offshore bottling
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Anthente. (2009). Flexitank overview. Retrieved from
Bershad, K. (n.d.). A history of fine wine storage [Blog post]. Retrieved
Eastern Institute of Technology, (2009). History of wine and the vine.
Paper presented at lecture for WSC5.05, Introduction to Wine
Foulkes, C. (1994). Larousse encyclopedia of wine. Paris, France:
Larousse Kingfisher Chambers Inc.
The History of Wine Part III - Wine Storage – Barrels. (2009). Retrieved
Hoover container solutions. (2012) ISO tank containers. Retrieved from
Jackson, R. S. (1994). Wine science: principles, practice, perception (2nd
ed.). London, England: Academic Press.
Lascabanes to Moissac. (2008, August 31). Retrieved from
Lo, C. (2013). The wine to bring to your next picnic. Retrieved from
Richards Packaging. (n.d.) Wine bottles. Retrieved from
Schmitt, P. (2013, 16 July). Fetzer swamps stadia with single serve.
Unwin, T. (1996). Wine and the vine. New York, NY: Routledge.
Weibe, R. (2013, March 25). Timeline of the ancient history of wine.
Retrieved from http://suite101.com/article/timeline-of-the-ancient-