Mobile Bottling Preparation

mobile bottling wine truck in the process of bottling wine

By: Thomas J. Payette, Winemaking Consultant

Welcome to Eastern Winery and exploring this article.  Preparing for bottling is no easy challenge.  [This article can also be adapted for onsite bottling as well.]   However, the key to success while preparing for the mobile bottler to arrive is communication and planning.  This can’t be stressed enough when you digest the following topics below.


  It is recommended to contact a mobile bottler at least 6 months prior to needing them.  Discuss the plan from wine styles, case volume, road access for their truck and address other questions the bottling operator may have.  Then request their spec sheet in terms of label wind, label core size, capsules, bottle styles, screw cap capabilities etc.  Does the mobile bottler require power?  What amp service and what configuration?  Start to lay the foundation as you move forward toward bottling what your vision is and taking note if that bottler can fulfill that vision.  Set firm dates with the bottler at this time, also, since many mobile bottlers fill their calendars quickly. 


  Keep in mind the success of hitting the bottling dates with a mobile bottler are crucial to your business.  Should one piece of the puzzle not come together just right – it could result in unlabeled product being run or canceling the bottling all together.  Either situation may result in huge delays in being able to get the bottler back to your facility and lost revenue during that time.  Success is less expensive.

Dry Goods Ordering

(Labels, Capsules, Closures, Bottles)

Labels: Now having spoken to the bottler you can start to order dry goods from your vendors.  Speak with the label company and give them the wind directions/orientation.  Of course, make sure TTB approval and any other governmental approvals needed for any labels are in hand before printing labels.  New labels can take as long as 6 months lead-time so do not delay this process.  Get the label design, approval and printing process started and keep it rolling.

Capsules: Contact suppliers and determine if they have what you need in stock or just what their supply situation is for the capsule(s) desired.  Either place an order for them or have them placed on hold.  Some custom capsules come from overseas so allow enough time to have them arrive by boat saving plenty on airfreight shipping.  Get this process started and stay on top of the capsules.

Corks and other closures:  Typically not a huge issue in terms of lead time but still a great idea to place an order 2 months in advance with a ship date to arrive at your winery at least 10 days prior to needing them.  This can be extended to longer in house time if testing of the corks is performed.  Leave time for the test, rejection and re-ordering (with branding) to make sure the bottling date remains secure.  Screw cap and other closures with printing need to be ordered well in advance.

Bottles: Once again stay in contact with the supplier just to make sure what you need will be available when you need it.  Contact the bottle supplier three months in advance just to check in and secure your needs.  Perhaps place an order early on to be refined after filtering and racking losses are realized.  Let them know a rough idea of what your needs are and project out on ship dates for a timely arrival.


  Often the easy part!  Start making blends well in advance and start working toward stabilities.  Leave enough time or “wiggle room” to be able to re-perform any stability actions again just in case one process doesn’t react as the lab trials predicted.  Try to set up a wine production schedule that has your wines ready about one month prior to the bottling trucks arrival.


  Make sure your wines are filtered to the proper pore size that you and the bottler discussed.  In most cases a 0.45-micron cartridge filter will be used but if you plan to do otherwise – discuss this in advance.  Discuss who supplies the cartridge and what the “lock system configuration” is for their filter housing, size etc.

Three Weeks Before Bottling

  Three weeks prior to bottling start to take inventory of where items are from your suppliers.  Mistakes happen so just check in to make sure all is moving forward.  There is still time to fix small mistakes and suppliers that have inadvertently dropped the ball will jump through hoops to make it right.

  Start looking at the small things too.  Shrink wrap, carton tape or glue, case coding ink, date stamps, and product codes.  Place the order for any inert gases you may need: notably Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide.

Three Days Before Bottling

  Start a plan to warm your wines to the desired bottling temperature typically between 60-65 degrees F.  Look at the weather forecast to see what the actual temperature may be on the bottling day.  Address extreme cold or hot temps with the mobile bottler group.

  Start to review the parking lot area.  What cars, trucks or tractors will need to be moved?  Will the press need to be relocated on the crush pad?

  Collect dry goods and formulate the vision of where the truck will be, how empty glass will be supplied, how full cases will be removed, how the wine hose will supply the truck, how the water supply will connect and supply the truck. 

  Start double checking that you will have the helpers needed to run the line for that day.  Place a reminder call to them. 

Day of Bottling

Morning:  If the truck is not already there make sure you have already clear the proper amount of maneuvering space for their entry.  Have inert gases ready and a water source (chlorine free) available.  The bottling crew will need to start their steamer as soon as possible to sterilize their filter and filling parts.

Glass: Make sure the glass bottles are in an area you can get to them to supply the truck rapidly.  They should already be “pulled from the warehouse” and acclimating if needed.  Bottle temperature is important too.

Other dry goods: Be ready to load all the dry goods such as capsules, closures and labels on the truck early in the day so the bottlers can set their equipment to those supplies.  The team may request them at another time – but be ready.

Startup:  It is recommended to always remove the first set of bottles equal to the number of spouts of the bottling line prior to closure application and to dump them into a clean bucket.  These bottles can still be refilled and used in most cases.  The collected wine in the bucket may be dumped to bulk unless the winemaker prefers this not to happen.

Quality Control

  Discuss any quality control issues with the mobile bottler group.  In many cases they will bring certain issues up to you that they see and you should bring anything up to them that concerns you.  Have people at places needed to make sure operations are happening as they should.  The people placing the bottles of wine back in the box should be fast but also have a keen eye for any abnormalities.  Make sure they know they can bring any concerns to your attention or the appropriate person.

  Make sure that the operations in the truck are running as they should.  Take bottles and inspect them.  Check the vacuum, label spacing, label alignment, fill level, capsule application, and everything from start to finish.  Is everything up to what you expect?

Some Other Handy Tools

Melting Crayons: These crayons melt at certain temperatures and can be used to touch certain surfaces to test the steam and sterilization process is going as predicted.  Infrared equipment may work here but the author has not tested those to be certain.

Calipers: These are an item many wineries have anyway but have them close by.  It helps when looking at issues on the Quality Control level and helping work through dry goods/machinery functionality problems.

Vacuum Needle Gauge: These items are needed as a Quality Control check to monitor the vacuum being pulled at the corker.  These can be obtained from winery supply vendors or feel free to contact me (540-672-0387) for a parts list to make one of your own (less expensive).

Oxygen Meter: This is a great time to get a feel for your bottler and the oxygen pick up at certain stages.  Once you know a unit and the operation of that unit the amount of testing may be reduced possibly. 

First Time Winery Bottling

  Pallets, depending on how many cases you will have per pallet of finished wine product, will be in short supply.  Make sure to have enough pallets to cover the needs.  New glass often comes with near 100 cases per pallet and many wineries will stack 60 cases per pallet at bottling.  These pallets need to be of good to great quality.


  Build on your communications with your bottler.  Every mobile bottler has different equipment and run patterns.  Once each of you get familiar with the other – the systems come together flawlessly, and bottling becomes an enjoyable process again.  Build on this foundation to develop a checklist of your own that is specific to your winery, wines, and packaging.  Keep quality in the forefront as a winemaker.


  Verbal discussion with Mr. Jacques Boissenot, Mr. Jacques Recht, Mr. Joachim Hollerith and Mr. Chris Johnson.

  Many thanks to Landwirt bottling and New Kent Winery for their allowing me to be involved on the day of their bottling to write this article.       

Bottling Checklist

(For most bottling truck needs / change as needed)

1.     Early Communications

2.     Stabilities checked; wine warmed to 65 degrees F; filtered to 0.50 microns.  Truck will have pre-filter and 0.45-micron filters typically.

3.     Cartridge filters on hand if needed.

4.     Free SO2 and pH known, and action taken accordingly.

5.     Gases (CO2 and/or Nitrogen)

6.     Water hose and enough hose to get to the truck (if used)

7.     Dry goods: Corks, bottles, capsules, and labels (TTB approved)

8.     Wine from vented tank with enough clean wine hose to reach truck.

9.     Acclimated glass – sweating could be an issue.

10.   Date stamp for cases – Gov. head.

11.   Product stamp or labels for product

12.   Shrink wrap – to wrap pallets of cases.

13.   Extra (dry) pallets – very solid and well built.

14.   Tape and tape guns to seal cases. 

        Glue if gluing.

15.   Utility knives, Permanent marker pens

16.   Helpers (Quality Control) and water for them to drink

17.   First aid kit, ear plugs

18.   Vacuum needle gauge, Calipers, Melting

        crayons, Oxygen meter.

19.   Dump first bottle per spout (re-blend to tank)

20.   Great communication the day of bottling

  Check with bottling truck to make sure you have all items they need.  Label configuration (wind configuration), bottles they can run, capsules, closures (real, synthetic, screw cap) etc.

NOTE: Be sure to vent tank and make sure contents are uniformly mixed.

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