Australian Vintage Limited (AVL) has invested $11 million in a new technologically advanced bottling facility at its Merbein site in Victoria.
The team scoured the globe for two years to source the most state of the art machinery, and CEO Neil McGuigan says that the opening of the site is a landmark moment for AVL.
The facility has the capability to package still and sparkling wine at rates of 11,000 and 7,000 bottles per hour respectively, and is one of the fastest bottling lines in Australia.
The line features visual control technology to check label positioning, it can detect bottle seams for precision labelling, and its carbonator is able to provide different levels of mouthfeel and palate texture in sparkling wines, which McGuigan says will allow them to “create new and exciting products for our domestic and global market”.
For the first time, AVL will be able to bottle both sparkling and still wine at the one site for its three key brands, McGuigan, Tempus Two and Nepenthe. And the investment will accelerate AVL’s innovation pipeline, enabling it to bring new wines to market more quickly.
“We now have the best technology available in the world to capture the quality of our wine in the bottle. In our company we live by two statements, ‘make the wine the hero’, and ‘over-deliver on quality at every price point’. We are continuing to lift the bar on the quality of Australian wine and now we have a bottling line that mirrors this,” says McGuigan.
The investment is part of a $19 million capital injection into the company’s operations, including the installation of solar plants at Buronga Hill and extensive new vineyard plantings of more than 180 hectares, to meet the growing demand for its brands.
“Our new packaging facility is just one of several investments we are making into regional Australia as part of the $19 million investment this year across our business. This is on top of a $19 million investment last financial year.
“Over the last 18 months we have planted a further 20 hectares of vines at our Buronga Hill Winery, 20 hectares at our Grand Junction vineyard at Wentworth, and 10 hectares at our Barossa Valley vineyard. We have also entered a long-term lease on a vineyard at Lake Cullulleraine which will increase our crush by a further 10,000 tonnes this year. Our vineyard expansion will continue again as we plan to plant a further 130 hectares of vines later this year.
“Sustainability is a huge focus for the business. Last year we became the first Australian wine company to sign a landmark renewable corporate power purchase agreement, which means our Buronga Hill site – the third largest winery in Australia – is powered from 90 per cent renewable solar and wind energy.
“That is a significant leap for our company, which underscores our commitment to green issues and builds on the solar power investment we have already made at Buronga, Merbein and at our McGuigan cellar door and winery in the Hunter Valley.
“We have also stepped up our water management at Buronga Hill Winery where waste water is now used for either irrigating our 20 hectare vineyard or producing Lucerne and other crops that are used as animal fodder, rather than just being used on the traditional tree lot.
“That leads me to our investment here at Merbein… this wonderful line will set our business up for at least the next 15 years.
“The opening of our new Merbein packaging facility is a landmark moment for Australian Vintage and represents a step-change in our capabilities as Australia’s fifth largest wine company.”