19 July 2007

Buying and bottling wine

We buy wine in bulk here in the Loire Valley. One of the local winemakers — producteurs in French — told us where to go to buy a few 10-liter plastic jugs. A 10-liter jug holds just over 13 bottles of wine.

Bottling up some red Gamay wine from Saint-Aignan's vineyards

Wine is part of the local diet, and Walt and I do the best we can to fit in with the local population. We've adapted nicely, thank you very much.

When we first arrived, we bought wine in bottles the way we were used to buying it in the U.S., in the supermarket or in a winery. We knew some of the local wineries sold it in bulk, but we weren't sure how complicated the bottling process might be and what kind of equipment we would need.

We had bought bulk wine in Provence once, when we were on vacation. That time we didn't put it in bottles; we just drank it up pretty fast. We figured that even is some of it spoiled, it was a lot cheaper than buying bottles. And more fun.

The first year or so we were here, we saved a lot of wine bottles, assuming we would need them one day. That has worked out very well. We've never had to buy any bottles.

The corking device gets a workout.

When we went to the wine supply store recommended to us, we asked about corks and a corking apparatus. We were very competently counseled and ended up with a corker that works really well. It's a floor-standing model, and it cost only 25.00€. The plastic jugs were about 4.00€ apiece. We figured we would amortize those costs in short order, given the low prices charged locally for wines in bulk (en vrac) compared to wine in the bottle.

Bottling 10 liters of rosé, which I bought for 8.90€ at a winery
in Seigy, a village just east of Saint-Aignan. Yes, that was less than
10.00€ for 10 liters. Dry rosé is a good summertime wine.

Wine goes for anywhere from 1.00€ to 3.00€ per liter when you buy it in bulk. The people at the coops and wineries pump it into your containers out of big stainless-steel tanks, using what looks like a gas pump. At 2.00€ a liter, you are paying 20.00€ (about $27.00 U.S. currently) for 13 bottles of wine, or just over $2.00 a bottle.

Rosé in the bottles, waiting to be corked

The coop up in the wine village called Saint-Romain-sur-Cher, about 5 miles north of Saint-Aignan, sells AOC Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc wines in bulk for between 1.75 € and 2.25€ a liter. They also sell non-AOC Chardonnay and a non-AOC red blend (called vins de pays, local wines) for about 1.20€. These are light, fruity, drinkable wines that are called vins de soif — wines that quench your thirst.

The wine-and-bottle rack in our pantry

The wines you buy in bulk need to be bottled unless you can drink the whole 10-liter jug in about 48 hours' time. Otherwise, the wine oxidizes and turns into vinegar. A cork adds about 0.05€ to the price of each bottle.

Just by accident, I have found a winery that will sell me wine tax-free, which I'm sure is not exactly legal. I don't ask any questions. That reduces the price by at least 20%. I just have to be careful not to get stopped by the gendarmes or the douaniers (customs agents) on the drive back home from the producteur's place. Please don't tell anybody.


  1. the rosé is beautiful to look at in the sunlight. So you're buying French moonshine;-) I'll never tell!

  2. I'm so going to tattle on you! Just kidding! But that is a great idea, and something we've never done.

  3. I won't tell anyone! Promise. LOL
    Those photos look great!

  4. Tony is still dining out on his story about bottling wine with you and how he got a cool corkscrew for free!

    (He finished his big bike trip today.)

  5. Ken,

    All those bottles of rosé bring tears to my eyes...I miss it so much! Every bottle I've found here costs at least $15... I've got to find better sources.

    Still, despite my shortage, I am happy for your abundance. Uh...excuse me...I'm just going to make a phone call...

    Just kidding!


    Meilleurs voeux!!

  6. Or perhaps while you're at it...a little exporting on the side??

    Meilleurs voeux!!

  7. Someone could briefly explain the difference between Bulk wine and coemrcial and if lies in the taste?


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