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Dear Dr. Vinny,
How can imported wines be so affordable—like less than $10 a bottle? Given taxes and transportation costs, it seems amazing that they can be sold so cheaply.
—Joe, Vashon, Wash.
There have been many advancements in wine transportation that have reduced the costs associated with shipping wines long distances. The most popular method is to eliminate the heavy glass bottles entirely—at least until the wine arrives at its destination. Producers accomplish this by shipping the wine in bulk via a large bladder, such as the ones made by Flexitank, filled with wine and protected inside a steel shipping container—think of it as a giant bag-in-a-box wine. It’s widely accepted that this method keeps the wine safe during shipment, free from oxidation or other damage.
Flexitanks can be huge, like 24,000 liters huge (that’s 2,600 cases or 31,000 bottles worth of wine). It’s much cheaper to ship the wine this way, and then bottle the wine when it gets where it's going.
However, some vintners balk at this bulk method, arguing that bottling the wine in another country challenges the idea of where the wine is "from." So while the bottle-abroad method provides great value for wine lovers, it may have some hidden costs for the value of a region’s reputation.
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