The wine industry is a competitive market that requires the production of exceptional wines, but tracing each bottle all the way to the consumer ensures quality is maintained.

Producing Australian sparkling wines is a challenge gladly accepted by boutique wine-maker Peterson House in the Hunter Valley, which has achieved standout success with its sparkling wines. However, being able to track each bottle as it left the winery and travelled along the distribution chain to local or international destinations was a longstanding concern, particularly when it came to feedback on quality.

Several years ago Peterson House opted to use a laser system that would make a permanent mark on each glass bottle. The Linx CO2 laser system form Raymax Applications in Sydney was easily integrated into existing operations, providing markings at speeds of some 2,500 bottles per hour. The system offers both accuracy and durability, as the laser process removes, or ablates, a layer of substrate (glass) leaving a traceable permanent mark.

As each bottle passes along the line, the bottles are dried, warmed to an ambient temperature of around 20 deg.C, then coded just prior to labelling. For identification and traceability purposes, each bottle is coded with a unique identity, including company information and a Julian code.

Australian sparkling wine-makers are forging ahead with the production of their own traditional bottle-fermented sparkling wines. While using the same wine-making techniques as those from Champagne in France, the term ‘Champagne’ is now protected for wines produced in that region. Building expertise in these wine-making processes has allowed the production of high-quality, highly competitive sparkling wine products, to the extent that the Peterson House winery now makes quality produce for small growers and other wineries.

Traditional bottle-fermented sparkling wine-making involves ‘disgorging’. Wine is transferred to the bottles with yeast and sugar for secondary fermentation and capped with a crown seal – much like a beer bottle cap. After secondary fermentation is complete, the wines are aged on yeast lees. At Peterson House this ageing can vary from two to 10 years. When ready for final finishing, the bottles are ‘riddled’, finishing in an inverted upright position – a process once conducted by hand, but now performed through an automated process.

The bottle necks are then placed in a brine bath at -24 deg.C to freeze the yeast and around 20mls of wine. The crown seal is removed, with the frozen plug of yeast and a small amount of wine ejected by the pressure of the bubbles. A dosage of liqueur is then added, the bottle is corked, wire applied and dressed with a hood. Coding and labelling follow, before packing and distribution to the waiting consumer.