Finally! Finally we got our labels and finally, we spent a whole weekend putting those labels on the bottles. Remember back in August when we bottled and I said how much more smoothly the whole bottling process went? Well that's partly because we only did half the job! Last year we bottled, labeled and boxed, this year we only bottled, without putting the labels on and putting them in the boxes. At the time it made it seem so much easier, but now seeing how much time it took to label the bottles, and the fact that they're still not in boxes, I'm not so sure. Of course, last year, once we had all of the wine in the boxes we had to open them all and add two stickers per bottle for everything we sent to the US, so in the end it's not that simple. The advantage to doing it the way we did it this year, is that we'll prepare each shipment as the order comes in, and we'll put the appropriate back label on the bottle according to where it's going!
It turned out to be a much more labor intensive process that I thought it would be. When Mr. Fraison, our bottler told us that we could rent his labeler and capsuler in when we were ready to put the labels on, I thought great, it will be just like the machine on we used last year, a machine that you feed the bottles into, then it automatically takes the bottle, runs it through the process of putting the capsule on and then sticking both front and back label on and comes out the other end all finished. Not the case.
First, you stack 20 or so bottles on the table next to the capsuling machine, then you place a capsule on each bottle, then someone takes the bottle and places it at the base of the capsuling machine and manually pulls the machine down over the capsule to tighten it onto the next of the bottle. Piece of cake right? Well it's not as easy as it sounds, if you go too fast, or not far enough, the capsule gets little wrinkles in it or it doesn't get tight enough. It was a real art to learn, and even then they all didn't come out as we would have liked. Once the capsule is on then the bottle is passed on to the person manning the labeling machine, this is an easier task, once you get the spacing right between the back and the front labels... Not as easy as it sounds either...
But once we got the system down, it went pretty smoothly. Especially when our friends the Tills showed up!! Without them, we would still be out there slowly getting the labels put on. Lucy and Cameron came on Saturday afternoon and we got the system going trying to get the kinks out. Cameron was a great help and really got good at all of the jobs, even creating new techniques for putting the capsules on the bottles. I said to him at one point, "see Cameron, this is why you want to do your homework and study hard, so you don't end up in a factory doing this all day." He replied, "Why? I think this a pretty good job."
The next day the whole gang showed up. Peter, Lucy, Cameron, Lara and Esme. Then we were really cookin'. The girls liked it more than I would have thought and we were able to really jam through a couple of piles of bottles. After lunch though, the kids petered out and we were left with just Peter, Lucy, Matt and I. We decided to get through one more pallet, 1000 bottles and call it a day. In the end we labeled about 5000 bottles, a little less than half of our stock, but that's a good start for now.
We did it just in time too, on Tuesday we shipped out first pallet to our importer in Germany - K&U. They are having a big open house this weekend and wanted to make sure the wine was there so we can sell, sell, sell it! I say we, because Matt and I are headed to Nuremberg this weekend for the event. I went last year and it's lots of fun, great wines, great winemakers and lots of great food. Just my kind of weekend!
So when you're opening that bottle of La Gramière, and you notice that the capsule isn't quite perfectly sealed onto the bottle, you'll smile to yourself and think of our weekend of labeling!