A new kind of super car revved its engine at Jordan just days ago. Jordan Winery’s new, state-of-the-art bottling equipment is considered the “Ferrari of bottling lines” by the wine world. The craftsmanship and quality is incomparable.
Fueled by Jordan 2012 Russian River Chardonnay, this bottling line is a collection of different technologies hand-selected by Winemaker Rob Davis and Assistant Winemaker Maggie Kruse during a research trip, then custom-built by a manufacturer in Italy–who gave this one-of-a-kind machine the moniker, “Super Block.” (Over a period of four months, its new home was prepared and the line was built, as shown in the above time-lapse video.) Our new bottling line truly transcends the capabilities of other modern-day equipment. For a winery that only makes two wines and only bottles them once a year, such an expense might seem extreme, but this technological investment is consistent with the ongoing vision of our owner, John Jordan, to continuously improve wine quality with every vintage.
Relying heavily on human detection for variation in fill height, cork depth, foil wrinkling and imprecise label adhesion, our old bottling line filled 80 bottles per minute. This was simply too fast for 100 percent detection of errors with the previous line, which was a combination of equipment assembled since in the 1980s. The Super Block is capable of running almost 50 percent faster than the previous line and is equipped with cameras positioned throughout each section to catch what the human eye cannot, and without fatiguing. Any variation equating to a less than perfectly filled, corked, foiled and labeled bottle will be noted by the camera and rejected from the system. Furthermore, the Super Block is smart. Each piece of equipment throughout the new system is linked together with processors that communicate amongst each other so that they all work in sync; if one section slows down, each of the other machines follow suit to prevent pile-ups.
By reducing bottling time in half, the winemaking team will have increased flexibility with decisions on barrel and bottle aging of Jordan wines. They can either extend barrel aging by pushing back the bottling date, or increase the duration of bottle aging before release by bottling earlier. The decision for either will be simply based on the demands of each vintage’s chemistry. The flexibility will also prove instrumental as a buffer in dealing with unanticipated timing needs, as these are certainly not uncommon in the industry.
Another issue with the previous bottling line was dissolved oxygen pickup. Dissolved oxygen is simply oxygen that dissolves into wine, and it is the primary cause of variation of wine flavors between bottles filled with the same wine from the same tank. We want to eliminate the possibility of any oxygen getting into a bottle before it’s sealed with a cork. With the Super Block, dissolved oxygen pickup is minimal at only 0.2 part per million (ppm), allowing for all bottles to be filled with a total of under 1 ppm. This level of accuracy and precision ensures that each bottle of Jordan will be full of life with bright, primary fruit character in its youth, and will age gracefully while uniformly developing complexity and depth of structure through decades of patient cellar aging.
Do winemakers get stressed out during bottling season? Absolutely. Bottling is the final stage of the vinification process, capturing the vintage’s unique story of place and time. While it may not recruit an equal level of romantic intrigue as the stages leading to it, such as harvest, barrel aging and blending sessions, its flawless execution is critical to ensuring the aromas, flavors, and textures remain true to the winemaker’s intentions for expression of that vintage. During the transfer of wine from tank to bottle, these sensory properties that required countless months of dedicated nurturing to fully develop, may be altered or even lost all together in mere seconds. Recognizing the opportunity to increase the level of speed, accuracy, precision, safety, and overall quality control throughout this stage, there was never a question that it was time to upgrade.
To see the choreography of this modern marvel now in full working order is impressive, and we are excited and proud to share these bottlings upon release. The 2012 Jordan Chardonnay debuts in spring of 2013, while the 2011 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon will be unveiled in spring of 2015—after two full years of aging in the bottle.