Shipping wine is like moving a Piano!

To You, To Me… Laurel and Hardy take note…

Shipping wine is like moving a Piano.


In 1932, Laurel and Hardy filmed what was to become one of the most iconic comedy movies of all time, ‘The Music Box’, in which the comedic duo played inept delivery men trying to move a piano to the top floor of a house. Filmed in black and white, the film has resonance even today and is a fitting link to my topic today, which is ‘How to ship wine from anywhere in the World into the UK for sale?’. This is a vital piece of work undertaken by people in offices around the globe, who may have never seen a vine, grape or bottle, but without whose hard work, dedication and (sometimes) painful slog, we would all be consigned to drinking Uncle George’s Blackberry ‘Claret’…and trust me, no one wants THAT!

The following is a schedule based on purchasing ‘ex-cellars’. As a company we are fortunate to have our own Bonded warehouses, so almost all the products we sell are collected from the domaines wherever they are in the World and shipped by us direct to our cellars. Maintaining 100% provenance is vital with the fine wines and estates products we sell. For this Blog I chose International ie ‘Deep Sea’ haul, shipping wine from New Zealand.

First of all, the Buying team taste the wine and evaluate if it is needed, liked or suitable for our range – the sample has often been sent to us from a known estate, or a new supplier, or even a prospective supplier. As a Buying team we taste incessantly,  often 40 wines at a time and every couple of weeks. Very few actually make it… (the samples, not the buying team!)

Once a wine is agreed on, we send details to our inhouse Buyer, whose job it is to arrange pricing, quantity and shipping details, such as case size, bottle weight, (we use a reduced glass weight to save on carbon) capsule and closure, labelling (for the UK specifically ) etc – there may even be a discussion on timescale to meet a required sales slot.

The order is placed with the winery.

The winery reply with confirmation of order, and give a projected bottling date (if wine is in tank/barrel), or labelling date (if stock is already in bottle) and when the consignment will be ready for collection. An important part of the labelling is the back label to show importation details for the UK.

A haulier is advised of consignment, size and timescale to collect to transport consignment to dockside at Christchurch (now functioning following Earthquake) or Wellington.

The winery does documents for export/import – the Haulier does clearance documents for import to UK

Container is booked – ship booked by Haulier

Wine is bottled, labelled, cartoned and palletised before loading into a Container for collection by Haulier on a specific day. (cost is approx. £3,500 to ship from NZ ). Consignment is ‘Port Checked’ once arrived at Port of Export.

Container loaded on ship and away it goes…….7-9 weeks later, depending on route and loading times, container arrives UK Port.

Container is checked, and relevant documentation scanned and cleared – please note this can be delayed by several days (or weeks ) depending on workload and makeup of consignment. If error found in paperwork, shipment is put back and more documentation requested.

Consignment is collected by UK haulier and shipped to our Bond, which takes around 4 working days. Our warehouse is informed and space allocated, also teams informed to ‘book in’ stock

Consignment arrives in our warehouse and is booked into our new Vision Bond system; we made this large scale investment in early 2023 ahead of new Duty rate changes to streamline and update our warehouse system and increase our ability to handle more goods quicker and cost-efficiently. Vision Bond automatically uploads new stock, including vintage change, any new pricing, new duty rates if applicable, case size, ABV, allergy information etc and allocates specific bins depending on what wine it is. Generally, we can have stock cleared and available for sale within 30 minutes of the consignment arriving. (unlike other Bonds, where it could be 2 weeks before you gain access to your stock)

Stock is cleared and becomes available for sale (Hurrah!! )

From start to finish, the process can take from 15 - 24 weeks depending on location and efficiency of the Domain, the status of the wine (bottled or tank), and the demands of the system at a given time, with emphasis on the Post-Brexit paperwork regulations.

Piano’s are easier – trust me!


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