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Supply Chain Disruption Threatens to Damage Winemaking

How long a winemaker chooses to age their wine is an integral part of the wine’s flavor and character. The toasty oak of a well-structured red wine can balance the complex notes of fruit, adding depth and interest on the palate.

But what happens when a winemaker is forced to keep their wine—the product of a years-long labor of love—in the barrel for too long? Supply chain disruption is forcing winemakers to confront that question head-on.

The wine community is facing a shortage of glass bottles due to supply chain problems. Business Insider interviewed at least one winemaker who watched his wine sit in oak barrels for far too long because he didn’t get the glass bottles he needed. As a result, he feared that his wine would be unpalatably “woodsy.” Another vineyard said their production was six months behind due to the glass shortage.

Other industries faced with packaging problems might turn to new materials. That’s not an option for most winemakers: glass has been an integral part of the winemaking process for over a thousand years. Glass bottles are the ideal package for wine because glass neither adds nor absorbs flavor.

There are potential replacement options, it would be too costly to change packaging practices quickly enough for what could be a short-term shortage. And for winemakers who need bottles now, they have no choice but to hope for things to change.

“Wait time used to be measured in hours, but now it’s measured in weeks,” said Phil Long, owner of Longevity Wines in California. These glass shortage issues compound problems that winemakers are already facing, including a wood shortage for oak barrels. Winemakers are facing a countdown clock for wine that was barreled before the supply chain issues started.