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by Rojita Tiwari

Right from the time wine is bottled in a winery till it reaches the retail shelf the journey is often long and challenging. While fine wines or older wines have higher risk of being the victim of ‘bottle shock’, in a country like India, there are many other factors that tend to influence the quality and longevity of wine. Rojita Tiwari reports.

How exactly does your wine travel?

India monitors imports of approximately 300 items, including alcoholic beverages, which are considered to be sensitive. For any general import the import company must get an Import Export Code (IEC) issued by the Director General of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce.

In a state such as Maharashtra, the general transit time from the point of origin to Nhava Sheva Port, Navi Mumbai is between 30 to 60 days depending on the wine’s country of origin. The mandatory documents required to clear the shipment are Commercial Invoice, Packing List, Country of Origin Certificate, Chemical Analysis Report and Air Way Bill Copy.

Once the clearing party receives the documents, the shipment can be cleared and bonded either in a private or a public warehouse. Samples then need to be sent to PHO department for quality check as per the requirements mentioned by FSSAI department. On receipt of the NOC from the department and on completion of custom procedures the wines can now be distributed from the warehouse to the respective channels. The importer must meet all mandatory requirements of the state where they plan to market the imported wines before the wines can be released from the bonded warehouse for distribution.

In case of domestic wines, the stock travels via by the dealer/ distributor then reaches the retailer.

In both the conditions, once the wine has left the winery it is at the mercy of the transport company, bonder and the retailer. How much of quality control is practiced and by whom? Rajesh Israni, General Manager- Marketing, Aspri Spirits Pvt. Ltd. Says, “Generally the stocks travel from place of origin in temperature controlled containers. Once the custom process is complete the stocks are then shifted to a custom bonded warehouse where the storage area for wines is air conditioned to maintain the temperature level”.

Most of the distributor stock godowns are also temperature controlled for storage. The issue arises during the transport from the distributor point to the delivery at the unorganized off trade segment where there is a lack of efficient storage facility except few modern off trade and certain on trade outlets.

Besides storage, the importer and distributor also have to face a number of challenges when it comes fine wine shipping and distribution in the country. “The stringent implementation of labeling requirements by FSSAI has led to various shipments being blocked at the ports. The standards in terms of what a product can contain are at draft stage and may create impediment in future. Also with such a condition not many wineries that produce premium and boutique wines can adhere to these label requirements due to economies of scale, they may want to add an additional cost for doing the same”, added Israni.

In the current scenario, the most important step is to adhere to the FSSAI label requirements, in absence of which the Company /Importer would either need to send back the stocks which means incurring additional costs or pay detention charges for the stocks lying at the Port.

“Wine can be stored in a Customs Bonded Warehouse (CBW) for up to three months without having to pay customs duty or interest on it so it’s advisable to move out the stocks to the distribution points to avoid paying up any additional charges on the same”, said Israni.


Here is how your wine travels in an ideal situation.

The typical temperature of a wine cellar is 13C therefore wine should be stored and transported at that temperature.

How wine is currently transported?

Currently they are no shipping standard or temperature traceability requirement for fine wine (let alone basic wine). The level of shipping quality is at the discretion of the person responsible for the transport. Unless exposed to extreme temperatures for a long period of time, wine does not display signs of temperature damage.

What is the cold chain?

The cold chain is an uninterrupted series of storage and distribution activities, which maintain a required temperature. The benefit of cold chain for wine is preservation of aroma and ageing potential. In order to be validated, the cold chain should be measured, analysed controlled and documented.

What is the equipment used in the cold chain?

Refrigerated equipment range from small van to gigantic maritime reefer vessel. The common point between all temperature-controlled equipment is that they have to be clean, odourless and fully operational. It is important to ensure that the equipment are well maintained in order to avoid equipment breakdown and cargo write off.

Before loading:

It is important to ensure that the packaging is suitable for export. To maintain the cold chain temperature traceability it is important to equip cases or palettes with data regulation compliant temperature sensors. A clear warning sign “Temperature controlled shipment” indicating the required temperature should be displayed on the wine cases or boxes but also on each side of the pallets.


The temperature of the cargo should be at 13ºC prior to loading. The cargo should be loaded to allow air circulation inside the equipment. Loading 100% of the space capacity will generate problem. Another key check prior to loading is the verification of the temperature is set in correct measurement unit, Celsius of Fahrenheit.


Provided that the equipment are fully operational, the cargo will remain at the temperature set for the duration of the transport it can be 3 hours in a van or 5 weeks at sea.

Compliance and customs regulation at destination:

Compliance is not optional for a safe shipment, it is important to be aware of wine import regulation in the country of destination to prevent shipping fiasco.

Each country or state has its own rules and regulation so the importance of compliance is vital in the achieving a safe shipment. Mistakes and discrepancies can translate in major issues with customs authorities. In that case, the wine is at risk of quarantine or can be returned at origin after weeks. Labelling/ licencing and certification or any other mandatory requirement should be assessed in detail before shipment. It is recommended to work with local agent specializing with wine custom clearance and to be fully aware of the list of formalities to be complied with.

Unloading and distribution at destination:

Temperature fluctuation are generally occurring during the loading/ unloading operations therefore it is important to maximise the fluidity of operation. At origin and destination, the use of cost effective RFID solutions can speed up logistics as stock can automatically be identified, sorted and processed by passing through RFID gates. Working efficiently without RFID is off course possible but more time consuming and subject to human error. Limiting the manipulation is important in protecting the product.

On arrival, the wine should be processed and stored in a cold storage pending final distribution. The delivery should be conducted in a temperature-controlled vehicle.

Temperature monitoring: debriefing the sensor:

Once the wines are delivered the sensors should be retrieved in order to have the electronic data extracted from the temperature sensor and passed on to the customer.

Some sensors can allow customers to download the data immediately on their computer. The data will immediately generate the temperature graph of the shipment. If a sensor is to be used as an evidence in case of shipping issue or insurance claim, it is important to demonstrate that the reading of the sensor are accurate and that the devise have been successfully tested by accredited laboratory (like UKAS). It is also critical to ensure that the data registered cannot be modified/ altered in case of problematic results.

Transport contract, the temperature clause:

Inserting a temperature clause on a transport contract can be useful as long as some key aspects are considered. If there is mention of a temperature clause in the contract of transport it is important to specify the name of the devise measuring the temperature. All parties should agree that the temperature readings/ data emanating from a specific devise are reliable and will be accepted. Disputing the reliability of the data will be the classic “exit” door of a transport company in case of problem, closing that “litigation door” is important. Contract of transport are normally linked to standard terms and conditions but also international transport convention. If there is reference to the standard terms and condition or to a convention in the contract, these elements are incorporated into the contractual terms. Looking into the details of the terms and condition but also international convention is recommended. The key information to look for is the level of compensation in case of cargo damage. Compensation are typically few USD per kilo. If the wine shipped is expensive it is better to contract an insurance that will compensate the stocks at market value. Stipulating that the market value should be linked to Liv-ex can be recommended for high value, investment grade wine.

Temperature insurance for wine:

For example, a company like Thermoveritas from Bordeaux is currently working on the development of temperature insurance, the plan will be to action insurance claim when the temperature of a sensor is showing readings outside a specific temperature band for more than two hours. The exact terms are still being discussed; the outcome will be available as soon as possible.


Ensuring that a cold chain is fully traceable is a very important for the safety and value of the product.

The condition of storage and transport can be monitored and recorded over very long period (years or decade). Records should be made available to the end user, owner of the wine.

The issue of fake wine among other type of wine fraud is linked to the absence of movement visibility and traceability in the wine supply chain.

Shipping and storing wine is very simple and easy but because wine does not always display signs of temperature damage, the decision to ship temperature controlled or not is at the discretion of the person in charge of the shipment. It is important to increase awareness of the public in order to develop a simple and cost effective temperature controlled distribution network that will facilitate safe and traceable wine movement in the supply chain.


(Inputs from Gabriel Matagne, Thermoveritas Fine Wine consultancy firm, Bordeaux.)

Photo copyright: Edouard Lasserre


 Rojita Tiwari is a freelance wine & spirits writer and consultant and founder of Drinks & Destinations. Tweet to her at @RojitaTiwari  

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