Pokolbin’s First Creek Wines will boost its bottling capacity by 60 percent with the introduction of a new bottling line worth $1.5 million.
The winery recently installed and commissioned a state-of-the-art Bertolaso bottling line – believed to be one of only four in Australia.
The machine was manufactured in Italy and a team of Italian engineers were flown out for the final stages of its installation.
It has the ability to bottle and label up to 4500 bottles per hour, which is a 60 percent increase in First Creek’s current capacity.
This year First Creek aims to bottle one million cases of wine, but the new piece of infrastructure (which was installed in May) will allow the winery to bottle 1.5 million cases of wine a year.
The winery provides substantial contracted winemaking and contracted bottling services to winemakers throughout the region.
It makes wine for 27 producers in the Hunter Valley and other NSW regions, and bottles for 65 Hunter Valley customers and a further 35 throughout NSW and interstate.
First Creek Wines chief operating officer Shaun Silkman said the new bottling line creates the opportunity for future expansion from other NSW wine regions and other states.
Mr Silkman said the other most significant feature of the new machine is that it incorporates the very latest oxygen management technology.
“Oxygen and microbial contamination are the two main factors which can impact the quality and longevity of a wine once bottled,” he said.
First Creek has a total staff of 65, making it the largest wine industry employer in the Hunter Valley.
The new bottling line allowed the winery to create four extra full-time equivalent positions.
The bottling line was officially opened by First Creek Wines' managing director Greg Silkman and chairman Bob Kennedy, and Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald (on behalf of Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association chairman George Souris) on November 21.
Mr MacDonald said the wine industry has been recognised as a growth industry in the NSW Government’s recently-released Hunter Regional Plan.
“It is a $210 million sector and is recognised as an important industry in its own right and as part of the visitor economy of the Hunter,” he said.
“It’s about export growth for the state of NSW.
“The Hunter Valley wine industry is selling solidly in our domestic markets, but it is the export that we are really looking forward to.”
About 120 people from the local winemaking community attended the opening event.
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