The Glass Bottle Shortage May Leave Some Wines Aging in Barrels for Too Long

A California winemaker said a lack of bottles risked making his wines too oaky.

Many of the world's wines spend time aging in barrels — and a lot can happen over that time. Flavors can evolve and change. Global pandemics can occur. Supply chains can be upended. Glass prices can spike. And bottle shortages can occur. No, that's not what usually happens, but it's been a hell of a couple of years. And apparently, some wines may now be paying the price if winemakers don't have the resources to get them out of the barrel as quickly as they'd like.

Business Insider spoke to one winemaker who said the ongoing bottle shortage could be damaging his products because, without bottles to package it into, his wine is spending more time in the barrel than was intended. "Too much oak throws the wine out of balance… [It] overshadows characteristic fruit flavors and tastes overwhelmingly woodsy," Phil Long, owner of California's Longevity Wines, was quoted as saying. "Glass is a main ingredient to bottling wine. Imagine you're a cookie company and there was no flour... Wait time used to be measured in hours, but now it's measured in weeks."

Winery worker fills up barrels in wine cellar
Abel Mitja Varela / Morsa Images / Getty Images

Long's issues are far from isolated: The bottle shortage is being felt in places as diverse as Jackson Family Winery in California — where Mike Eaton, the large winery's vice president of supply chain management, recently spoke about the shortage to NewsNation Now — to Onofri Wines in Argentina where Mariana Onofri told Bloomberg that her operations were six months behind because of a lack of bottles. "We've never lived through a shortage like this," she stated.

And what about trying other packaging options? Stephanie Honig of Napa's Honig Vineyard & Winery told KCBS Radio it's not a short-term solution for wineries who need to bottle sooner than later. "There are alternative packaging — cans, boxes," she was quoted as saying, "but you can't do that on the fly if you're struggling with getting glass." As a result, the station reports that some wines will just have to continue to age whether they like it or not.

Meanwhile, the sad irony is that just last month, many wineries were complaining of wood shortages which, among other issues, were making it harder to source barrels to begin with.

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