I am quite delighted to write this article about how to ship wine. The reason is that I am a former Shipping manager with a larger american group of wines and liquors and it had been my duty for more than twenty years to take care of shipments with my export staff.
Basically, in order to discuss how wine can be shipped, the Nr 1 fact is to define how many bottles or cases you will have to ship.
Through courier services, it is quite possible to-day to have one case uplifted by a messenger on Day 1 and have it delivered on Day3 in Tokyo, unbroken that is !
Your responsability as a Shipper is to make sure that your bottles are packed in a secure export box [export-dedicated boxes differ from domestic cases since they are solid, have partitions and are meant to absord shocks / a relevant sign is imprinted on one side expressed in Pounds].
I recall that a courier service salesman explained to me one day that whether or not our box would be safe, their Company would systematically re-pack our case in their own shipping box. It was quite an excellent service. Shipping via a courier implies that you are expecting a fast result or probably a fast feeback from the consignee (as it can be samples for tasting purposes). So breaking is forbidden.
Let us leave the 12-bottle case shipment and shift to a larger quantity: in general cases will be stacked on giveaway-pallets (their size is 1m x 1,20m) also called recyling pallets. They are free of charge and used for the main in Europe. To protect pallets from shocks, dirt etc.. it is preferable to shrink-wrap it and stick a placard on one side to show the name of consignee and destination. The full postal or physical address is not mandatory at this stage.
In certain countries like Germany the giveway pallet is not required as the Euro-pallet ( 1m x 0,70m) is preferred. Because of its rarity this type of pallet is generally exchanged at the time the haulier turns up at the warehouse to collect the order or billed by the Shipper to his customer.
For any larger loads meant to travel by sea [I am not talking about large loads to travel within Europe as they are palletized cargo in canvass-roofed trucks in general), the wine will be shipped in containers.
They are basically two types of containers: the 20 foot container and the 40 foot container, also named 20-footer or 40-footer. At first sight you may argue that a 40-footer would contain the double of what you can stack in a 20-footer. It could be true but because of weight limits on payloads for trailers moving around in our cities, you have to take into account the payload only before loading.
As a result, there is a trend to abandon 40-footers (20 tonne payload) and shift to 20-foot containers (17 tonne payload) for the per-case freight cost will be more advantageous in a 20 footer container loaded to maximum capacity. do not forget we are talking about wine, that is a heavy product. Should you have feathers to ship, a 40-ft container would then be preferred !
To take advantage of the full capacity implies that you will not stack the wines on pallets in this container, else much space will be lost.
Finally, during the winter season and on some specific routes (from Europe to the US and Canada), refrigerated containers ( Reefer containers) will be required, such containers are fitted with an engine that makes cold or heat upon request [when shipping from Europe to San-Francisco via the Desert of Nevada it is strongly recommended to ship a reefer making sure it will give out a low (but not freezing) temperature, alike your refrigerators at home ( +2 Celcius grades).
When shipping to Canada it is also recommended ( from October to March) to ship reefers ( plugging the temperature to a positive number too). Reefers are therefore made to protecct the wine from excessive high or low temperatures.
This equipment is given a specific treatment once it is on board the vessel: the Shipping line is responsible for the plugging of reefers to the ship’s equipment in order to maintain a continuous temperature inside the “box”. The road-haulier who trucks your load from your warehouse to the port is also responsible to plug the container to his trailer so as to maintain its correct temperature until he reaches the harbour.
I could probably expand more on this subject next ( airfrieghting, bulk wine shipments in tanker-vessels.etc).