The glassmaker produced 8,000 bottles this year during the month-long production run dedicated to 9-liter, 12-liter and 15 liter formats. Luxe Packaging Insight got an inside look at the annual manufacturing process.
Each year in a month-long production run, glassmaker Verallia fires up a line dedicated to large-format bottles at site in Oiry, near Epernay in France. The line produces Salmanazar (9 liters), Balthazar (12 liters) and Nebuchadnezzar (15 liters) Champagne bottles, with around 8,000 made this year. (Other sizes such as magnums and jeroboams are produced on standard production lines.) “It’s a real craft,” affirms site director Jean-Yves Poussardin, adding that the glassmaker recruits and trains temporary staff for its standard production lines so that its highly skilled employees can work on the large formats. Each bottle is individually inspected and tested for parameter such as neck straightness, glass thickness and pressure. While 90% of 0.75 liter bottles pass quality control, this figure is much lower for the 9-liter, 12-liter and 15-liter ones, with around only 12-15% deemed compliant.
In the same vein as this year’s particularly good Champagne harvest – “producers are even calling 2022 the year of the century!” says Poussardin – Verallia finished its large-format production run one day ahead of schedule on November 29th. It is now preparing to debut its “specialty production run” in January, which will last around three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half months. Accounting for 20-25% of total volumes – the site produces some 180 million bottles per year – it is dedicated to specific bottle formats and glass colors, such as Ruinart bottles and the Dom Pérignon tint of glass (Moët Hennessy is the Verallia site’s biggest customer).
The glassmaker is also set to implement further price hikes in January, after raising prices more than 20% this year as it passed on increases in raw material and energy costs to its customers. “Our customers have accepted the price increases,” says Poussardin. “We’re in the luxury industry, and the grape is more expensive than the bottle.”
Verallia’s Oiry site has one furnace with a production capacity of 550-560 tons per day and four production lines. The glassmaker invests some €800,000 – €2m a year in the site, which produces bottles for still and sparkling wines in addition to Champagne.