The Logistics Behind A Grape Harvest

Wine-growers must be in a position to carry out the harvesting at the critical time: that means they need reliable operational equipment that is ready for action. This concerns not only machines, but vehicles too.
Learn about the logistics of the wine industry

By Jérôme Ovion, Managing Director Operations, FedEx Express and Pierre-Yves Gudefin, Development Manager, FedEx Express France

Grape harvesting is in full flow. Representing the culmination of an entire year’s work, it is a key moment for wine-makers. Choosing the date is not a matter of chance. One must take into account a variety of factors, including climate conditions and personnel organisation. But the list doesn’t stop there. Wine-growers must be in a position, whatever happens, to carry out the harvesting at the critical time: that means they need reliable operational equipment that is ready for action. This concerns not only machines, but vehicles too. Wine-makers have very limited room for manoeuvre: as soon as the grapes are ready for picking – which is largely dependent on the weather – the harvest must take place immediately. The success of a year’s work will depend on a few hours or days. As a result, a detailed mechanism is put in place with regard to agricultural equipment manufacturers and dealers. Should there be a breakdown on the estate, the defective vehicle or equipment needs to be repaired straight away, and any spare parts received in record time. This means a speedy, dependable supply network is vital, particularly between June and September when demand is greatest.

The wine-making sector tries to limit costs as much as possible by grouping non-urgent orders and building up stocks during slower times of the year. However, there is no hesitation in opting for high added value express transport services at peak periods. Special express deliveries are a common sight during the grape harvest, throughout the night or in the early morning. Budget decisions are not a primary factor in these cases, because seasonality and the pace of Mother Nature play a very important role and supersede everything else. Talking about wine, one immediately thinks about the ideas of quality, precision and finesse. On the logistics side, these criteria apply to transport methods as well. It is essential to be in the right place at the right time.

The challenge for a fast, successful delivery is all the greater as wine-growing estates are naturally located in the countryside, in areas of low population density. There is therefore a longer, more complicated distance to cover to reach them. Proximity to regional territories is crucial to achieve this goal.

The wine-growing market is remarkable because it remains relatively stable from one year to the next and seems quite unaffected by economic downturns. Wine is traditionally a noble product, sometimes regarded as a long-term investment. The short-term demands and long-term preparations both the wine-makers and logistics experts face, reveal that there’s more in common between a delivery van and a bottle of wine than one would imagine!

   SME