Is it more expensive to ship wine from further away?


Wine shipping costs

Andrew Roe, Kingston-upon-Hull asks: I know that tax is a large part of the cost of wine, but what about shipping? Surely it must be more expensive to ship wine from Australia than from, say, Italy? Or are the quantities so enormous that shipping costs are negligible?

A leading London wine shipper replies: There are several factors that influence final shipping costs. It is not a simple matter of distance: for us, the cost of shipping a case from Chile is exactly the same as shipping from Chablis. This is partly because Chilean wine travels by container loads (volume is important) and by water (ships use significantly less fuel per bottle), so the mileage difference is effectively cancelled out.

Trucking by road is far more expensive than shipping by water. If we collect from the port of Buenos Aires, the cost is about 10p less per bottle than from Chile (Buenos Aires being on the right side of the Panama Canal).

However, if we collect direct from the cellars in Mendoza – at least 12 hours’ drive from Buenos Aires – the cost is about 25p a bottle more. Remote places with tiny roads or mountains that require smaller trucks and more time, will cost more. This is particularly true of parts of Italy, Austria and Switzerland.

How bottles are packed, and the weight of the bottle, affect costs too. As do volumes: larger companies shipping larger volumes will benefit from sharper rates.

Exchange rates also play a part: when sterling fell against the euro in 2008/2009 as a result of the credit crisis, European freight rates rose considerably due to the more expensive euro.