Thinking Bigger than Barrels: ISO Tanks and Flexitanks

Skolnik produces stainless steel wine barrels in a variety of handy sizes, but when it comes to shipping, sometimes something a little bigger than a 124 gallon container is needed. Like, say, a 6,000 gallon container. Bulk wine shipping has increased by 60% in total volume since 2005, and with this rise in different shipping methods, different shipping solutions are required. That’s where ISO tanks and Flexitanks come into play. Between these two methods, thousands upon thousands of gallons of wine are shipped each year

ISO tanks are cylindrical, stainless steel tanks which are built to the standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The ISO was established in 1947 and they work to create standardized processes of manufacturing so that things can be interchangeable, regardless of the country of origin.

ISO tanks are designed to carry bulk amount of liquids that are both hazardous and non-hazardous (where wine falls between the two is a subjective categorization). The tank is made of stainless steel, an optimal material for storing/transporting wine, and is surrounded by various types of protective layers, with different protective coatings depending on the type of cargo being carried. Based on scale alone, ISO tanks can be daunting to sanitize for reuse, but at luckily stainless steel is non-porous making it more difficult for bacteria to form. They can be easily transferred between truck, rail and boat, and usually have capacities of about 26,000 liters.

Flexitanks operate in much the same way as ISO tanks, but are giant bladders made of thin plastic. They are stored in traditional shipping containers and thus can be transported much like any other freight. While they can be washed out and reused, they are often disposed of and recycled after one use, eliminating the headache caused by the rigorous cleaning required to keep bacteria out of the containers. . Flexitanks, however, generally only hold around 24,000 liters.

Although bulk shipping is often associated with low quality goods, it’s not necessarily the case with wine. Beyond high-end wine made with the bottle-aging process in mind, many wines start degrading as soon as they’re bottled. By staying un-corked until the last possible second, wines are granted an extended shelf life by shipping them in tanks. More shelf life means longer window to sell and consume the wine, a bonus for business and consumers alike.

There are also benefits when it comes to shipping logistics. While traditional bottle shipping can fit anywhere between 12,000 and 13,000 bottles worth of wine per truck, ISO and flexi tanks carry 35,000 and 32,000, respectively. More wine per shipment means less overall cost, thus increasing the value of the wine being shipped. It also makes the transportation more green by reducing the overall amount of shipments required.

Both of these methods come with their own set of pros and cons to consider; there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to shipping wine. What ISO and flexi tanks do both offer are means to ship wine in bulk amounts more economically, environmentally, and effectively. They’re both very useful and should be considered for storage. That is, after the wine has fermented in Skolnik stainless steel wine barrels.