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French wine by rail to China

|   Group Press Releases

Paris/St. Gallen, July 3, 2017. The InterRail Group and JF Hillebrand, an international service provider specialized in the logistics of beer, wine and spirits, conducted a test shipment of French wine by rail from Duisburg (Germany) to Yiwu (China), over a distance of 11,400km, crossing six countries. The results were presented during VinExpo Bordeaux 2017. From the data recorded, which included temperature, humidity, G Forces and altitude, the experts were able to offer an informed view on this new logistics solution’s viability for the beer and wine industry. More information:

A rail shipment poses a number of challenges, the containers are exposed to tough climatic conditions (temperature and humidity) but there are also material and administrative constraints to consider. As the train crosses six different countries, the track gauges can be different from one country to another requiring a change of train (the container remains sealed). It also means different time zones generating communication delays, different transport conventions (CIM # SMGS) for the railway bill and documents exclusively written in Chinese, Russian or English.

The data recorded confirmed how exposed the container is when shipped by rail compared to a container shipped by sea freight whether to humidity or thermal shocks. The temperatures varied from -2°C at its lowest to 58°C at its highest. Our experts pointed out the direct correlation between the temperature fluctuations and humidity levels: humidity decreasing as temperatures rise outside the container and vice versa. Left without suitable protection, extreme climatic conditions can cause damage to the packaging, to the cork's integrity and the wine's chemical and sensorial trend.

The container however had been fitted with JF Hillebrand’s manufactured trademark protective liner foil system – the VinLiner, captors revealed the difference between dry and insulated containers. The VinLiner significantly reduced fluctuations in the container, therefore within the container the temperatures varied from 9°C at its lowest to 32°C at its highest (58°C outside the VinLiner). Pierre Corvisier, JF Hillebrand Group Service Development and Innovation Director, analysed the temperatures further and was able to estimate the temperature within the bottles of wine. At the peak temperature (58°C outside the VinLiner), the wine was between 25/29°C.


G-forces data loggers (longitudinal, vertical, transverse), placed outside the VinLiner, measured a lot of movement between wagons, in particular in Kazakhstan and China which could be the result of uneven rail tracks. It reached a maximum of 2G, the equivalent of a rollercoaster which means potential damage to the bottles inside the container if left without suitable protection. During this test no damage to the bottles or packaging was observed.

The first results regarding chemical trend are inconclusive at this stage, if some slight discrepancies were found between departure and arrival, both analysis were conducted by different labs therefore JF Hillebrand has requested further analysis from the initial lab to verify results.



There is still much to be done and to look forward to. Rail tracks can be improved to ensure smoother shipments, there will be additional railheads in Europe (Bordeaux, Paris, Lyon, Milan and London) and an increased reefer availability on more routes. There will be more capacity on rail services, and further development of VinRoute Eurasian Landbridge, JF Hillebrand corporate's predictive risk management solution uses climatic data of the World Meteorological Organisation, thus giving visibility on temperatures on specific routes at any time of year. Consolidations should soon be an option allowing smaller shipments by rail. Chemical trend research should reveal the difference (if there is any) between the wine at departure and the wine at arrival, but also the difference between wine shipped by rail and wine shipped by sea freight. JF Hillebrand and InterRail have scheduled another test next month to move spirits. One thing is clear though, shipping with dry containers is not an option, beer and wine will need to be shipped with reefer containers or insulated with VinLiner.



The InterRail Group, registered in Switzerland, is an international transport group with a focus on rail freight, ownership of rolling stock and containers. As the operator of container block trains between Europe and Asia, InterRail has the specific knowhow and knowledge for the transport of conventional and containerized cargo from and to Russia, China, the CIS and Southwest/Central Asia, as well as in transit through these countries. InterRail has direct contracts with all national railway companies within the CIS and China. Among others, the service portfolio includes end-to-end freight rates, documentation, pre- and on-carriage for rail traffics, tracking and tracing as well as container provision. InterRail operates its own offices amongst others in Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Germany, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. 



JF Hillebrand is part of JF Hillebrand Group is a privately owned company, headquartered in Mainz, Germany. The company is an international service provider specialised in the logistics of beer, wine and spirits and keg supply chain management for the beer industry. The Group employs 2500 people across 58 offices around the world. Presence in 91 countries, 1.1 billion € turnover in 2016. Press contact: Ms Aicha ELMS, PR Specialist, T +33 380 24 41 85,