Boxed Wine

It may not be Opus One in a paper bottle but don’t be surprised when wines are not packaged in glass bottles.  It was only a few years ago when I wrote about wine in cans. The marketing hype was ease of use, such as millennials packing wine cans for their weekend picnics. Needless to say, canned wine has had mediocre acceptance with only a few rosé and white wine producers.

– Boxed wine section in retail wine store; Bota Box, Barefoot, etc.

There is no industry more affected by climate change than the wine industry. It’s not only global warming creating havoc in the vineyards, there are 31 billion glass wine bottles (750ml) used every year with the following issues:

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  • Producing and recycling glass bottles (especially colored glass) is energy intensive, generating high heat to make/recycle glass and emitting gases into the atmosphere,
  • Glass is difficult to recycle; statistics show consumers more willing to recycle paper and plastic,
  • The increased weight of glass for shipping requires more fuel which emits more carbons, as well as higher costs for shippers.
– Is glass bottle packaging sustainable?

What are the alternatives? The alternatives are obvious; just look in the grocery store aisles of soda, juices or milk. The containers are plastic/PET or paper based, and don’t forget the bag-in-box wines (Bota box) in liquor stores.  But the reality of an alternative container for wines is not applicable to all wines. Sparkling wines (champagne, prosecco, etc.) are bottled under pressure and require a heavier glass bottle. And still wines packaged in plastic or paper must have a limited shelf life, only 12 to 18 months. This limits new packaging to “supermarket” wines (no aging required) although supermarket wines represent 80% of total wine volume sold, many in large format bottles (“jug wines”).

– Boxed wine with plastic liner requires removal of liner for recycling

This leaves the other 20% of wines to be sold in glass bottles. What would be the market’s reaction to replace glass bottles for these wines? The importance of packaging in consumer goods cannot be overstated, but remember the screw-tops  or corks conversation. Every argument supports screw-tops as a superior closure but now years later, screw-tops are still perceived as cheap wine.  Can you imagine 1st growth Bordeaux such as Lafite Rothschild in a paper bottle? 

– There are only five 1st growth Bordeaux wines

Is there nothing we can do to become more sustainable with wine bottles? For starters, let’s eliminate wines in thicker glass bottles. Though a minority, these bottles are crazy heavy and begs the question, why is a standard weight bottle not used? Today there is a growing consumer sentiment that companies must be responsible for what they produce. If wine producers continue to use glass, should they be responsible for its recycling? Stay tuned, this discussion is not over…

– Should companies bear responsibility to recycle their products?

Cheers, Bob the WineGuy
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