I’ll be honest; I wouldn’t buy a wine that was contained in anything else but a glass bottle. Bag in Box? Nada. PET bottle? Irredeemably naff. Tetrapak? That’s for milk.
But it’s time to fight the creeping tendency towards bottling wine in ever thicker and heavier glass. The average wine bottle in the UK weighs 500g and the lightest 300g. Of course Champagne bottles are far heavier, but at least they have the excuse that they have to have extra strength to cope with 6 atmospheres of pressure!
I regularly encounter glass wine bottles that are in the 800-900g category and the worst offenders are now easily over the kilo mark. Supposedly, this is all about marketing, about creating difference and recognition, of shouting “hey! I’m a super premium and super lovely luxury product!” However I refuse to believe that anyone is so stupid that they will choose a wine primarily based on how heavy it is in their shopping basket. Moreover, I’ve tried to correlate bottle weight, wine quality and price at a number of Trade tastings attended over the past year and can now report: there is none.
Yes, glass is 100% recyclable, but the UK just can’t use it all up and the extra weight of these über-bottles adds cost to the product, uses more raw materials and makes a bigger carbon footprint too. Then they don’t fit on merchants shelves and won’t fit in my bottle racks either.
I’ve also heard other arguments advanced for thicker heavier glass, such as more protection from breakage. Guys, a 300g glass bottle can have enough structural integrity so that it is no more statistically likely to break. Or this one – “well, heavier glass is more opaque, better for ageing and protection from UV.” Umm, that’s surely about colour, not weight and the majority of wine bought is consumed quickly after purchase anyway.
And the culprits? Well I originally thought that Californian excess and Italian design flair would make these countries the worst offenders but in fact those responsible for these steroidal excesses can be found globally. One of the saddest findings is that some organic and biodynamic producers are also guilty and you’d think they’d know better.
It’s great to see that the WSTA and WRAP have just hosted a London forum on improving company co-operation to use lighter weight bottles, as clearly this is a wasteful supply chain issue where producers and retailers need to change. Given that single estates in particular prefer to bottle at source rather than ship in bulk then moving to lighter bottles is straightforward and makes a lot of sense.
I also think that Wine Educators can play a part – in consumer education yes, but also by taking this up at Trade tastings with merchants, importers and producers. Perhaps if our voice is loud enough they will listen.
In fact I raised this recently with a Californian producer known for his 17% Zinfandels after I found I did not have the musculature to lift a 750 ml bottle approaching 2kg in weight. As the contents were invisible I was surprised to find the bottle nearly empty. So heavy and over-engineered it was that it looked like it should be used at Sellafield to contain spent nuclear fuel. Suffice to say I’m not on his Christmas card list anymore. Actually, given the contents…