Lightweight Wine Bottles versus Heavyweight Wine Bottles

Lightweight Wine Bottles: The Way Forward?

I am for producers using lightweight wine bottles. You may have noticed a trend in recent years for premium and super-premium wines to be presented in heavier and heavier bottles. It seems to be generally accepted that a lightweight bottle is around 300g, and this amount of glass, dark in colour to protect from light, can easily make a perfectly good wine storage receptacle (bottle) – providing one isn’t trying to make a really tall bottle or a wine bottle with a deep punt. Lightweight wine bottles have been designed to mirror the appearance of heavier, taller bottles and are can still be sufficiently strong and fit for purpose. A lot of heavyweight bottles are often over 500g and I have seen a few that have been over 900g, which is starting to get into sparkling wine bottle territory but they have to be heavy and thick due to the massive pressures in the bottle. I suppose it’s a phallic thing, a competition to see who has the biggest bottle.
What set me thinking about all this was the new lightweight wine bottles that Some Young Punks are using for the latest vintage of Passion Has Red Lips – a big difference from the larger, heavier, taller bottles of the previous vintage. Looking around Fareham Wine Cellar, the heaviest bottles I can find would probably be the Trapiche Single Vineyard Malbecs from Argentina and the Numanthia Termanthia from Toro in Spain. Most of the heavier weight bottles seem to come from Argentina, Spain and perhaps Italy. However, perhaps the bottles from Australia and Chile seem to be a bit less chunky than they used to be.
Here is a comparision of the three wines mentioned above. The Passion Has Red Lips bottle is around (I don’t have any scales to hand) over half a kilo lighter than the Numanthia!
L-R Trapiche Single Vineyard Malbec, Some Young Punks and Numanthia Termanthia
Both Tim Atkins and Jancis Robinson have been fairly vocal in trying to bring the heavyweight vs. lightweight wine bottle debate to attention of the wine-buying public and both have said they will not review wine in what Jancis calls “bodybuilder” bottles. As Tim Atkin stated in an article in the Guardian in 2009, “In an effort to arrest this runaway trend, I’ve taken the decision not to recommend anything on these pages that comes in a heavyweight bottle. The only exception will be Champagne and sparkling wine, where the wine style (and the potential for serious accident) dictates the choice of package. I will not hesitate to name and shame.” I wonder whether he has stuck to this?
In an age when there is a heavy focus on issues of sustainability, emissions, energy and moderation of packaging and resources, it makes sense to move towards lighter wine bottles which have a much lower carbon footprint than heavier wine bottles.

Pros of Lightweight Wine Bottles

Raw materials required are less than for heavy bottles, plus energy requirement of manufacture are less resulting in lower carbon emissions. This can be improved further if a high proportion of the glass use in manufacture. Less costs too.

  1. Outer packaging, i.e. cardboard outers,  can be reduced in size. Cut down of packaging in general.
  2. In terms of transport basically the lighter the freight the less fuel used and more bottles can be packed into a smaller space.
  3. Lightweight bottles can be recycled using less energy, therefore producing lower CO2 emissions, than for heavy bottles.

All of these add up to a smaller carbon footprint.

Cons of Lightweight Wine Bottles

I can’t really think of many. Perhaps they are a little bit more fragile that heavier bottles and might require slightly better external packaging.
Obviously lightweight wine bottles will help to keep costs down for consumers which has got to be good and if one can do this whilst be more eco-friendly surely it is a win-win situation.
However  there is still the misconception that the bigger the bottle, the taller the bottle or the deeper the punt the better the wine. Findings, published in the Food Quality and Preference journal, showed that average consumers were more likely than amateur collectors or professional wine experts to be influenced by a bottle’s weight. Read more here and here.

Alternatives to Lightweight Wine Bottles

So what are the alternatives to lightweight wine bottles in trying to minimise one’s carbon footprint?

Bulk Shipping Wine – Quite a lot of wine consumed in the UK is now shipped from overseas to the UK in Flexitanks and is then bottled in the UK. Obviously this cuts down on a lot of packaging and costs during transport but one only really ever sees quite cheap wines bottled in this way. I am sure there are issues with contamination and oxidation with bulk wine shipping  and customers tend to have a negative perception of bulk wine.

Bag in Box Wines seem to have been around forever but they don’t seem have really caught on in a way one might have thought, seemingly destined for use at picnics, on boats or by people who “only have an occasional glass” of wine. Bag in Box also seems to let a bit of oxygen in. Again, these seem to have an image problem in the UK.

Plastic Wine Bottles (or PET bottles, polyethylene terephthalate) are very light. An average PET bottle weighs only 54g compared to an equivalent 400-500g glass bottle. Some of the PET bottles look quite good now and they are quite robust and don’t break easily. Conversely they are not widely recycled. However, somehow they just don’t feel right or look right
So tell everyone about “lightweighting”, there is no longer really any excuse for overly big and tall bottles. This seems to be the best solution to being greener and leaving a smaller carbon footprint. I wonder if anyone can find a standard wine bottle over 1kg. Get drinking and get your scales out! If you do, please name and shame.

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