When It Comes to Sustainable Packaging, These 5 Wines Are Winning
- David Smith
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When we think about sustainable wine, we tend to consider growing practices. Were the grapes farmed organically? Does the vineyard preserve biodiversity? We might even zoom out to the winery itself: whether it recycles, uses solar energy, conserves water. But those of us roaming the wine aisle may think about this lowest-hanging fruit the least: the container our wine comes in.
Across the industry, winemakers are beginning to adjust their packaging in a more sustainable direction, from choosing lighter-weight bottles to swapping out foil capsules (that’s the industry term for the sleeve on top of a bottle). While I gravitate toward a well-designed label as much as the next wine enthusiast, I admit I’ve never given much thought to the rest of the bottle. Packaging might not seem like a big deal, but it turns out that factors like bottle density and wax seals have outsize impacts.
Take glass bottles, which make up an overwhelming majority of the wine market. Almost half the weight of a case of wine comes from the bottles rather than the wine itself. Transporting these hefty bottles across the country—or across the world—leaves a sizable carbon footprint. “Glass is about 40 percent of the carbon footprint of the bottle of wine—it’s huge,” says Nicolas Quillé, Master of Wine, sustainable packaging advocate, and chief winemaking & operations officer at Crimson Wine Group.
Winemakers also have to contend with consumer likes and dislikes. “The classic reason that [winemakers choose to stick with traditional packaging] is that they think consumers are not ready for a different container, and that they associate the weight of a bottle with the quality of the product,” Quillé explains. In other words, lighter bottles are not always an easy sell, let alone alternative containers like Tetra Paks or the aluminum cottle (yep, that’s “can + bottle”). But last year Crimson Wine Group reduced the weight of its bottles by 13 percent across the board and sales held steady.
Despite concerns, plenty of winemakers around the country are shifting their packaging choices in a greener direction. If you’re wondering how to find and identify wines that look out for the planet—not only when it comes to production, but also packaging—we found five delicious and sustainable picks for you.