Monday, July 15, 2013

Wine - Why are you using thousand year old packaging technology?

If I gave you two options for buying something, which would you pick:

Option1 - Glass packaging:
1. Heavy glass package which is energy intensive to ship
2. Each package is has 6.25 servings
3. Once opened, the material will expire within 2-3 days, regardless of how much or how little was used
4. Bottle shaped packages that don't stack efficiently and leave holes
5. Breakable

Option2 - Plastic bladder in a cardboard box
1. Once opened, container is good for 6 weeks of shelf life
2. Lighter packaging
3. Stacks more efficiently
4. No risk of injury from broken glass
5. Container is larger with about 83 servings per container 
6. Sometimes there is a volume price discount

Katherine Thompson of Virginia Tech Food Science makes glass the clear winner for wine that needs to age since:

 "Glass bottles protect the quality of the wine by reducing oxygen permutation through the container.  While other containers might be more economical and lighter in weight, they do not preserve the quality of wine like glass bottles."

But really, are you keeping your wine for aging? Or are you just falling for marketers tricks?

"In the past decade, wine bottles have been gradually gaining weight because people typically associate heavier glass bottles with higher quality. The total weight gain for a glass wine bottle is about a pound."

While I like wine in a box, Ms. Thompson's report makes Tetra Pak seems to be a clear winner:

Tetra Pak containers primarily use packaging materials made from paper and weigh about 40g compared to glass bottles that weigh anywhere from 500g – 750g. The use of Tetra Pak containers, rather than glass bottles, results in the use of 92% less packaging material than glass bottles, 54% less energy over the life cycle of the container, 80% fewer greenhouse gases, 60% less solid waste volume, and 40-50% fewer trucks to deliver the same quantity of wine packaged in Tetra Pak containers than in traditional glass bottles (2008d; 2008c)

And it gets even better:

Unlike glass bottles which are difficult to stack, Tetra Pak claims containers can be easily stacked during transport and storage (2005). Tetra Pak designed the Tetra Prisma container for the wine company French Rabbit. The Tetra Prisma was designed so that air could be squeezed out of the container after someone finished pouring a glass of wine. The French Rabbit’s website claims that this type of design allows for an air tight seal preserving the wine longer than a traditional glass bottle (2006).

In a 2011 paper by R. Ghidossi et al. in the Journal Food Control (23 (2012) 302-311) compared PET (plastic) bottles of single and multi-layer, glass, and Bag in Box. It found that "Taken as a whole, these analyses tend to prove that white wine is largely influenced by the packaging used. The differences were detectable at 6 months". However, some much better news on the red wine front:

"No differences were noted at 6, 12 and 18 months of conservation. No groups could be created by the panel of tasters. Else if O2 content increases quickly in the Bag in Box configuration, it doesn't impact on the sensorial analysis. We therefore consider that, for red wine, no significant differences could be determined and that conservation of red wine was efficient for a period of 18 months for all the packaging configurations studied." (Bold added)

So if you're not storing wine for a long period, and if it's not white, why not look to modern packaging rather than just using the same packaging from Roman times and before.


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