Home Wine Business Editorial Packaging A Little Lighter: New Glass Alternatives Lower Shipping Costs, Carbon Footprints

A Little Lighter: New Glass Alternatives Lower Shipping Costs, Carbon Footprints

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“We’ve done enough carbon dating, now may be the time to break up.” —Randall Grahm

By Laura Ness

 

Glass is heavy, resource intensive to produce and costly to ship. It’s the biggest contributor to the wine industry’s carbon footprint. It will be a while before large-scale glass making can be converted to all-electric furnaces, although that is a promising trend. 

In the meantime, let’s give credit to the folks who figured out the many benefits of boxed wine years ago. Among slumping wine sales, Tetra and box packaging were alone in staging gains in actual volumes. Is it convenience, cost or environmental consciousness? 

We now have a recycling fee attached to every bottle of wine, yet some municipalities no longer recycle glass. 

Refilling glass bottles is a great alternative. Sonoma County wineries such as Horse & Plow, Pax Wines, Kivelstadt Cellars and Mercury have dedicated refill programs, while others in Califonria, including Page Mill (Livermore) and Guglielmo (Morgan Hill), offer bottle-your-own events. Still, it’s a grassroots effort. 

Banding together to advocate alternatives

     Enter the Alternative Packaging Alliance (APA), a group of environmentally conscious wine brands that have recently joined forces to transform the industry’s approach to sustainability. Inaugural members include Juliet Wine (Yolo County, Calif.), Communal Brands (New York), Really Good Boxed WineSandy Giovese Wines (New York), Nomadica (Beverly Hills, Calif.), Ami Ami (Healdsburg, Calif.) and Tablas Creek Vineyard (Paso Robles, Calif.).

Allison Luvera, founding member of the APA and co-founder of luxury boxed wine brand Juliet, says APA’s mission is to decrease the environmental impact of the wine industry through awareness and acceptance of quality wines in alternative formats. 

“In year one, the APA will roll out several initiatives aimed at education, advocacy and reshaping perceptions,” she says. “Strategies will include industry partnerships, joint retail merchandising efforts, tasting events and the development of publicly available resources on alternative packaging. By championing more education, advocacy and resources to support the expansion of alternative formats in wine, we hope to lead an industry-wide change with a positive environmental impact.”  

ALuminum saves weight and space

At least two companies are already taking steps in the right direction, already entering the market with their alt-bottle designs. Leading the way into the next chapter of wine packaging are Bogle Family Vineyards with ElementAL and War Room Cellars with FrugalPac. 

ElementAL from Bogle Family represents a bold and shiny new way of delivering wine in an infinitely recyclable format that is lighter weight (90g v. 500g) and shatterproof. Made of aluminum, it keeps wine really cold. Even better, the top screws back on and you can use the empty bottle for water, as it’s far lighter than most water flasks. 

ElementaAL has been in development for three years. “Element[AL] is more than just the launch of a new wine brand, it’s the beginning of a new way of thinking for the wine industry,” says Jody Bogle, vice president of consumer relations at Bogle Family Wine Collection. “We began by looking for ways to lightweight our existing glass bottles, and that led to a more radical approach.” 

The radically stunning bottles have no labels. Each of the four wines currently in-market has a 360° design directly printed on the bottle. Through internal research and blind tasting, the company has concluded there is no perceived taste difference between aluminum and glass bottles with wines aged for one year in glass versus aluminum bottles. 

Element[AL] wine bottles, which are slightly smaller (due to no punt and thinner sidewalls), weigh 11,500 pounds per truckload less than the same amount of wine in traditional bottles. That’s roughly the weight of an African Elephant. Additionally, 43% more cases of wine can be loaded per truck, while keeping the total load 3% lighter compared to glass. 

Lighter loads are the goal

Leave it to Andrew Nelson of The War Room, owners of the Bonny Doon brand, to come up with a paper bottle (although this concept was kicked around years ago by Bonny Doon founder Randall Grahm himself). Nelson teamed up with UK company, FrugalPac, and Monterey Wine Company (King City, Calif.), to develop a 750mL version of wine in a box. Monterey Wine Company built the first Frugal Bottle Assembly Machine in the United States to make and fill the Frugal Bottle, made of 100% recycled material. Carbon…Nay!  

A Provençal-style blend launched May 1, tastes great and has a six times lower carbon footprint than an average glass bottle. 

Says Nelson, “A full case of wine can weigh 40 to 50 pounds. This paper bottle weighs about 24 pounds in a full case.” 

The Frugal paper bottles will be available in U.S. Whole Foods stores nationwide. 

At Monterey-based Scheid Vineyards, Chief Marketing Officer Sylvia Bronson says they’ve shifted 46% of the winery’s glass needs to lightweight bottles, which translates into a weight savings of about 1.6 pounds per case — that’s 356 tons last year. It also trims $0.50 off each case price, which lets Scheid hold steady on pricing to consumers. Further, says Bronson, “With lightweight versus conventional bottles, on average, we can fit 168 more cases in a load, which reduces the number of trucks needed to ship our wines.” 

In the words of Bonny Doon Vineyard founder and industry punster-pioneer, Randall Grahm, “We’ve done enough carbon dating, now may be the time to break up. #breakingupishardtodoon.”

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Laura Ness
Laura Ness, Judging at Dan Berger’s IWC

Laura Ness

Laura Ness is an avid wine journalist, storyteller and wine columnist (Edible:Monterey, Los Gatos Magazine San Jose Mercury News, The Livermore Independent), and a long time contributor to Wine Industry Network. Known as “HerVineNess,” she judges wine competitions throughout California and has a corkscrew in every purse. However, she wishes that all wineries would adopt screwcaps!

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