Should Wine Bottles Shrink Their Carbon Footprint?

When we visit our local wine shop searching for that perfect bottle for the dinner table or for a gift, many consumers care about the label and the overall appeal of the packaging. And human nature is that the weight of the bottle and a deep punt makes the wine feel more special or valuable. For those of us that care about being eco-friendly, when we pick up that bottle, I do not suppose we are thinking about the considerable carbon footprint of that wine.

The path that bottle takes to the dinner table has a substantial footprint. This includes the effects of manufacturing, resources and transportation costs. And so often after we drink the wine, the bottle is simply thrown away.

Should wine bottles shrink in size to reduce their carbon footprint?

Wineries have certainly made huge inroads with pesticides and fertilizers, but if you’re making a nice Napa Cabernet, your marketing team would never agree to put that special wine in a dinky bottle.

Scott Lindstrom-Dake, owner and winemaker of Healdsburg-based Thumbprint Cellars, is very progressive and mindful of the environment, but is also realistic in his perception that wine bottles will not be shrinking anytime soon. “While it’s a topic of conversation, the consumer wants to see good glass and a thicker punt,” he opines.

Lindstrom-Dake uses medium weight bottles for his $45 Thumbprints that are produced in Tracy, California, and cost about $9 per case. But for his ”Sculptured” brand that retails for $125, he uses very thick glass that is produced in France and costs double the amount that he pays for the glass used for Thumbprint.

One greener alternative could be kegging.

Dan Donohoe owns and operates Napa-based Free Flow Wines, a packaging and logistics company that produces wine kegs. His clients include Frog’s Leap Winery, Sonoma-Cutrer and Caymus, kegging their wines for on-premise accounts like Shake Shack, the Coliseum at Caesar’s Palace and the Starr group restaurants in Philadelphia.

Donohoe is passionate about kegs and believes that alternative packaging is the wave of the future. In this regard he points out that “there’s no cork taint, no oxidation, no spoilage and it’s very green.”

One aspect of the wine bottle that is likely not changing anytime soon is the weight. When marquee producers put their wine in monumental packages, the new guy cannot afford to skimp and buck the trend. Innovations in packaging for lower-end, off-premise wines and restaurant packages will continue to evolve, but for now, ultra-premium wineries must follow consumer perception.

Jonathan Newman is widely recognized as a leader in the wine industry. As chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, he was the nation’s largest wine buyer and brought a number of popular innovations to bear, including the Chairman’s Selection program and opening of local stores for Sunday sales. Jonathan has received significant industry accolades during his career. Follow him on Twitter at @NewmanWine and visit his website: www.newmanwine.com.

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