Beyond the (Standard) Bottle: Wineries Are Embracing Greener Packaging

Gro­wing and making wine can be done sus­tai­nably. Accor­ding to Grand View Research, the pro­duc­tion of orga­nic wine is pro­jec­ted to grow 10.2 per­cent bet­ween 2022 and 2030, and the spa­ce devo­ted to orga­nic gro­wing has increa­sed in Fran­ce alo­ne by 249 per­cent in the past deca­de. Whi­le hard num­bers are dif­fi­cult to come by, rene­wa­ble energy — gene­rally in the form of solar power — fuels many wine pro­duc­tion faci­li­ties across the globe.

The pro­blem ari­ses when atten­tion turns to pac­ka­ging that wine. About 29 per­cent of a wine’s car­bon foot­print comes from its glass bottle alo­ne, accor­ding to a study con­duc­ted by the Wine Ins­ti­tu­te in Cali­for­nia. Bet­ween 50 and 68 per­cent of that out­put is from the pro­duc­tion and trans­por­ta­tion of that glass. (Keep in mind that, accor­ding to many esti­ma­tes, more than half of the wine bottles used by U.S. pro­du­cers are ship­ped from China.)

There’s also the issue of recy­cling. Once that wine has been con­su­med, recy­cling rates vary sig­ni­fi­cantly from sta­te to sta­te, with the highest rates in Mai­ne, Ver­mont and Michi­gan. Currently, only 10 sta­tes have bills in pla­ce that incen­ti­vi­ze citi­zens to recy­cle bottles with $0.05+ return bonu­ses. Ove­rall, the U.S. recy­cles 31 per­cent of its glass bottles.

In an inhe­rently con­nec­ted glo­bal mar­ket, there’s no easy solu­tion to the pac­ka­ging conun­drum. But the­re are plenty of options.

Flat Plas­tic Bottles 

Lon­don-based Pac­ka­ma­ma, pre­viously known as Garçon Wines, pro­du­ces eco-flat wine bottles made from 100 per­cent recy­cled PET material.

Hardy's Nottage Hill in Packamama eco-flat bottles (Photo by Viinilinna, Aino Maaranta)
Hardy’s Not­ta­ge Hill in Pac­ka­ma­ma eco-flat bottles (Pho­to by Vii­ni­lin­na, Aino Maaranta)

The goal, Packamama’s com­mer­cial direc­tor Ame­lia Dales explains, is purely envi­ron­men­tal: Recy­cled PET pro­du­ces 79 per­cent fewer greenhou­se gas emis­sions and uses 90 per­cent less energy to pro­du­ce, accor­ding to a study from the ALPLA group. PET is also 87 per­cent ligh­ter than the ave­ra­ge wine bottle, redu­cing the car­bon nee­ded during trans­por­ta­tion. PET is also more fre­quently recy­cled than glass; accor­ding to the World Eco­no­mic Forum, it is the most com­monly recy­cled mate­rial in the world.

Pro­du­cers are res­pon­ding with enthu­siasm. This year, Pac­ka­ma­ma sur­pas­sed its millionth bottle miles­to­ne, with expo­nen­tial growth fore­cast. Bold-faced clients inclu­de Acco­la­de Wines, LVMH’s Cha­teau Galo­upet and Ron Rubin.

In the first four months of 2022, we reached the same volu­me of bottles as the past four years com­bi­ned,” Dales explains.

The­re is one obvious draw­back: long-term aging in PET is not recom­men­ded. But becau­se an esti­ma­ted 90 per­cent of con­su­mers drink a bottle within two weeks of pur­cha­se, the vast majo­rity of wine could con­cei­vably be pac­ka­ged this way.

Paper Bottles 

Fru­gal­pac, based in Ips­wich, crea­ted the world’s first paper bottle for wine, spi­rits and oli­ve oils in 2020. The bottle is made from 94 per­cent recy­cled paper­board, with a pouch that holds the liquid; together, it is five times ligh­ter than a glass bottle, and uses six times less car­bon and energy to pro­du­ce and dis­po­se of, says CEO Mal­colm Waugh. All told, a Fru­gal­pac bottle cuts the car­bon emis­sion of an ave­ra­ge wine bottle by 84 percent.

As with a PET bottle, a Fru­gal­pac bottle is not inten­ded for long-term aging; con­sum­ption within 12 months is recommended.

But the wine­ries that have sig­ned on, from Sig­nal 7 in the Uni­ted Sta­tes to Can­ti­na Goc­ciain Italy, appear to be delighted.

We are proud to have made his­tory as the first wine­ma­kers to have laun­ched their wine in a paper bottle,” says Can­ti­na Goccia’s co-owner, Ceri Par­ke. “Fin­ding an alter­na­ti­ve to glass that would pre­ser­ve the inte­grity of our wines, whi­le deli­ve­ring sig­ni­fi­cant car­bon savings was a cha­llen­ge — but one that was cru­cial for us to over­co­me. The Fru­gal Bottle ful­fi­lled both tho­se cri­te­ria in the sha­pe of a beau­ti­ful, tac­ti­le Bor­deaux bottle. The feed­back from industry and con­su­mers con­ti­nued to be so overwhel­mingly posi­ti­ve that it promp­ted Can­ti­na Goc­cia to com­mit to transitio­ning 80 per­cent of our wine pro­duc­tion to paper bottles.”

Can­ti­na Goc­cia esti­ma­tes it’s saved 23 metric tons of car­bon by swit­ching from glass to paper.

Boxed Wine 

Jason Haas, wine­ma­ker at Paso Robles’ Tablas Creek, farms orga­ni­cally and biody­na­mi­cally, uses rene­wa­ble energy and con­sis­tently asses­ses the winery’s car­bon foot­print. This year, he laun­ched an auda­cious expe­ri­ment for a pre­mium brand: he intro­du­ced a $95 boxed wine, citing the 84 per­cent savings in car­bon foot­print by swit­ching from bottles to boxes.

I floa­ted the idea of pro­du­cing a Pate­lin Rosé on Twit­ter, and I got a heart­war­mingly enthu­sias­tic res­pon­se,” he says. Ulti­ma­tely, Tablas Creek pro­du­ced 3L bag-in-box pac­ka­ges of its 2021 rosé, pas­sing on the pac­ka­ging savings to cus­to­mers, who recei­ved four bottles (which would nor­mally cost $112) for $95. (The relea­se amoun­ted to 100 cases of wine bottles, or 300 boxes of the lar­ger-for­mat 3‑liter bag-in-boxes).

I was hoping we’d sell out in a month,” Hass says. “Ins­tead, we sold out in four hours and are making a second batch to be relea­sed in May. Later this sum­mer, we’ll be doing bat­ches of our Pate­lin de Tablas and Pate­lin de Tablas Blanc.”

Ligh­ter Bottles, Bottling in Situ

Many wine­ries and regions that aren’t ready to give up a clas­sic glass bottle are fin­ding ways to crea­te gree­ner alternatives.

The Sici­lia DOC appe­lla­tion has more orga­nic gra­pes under vine than any other region in Italy, and, as part of its sus­tai­na­bi­lity mis­sion, many pro­du­cers are wor­king with light­weight bottles made from 90 per­cent recy­cled glass. (The glass is sour­ced from used wine bottles on the island.) The Con­sor­zio di Tute­la Vini Sici­lia DOC is currently eva­lua­ting whether the who­le appe­lla­tion can embra­ce this approach.

We are using raw mate­rial from Sicily, bottling the wine in Sicily and selling it locally, crea­ting an enti­rely clo­sed loop eco­no­mic exer­ci­se,” explains Leti­zia Rus­so, board mem­ber of the Sici­lia DOC.

In Argen­ti­na, at Mendoza’s Domai­ne Bous­quet, the team is colla­bo­ra­ting with its U.S. impor­ter, Ori­gins Orga­nic Imports, to bottle wine in Cali­for­nia. “The majo­rity of the Domai­ne Bous­quet wine bottles are light­weight already, allo­wing us to fit 30 per­cent more in a ship­ping con­tai­ner,” says Labid al Ame­ri, Ori­gins Orga­nic Imports’ pre­si­dent. “But we wan­ted to lower the foot­print further, so we are expe­ri­men­ting with bottling for the U.S. mar­ket in California.”


Plastic shipping containers for wine [iStock]
Plas­tic ship­ping con­tai­ners for wine [iStock]

The pro­cess entails trans­por­ting 6,400 gallons of wine in bulk in a 20-foot Fle­xi­tank con­tai­ner; the same spa­ce would hold less than 2,800 gallons of bottled wine. This shift lets them trans­port 2.3 times more wine.


Wine on Tap

For wine regions like Colo­ra­do, whe­re the vast majo­rity of the wine gets con­su­med in-sta­te by locals and visi­tors, wine­ma­kers are also pio­nee­ring gree­ner ways to ser­ve their customers.

We lear­ned a lot from local bre­we­ries,” admits Car­boy Winery’s co-owner Kevin Web­ber. “The­re are more than 600 bre­we­ries and taprooms in Colo­ra­do, and the cul­tu­re is really strong. In our tas­ting rooms in Den­ver and Brec­ken­rid­ge, we ser­ve most of our wine straight out of 300-gallon Bri­te Tanks.”


[Photo courtesy Carboy Winery]
[Pho­to cour­tesy Car­boy Winery]

He esti­ma­tes that, sin­ce foun­ding the winery in 2015, they’ve saved more than 600,000 bottles by ser­ving up wine on-tap. Car­boy also offers a refi­lla­ble grow­ler at its tas­ting rooms, something Web­ber says regu­lars “love.”


Wine­ma­ker and co-foun­der of Colorado’s Sau­va­ge Spec­trum Patric Maty­siews­ki says wine on-tap pro­grams have been “going strong” in Colo­ra­do for a decade.


[Photo courtesy Carboy Winery]
[Pho­to cour­tesy Car­boy Winery]

I’ve hel­ped ins­tall 16 sys­tems throughout wine country here, and I see it con­ti­nuing to grow as bottles beco­me har­der and more expen­si­ve to get,” Maty­siews­ki says. “Keg­ging wines and ser­ving them in tas­ting rooms saves thou­sands of dollars in bottle costs. Cus­to­mers love it. I hear the same, ‘Wine on tap? That’s so cool,’ again and again.”


From sus­tai­na­bi­lity to aesthe­tics, there’s a lot to con­si­der when pic­king pac­ka­ging. For a deep dive on all of the pac­ka­ging options for pro­du­cers, check out the packX­plo­re Con­fe­ren­ce on May 25, 2022. The Wine Industry Net­work con­fe­ren­ce will help wine­ries navi­ga­te the world of wine pac­ka­ging, at the inter­sec­tion of design, inno­va­tion, con­su­mer enga­ge­ment and sustainability.










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