Wine in Plastic vs. Glass – Another New Wine Debate!

Plastic wine bottles...flexible!

    Ahhhh, yes! Just what we need! Another long and tedious argument relating to wine packaging!

    I came to terms a long time ago with the fact that if I had to read another article on “cork vs. screwcaps”, I would probably just stab myself in the eye with a corkscrew. 
    I’ve therefore been ever-so-feverishly searching for the next big argument! Since the next debate that I predict will be wine in glass vs. plastic bottles, let’s take a quick look at the potential advantages and disadvantages of each.

     

    Advantages

    Weight

    A plastic bottle has around 1/8th the weight of a glass bottle, therefore making transport more efficient. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you’re transporting wines from New Zealand to the U.S., that can mean a considerable amount of fuel saved overall.

     

    Refrigeration

    Since the walls of the bottle are thinner, the white wines typically chill much faster. This is a BIG advantage, for me at least…but I’m inpatient anyway…

     

    Breakability

    Plastic doesn’t, glass does; break that is. Obviously, this makes them easier to handle and transport. More importantly though, it also means you can take your wine “pool-side”!

     

    Environmental

    Plastic wine bottles typically produce around 29% less greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) over the entire lifecycle of the product compared to a 750ml glass bottle. Plastic bottles are arguably more recyclable, but the question remains about the “real world” recyclability of plastics. Just because it’s recyclable, doesn’t mean that it will be! However, that’s another even more boring debate, which I definitely won’t be getting into here. You’re welcome!

     


            Disadvantages

          Compromising Quality

          There is no debate about it, plastic allows more oxygen through the bottle than glass, thus the wine will lose its shelf-life quicker. Australia producer Wolf Blass experimented with plastic in 2009 for its Green Label range, and gave wines a max shelf-life of 12 months.

           

          Health Implications

          I’m not going to lie; using too much plastic in our everyday lives scares me, it always has. Heavy use of plastic in food packaging has always been a controversial issue for consumers, and to put the mind of the consumer at ease is going to take a lot more research (and marketing $’s). There are some manufacturers making BPA free bottles, though.

           

          They Look Cheap and Nasty

          Ok, maybe I could have phrased that one ever-so-slightly more eloquently; but consumers are no doubt going to have a hard time being convinced of the value of wine in a plastic bottle. Would you buy a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild if it was in plastic? Also, convincing them on the virtues of the humble plastic bottle based primarily on its positive environmental impact won’t be easy! I think a lot of people care about the environment (in their minds at least), but when it comes down to it, I’m not so sure if they’ll put their money where their mouth is.

           

           

              Plastic wine bottles at SainsburysConclusion

              Glass bottles are a fairly recent innovation, only dating back to the 18th century. Before glass, wine was stored in clay vessels, so plastic and other materials (such as Tetra Pak’s) are obviously just a natural progression.

              It’s more than likely that we’ll start to see plastic wine bottles on our grocery store shelves in the near future, as retailers start to take a more active role in reducing their carbon footprint.
              My opinion is that plastic bottles are a relatively safe alternative for budget-priced domestic wines; however I do have big concerns about transporting wines in from other countries, and also the likelihood that the wines will go bad quickly (due to the ingress of oxygen through the plastic).

              Vintage dates on bottles already confuse consumers, and maybe if wines are going to be packaged in plastic, they wouldn’t even bear any type of vintage date (as the wine will likely be from multiple vintages). In order to combat this, maybe some type of industry-wide ‘”Best Before” date wouldn’t be a bad idea in order to give reassurance on purchase. Otherwise, who knows how old that juice is!?!?
              All-in-all I don’t think plastic packaging for your vino is too bad of an idea; however, with wine consumers getting their panties in such an un-necessary wad over their wine having a screwcap, I don’t even want to be around when the plastic bottle argument blows up (and it will)!

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