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Re-imagining Glass

Wine and its enjoyment continue to be inextricably linked to a ritual that revolves around a glass vessel. From the presentation of a label to cutting the foil and eventually extricating a cork to reveal its contents, the wine bottle is part of a sensory experience that begins with one’s eyes and culminates in the palate.

Today, however, the wine industry finds itself in the middle of a paradox. The challenge is how can alternative packaging solutions preserve the tradition that revolves around the hallowed wine bottle while also addressing consumer interest in sustainability?

One creative solution is the 750-ml flat wine bottle, introduced in 2017 by Garçon Wines out of Great Britain. Producers who have embraced the flat bottle design include Australia’s Hardys and Banrock Station and Anakena from Chile.

Garçon’s product is sleek and elegant, despite being made from 100% recycled plastic and is fully recyclable itself after use. The bottles are 87% lighter and take up to 40% less space than conventional glass bottles, thus dramatically reducing both shipping costs and the possibility of breakage. The PET material acts as an airtight barrier against oxygen entry and is perfect for early-drinking wines. Together with a threaded cap closure, it preserves its contents for approximately 12 months.

2020 also saw the launch of a new “paper bottle” movement, led by Absolut and Diageo as well as other beverage industry behemoths. In September of 2020, Absolut tested a run of 2,000 paper bottles in Sweden and the UK while Diageo is planning a limited release of paper-bottled Johnnie Walker Black in 2021.

The earliest and boldest entry into the paper bottle niche is from Italian producer Cantina Goccia. In July of 2020, the company introduced Q3 in the British market, a lightly-wooded Sangiovese-based wine blended with tiny amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Q3 is packaged in the 750-ml Frugal Bottle, a paper bottle developed by yet another UK company, FrugalPac.

The Frugal Bottle is comparable in cost to a labeled glass bottle but is five times lighter than its counterpart. It is made from 84% recycled paperboard that encases a food-grade inner pouch that in turn houses the wine. Because of its minimal weight (83 grams), the overall carbon footprint is six times lower than that for glass. For wineries looking for shelf impact, the Frugal Bottle offers the possibility for 360-degree branding and even has a printed base.

While unquestionably cutting-edge, the future for alternative packaging lies in the hands of the consumer. Can centuries of glass bottle tradition be offset by the new interest in environmental responsibility?

Perhaps Cantina Goccia’s launch in Scotland is an indicator of what lies ahead: The demand for the first run of Q3 packaged in Frugal Bottles was so high that local retailers sold out after only four weeks.

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