Will wine in glass bottles stand the test of time?
Glass and wine have belonged together since the 17th century – a symbol of pride, tradition and quality that transcends time. But with new packaging solutions emerging on the market, will glass continue to be the best option? How is the industry evolving to future-proof glass packaging, and will it stand the test of time?
No matter where you are in the world, it’s very likely that when you think about wine, you will picture a glass bottle. However, in recent years, there has been a rise in alternative packaging solutions for wine, that have been compared to glass in terms of environmental sustainability, taste preservation, and consumer experience. But how are these new packaging solutions perceived by industry experts and consumers? How do they compare to glass? And how is the industry evolving from production to bottling to meet consumers’ sustainability demands?
These were just some of the questions discussed during our latest live Q&A with wine experts Simon Lawson (managing director at Casella Family Brands, Europe) and Jamie Goode (wine columnist at The Sunday Express, lecturer, and book author) and moderator Michael Delle Selve (Head of Marketing and Communications of FEVE).
Glass is a key part of the wine drinking experience
Wine is much more than just a drink. It’s an integral part of European culture and heritage, from the very first winery to the maritime trading routes mapped out by the Phoenicians. But how has glass been part of that story?
To Jamie Goode and Simon Lawson, glass is more than just a packaging solution, it’s an important component of the overall drinking experience. For most consumers, glass is part of the essence of wine. There’s an emotional value to buying a bottle of wine: people come together to open it, pour it into a glass and celebrate. In this sense, wine is a sensory object that transcends the liquid in the glass. It arouses emotions and can effectively influence perception.
“[Wine] is a liquid that comes in a bottle. It’s sealed, you unseal it, you pour it into a glass and that’s something that’s really at the heart of the wine consumption moment and experience” – Jamie Goode (Wine Columnist at The Sunday Express, Wine Lecturer, and Book Author).
Glass design highlights the premium quality of a product
Whether it’s the shape, colour, tint of glass and closure, wine bottles convey a unique identity. And all these elements that make up packaging are part of brands’ identity, which will undoubtedly affect brand perception and premiumisation.
The bottle is not only a way for wine companies to differentiate on the shelves, but it’s also a testament to the quality of the wine. By stripping the wine from its glass bottle, we risk commoditizing wine, compromising its perception and ultimately reducing its value.
“The packaging is part of the experience of wine, and it controls the expectations people have when they approach wine (…) We know that perception – the actual flavour we experience – is strongly marked by things intrinsic to the wine itself, like the drinking occasion and the packaging” – Jamie Goode.
Glass is inert and keeps wine tasting as intended
Glass is a natural, single-layer and see-through material. It’s made from three natural ingredients: sand, soda ash and limestone, in combination with recycled glass (also called cullet), with no secret ingredients in its mixture.
Nonetheless, packaging wine isn’t as easy as it may seem. Wine has high levels of acidity and sulphites, making it susceptible to oxidisation. Fortunately, glass is not only virtually inert, it’s also a non-permeable material, meaning that it doesn’t interact with the wine, preventing its oxidisation and ensuring taste preservation.
It’s common knowledge that wine gets better with age, but in order for it to age gracefully, it must be packaged in glass. Once the wine is sealed in its glass bottle, it can age for years or even decades without losing its integrity.
“When used together with a suitable closure, the glass bottle is ideally suited to wine. To preserve wine quality and to not allow the quality to degrade at all” – Jamie Goode.
On the contrary, alternative packaging solutions rely on additional layers – namely plastic liners – to protect the quality of the wine and to prevent leaks. This comes with the risk of leaching chemicals into the wine, affecting the product’s taste, decreasing shelf life and potentially harming consumers’ health.
Sustainability goes beyond packaging
When it comes to environmental sustainability, the wine industry has already taken many steps to improve sustainable practices throughout the winemaking process. One of the main ambitions is reaching carbon neutrality, and Simon Lawson believes this is possible.
“I think the ambition of the glass industry (…) is remarkable. It’s a journey I grant you, but I’m sure that net zero is achievable in glass and that’s exciting” – Simon Lawson (managing director at Casella Family Brands, Europe).
As part of the Furnaces for the Future vision, the glass industry is looking into renewable energies to fuel their furnaces and minimising carbon footprint in transportation. For example, Casella Family Brands have partnered with Encirc to help them reach their sustainability goals:
“We are very excited about the partnership we have with Encirc. They have been trying biofuel and (…) [looking] at the use of hydrogen in fuelling the furnaces. We work closely with them on our customers to ensure that our transport footprint is as minimal as it can be.” – Simon Lawson
Additionally, the industry is also working towards waste reduction – through better recycling, water, and resource management during manufacturing – and lightweighting. In the last three years, wine bottles have decreased by 20% in weight, going from 500 grams to just under 400 grams per bottle, and this is only the beginning.
Brands, connoisseurs, and consumers agree – glass remains the preferred packaging for wine. It has proven capable of ensuring taste preservation and prolonged shelf life, in a way that no other packaging can guarantee. It’s the best fit for the product and a sustainable choice for the planet.
Did you learn anything about the future of glass packaging in the wine industry? Do you think glass will stand the test of time? How will they ensure economic and environmental sustainability? Head over to LinkedIn and let us know!
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