Wine in Paper Bottles? It's here!
Updated: Aug 2, 2021
What makes up the carbon footprint of your glass of wine? The answer may surprise you.
Packaging and distribution, not cultivation, account for most of the wine industry’s carbon footprint. Research by The Australian Wine Research Institute found 68% of the carbon impact occurs post-production. Cultivation (15%) and winemaking (17%) contribute far less to this footprint. Each liter of wine produced creates carbon dioxide emissions ranging from 0.6 to 1.4kg CO2e/L. While this is low when compared to the production of meat, fish and even many crops, there is a growing movement within the industry to further reduce carbon emissions.
The traditional glass bottle contributes greatly to the industry’s carbon footprint. Glass requires high use of fossil fuels throughout all stages of its lifecycle beginning with manufacture in forges where temperatures reach 1500 ⁰C (2700 ⁰F). At an average weight of one pound (453 grams), wine bottled at the winery and transported in glass bottles to destinations around the world boosting carbon emissions. Finally, at the end of their life span, the bottles are either incinerated or recycled, adding yet more emissions.
More Climate Friendly Packaging?
The new ‘Frugal Bottle’, manufactured in the United Kingdom, weighs only 3 ounces (85 grams) and is made from 94% recycled paperboard. Produced by Frugalpac its carbon footprint is 84% less than that of a glass bottle and 1/3 less than a recycled plastic bottle. After use, the paper ‘bottle’ can be broken down and recycled. The interior food-grade liner, however, is a polyethylene/metallized polyester laminate. This material, the same used for bag-in-box wines, is not universally accepted in recycling programs. According to Packaging Digest, Frugalpac is currently testing a mono-metallized polypropylene pouch that can more easily be recycled.
The Italian winery Cantina Goccia was the first to use the paper bottle, releasing “3Q Paper Bottle 2017” in June 2020. The unoaked Sangiovese with a small blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic Umbrian red. (It is currently available in the UK through WoodWinters.) The bottle, and the wine within, has received positive feedback among wine critics.
‘Glass free’ is the goal set by UK winemaker English Vine. Hoping to achieve this within five years they have adopted the Frugal Bottle. They are now offering a comparison case (6 bottles) of their Bacchus white wine in both glass and the paper bottle; customers are asked to provide feedback on how well paper stacks up to the traditional bottle.
(I was unable to find these, or any ‘paper bottle wines’ available for purchase in the United States. If I’m wrong, please send me a note!)
Will Customers Accept a Paper Bottle?
The glass bottle has long been viewed by consumers as an indicator of a wine’s quality. To some, the heavier the bottle the higher the quality! Will they embrace wine in paper bottles?
Today’s consumers, notably Gen Z, prefer sustainable products, and are willing to pay higher prices for them. The ‘sustainability generation’ actively seeks out information on manufacturing conditions and assurances of sustainable practices. They have driven a growing consumer interest in wines certified as ‘sustainable’. Typically, certifications focus on sustainable viticulture practices, but initiatives such as the Wine Industry Sustainable Packaging Alliance (WISPA) in Australia are helping to raise awareness of the role of packaging in sustainability.
Ceri Parke, owner of Cantina Goccia, describes the consumer reaction to the paper bottle as "exceptionally positive”and “a game changer for the wine industry”. Since its release, the ‘3Q Paper Bottle 2017’ has sold-out twice, with one retailer selling their entire stock in a single day. Ceri believes the paper bottle "has to be part of the future for the bulk of wine that is drunk within a year of bottling." Cantina Goccia now plans to release 80% of all their wine in paper.
We can expect to see more paper bottles. Frugalpac received inquiries for more than 70 million bottles and signed contracts with at least 4 additional winemakers, including one based in the United States. Already their bottles are being used for sake, spirits and olive oil.
Soon we may be bringing more of our wine home in paper, giving up carbon but not quality!