Gallery: Packaging the Future: Is Boxed or Bottled Wine Better for the ...

It's summertime, and the wine drinking is easy! While there are certain objects I refuse to sacrifice to sustainability (LP's, books and snail mail), there are plenty of things that I will avoid if it means a healthier planet. And as much as I love a bottle
 
It's summertime, and the wine drinking is easy! While there are certain objects I refuse to sacrifice to sustainability (LP's, books and snail mail), there are plenty of things that I will avoid if it means a healthier planet. And as much as I love a bottle of wine, it's not the bottle that I'm as into as much as the wine itself (wheeee!). Fortunately, depending on the material used, wine from a box lasts longer and tastes just as good as wine from a glass bottle - and it seems to be the greener choice. Read on to learn more, and don't miss our list of favorite boxed wines!

You might be wondering what the heck is wrong with using a glass bottle for wine anyway? Well, not that much — if your wine is from down the street, ie. very local. Plenty of lucky folks on the West Coast and in France, Spain and Germany can drink wine that’s made fewer than 100 miles away. But if you don’t live in a wine-growing region, as I don’t (if you live on the East Coast, it’s actually more eco-friendly to get European wine that’s shipped on a less-polluting boat than Californian, which is trucked).

Since plenty of wine is transported pretty incredible distances (I HATE that my favorite wine is Shiraz from Australia), the weight of all that glass really adds up to lots more fossil fuel burning than need be if the wine were packaged in a lighter material. While you can’t change much about the weight of the wine itself, smart design can lighten the weight of a case of wine bottles.

While some businesses have been ‘light-weighting’ bottles in recent years, wineries have been slow to adapt to this trend, though it can result in a compromise, with glass bottles that are 12-28% lighter than their conventional counterparts. As reported by Wine Business magazine, Fetzer Wineyards in California benefits from, “…a 14 percent reduced carbon footprint (a measure of the impact activities have on the environment). Lightening their 750mL bottles by 3.3 ounces (from 20.3 oz. to 17 oz.) will reduce their yearly glass usage by 16 percent, totaling more than 2,100 tons of glass.”

But when it comes to the weight game, boxed wine end up being tons lighter — literally — than even the lighter glass bottles. As Yellow + Blue wine’s website details: “Consider: A case of wine in glass weighs 40 pounds and holds 9 liters of wine — close to 50% wine and 50% packaging. A case of Yellow+Blue weighs 26 pounds and holds 12 liters of certified organic wine. That’s 93% wine and 7% packaging.

Box wine is also easily closeable and keepable – which might help you keep from drinking the whole thing! And some of the box designs will actually keep wine fresher, longer, with special seals and collapsable interiors.

However, box wine isn’t perfect. Boxes are not good for aging wines, so vintages that you want to keep for years in the basement aren’t going to fare well in a box. But frankly, not a lot of wine is aged – the vast majority is consumed within a year or so of its production. The biggest advantage that glass bottles have (aside from tradition) is that they are easily recyclable. While Tetra Paks (what most new ‘box’ wines is packaged in) can be recycled (and they are to a higher degree in Europe), here in the United States we are far behind and aren’t able to easily recycle them (though plenty of communties do – check yours here).

However when you consider the energy it takes to melt and transport glass for recycling, even if you don’t recycle the Tetra Pak, the energy savings alone make up for the (fairly low-volume) landfill use.

If you think boxed wine is all Franzia and their ilk, think again. Over the past few years I have gotten to try the “new” boxed wine produced by several companies, and it’s just as tasty as any other kind. Here are some standouts:

French Rabbit wines have been served at quite a few events I’ve gone to in recent years, and they are very (maybe too) drinkable and refreshing.

Yellow + Blue makes an line of organic wines that are very delicious and easy-to-drink. As an added bonus, the graphic container means I wouldn’t be embarassed to put it right on the table.

Boho Wines are from California, and everything from the taste of the beverage to the whimsical package reminds you. Due to the bag-in-box design, not only is a larger quantity of wine less expensive (a box that which contains the same volume as three bottles is $24), but it will last for six weeks in the fridge.

Akesson Vins, a Swedish vintner, wins the award for coolest package design. And the best part? They make single-serving ‘juice-box’ style wine containers! Just don’t get it mixed up with the Juicy-Juice for your kids’ lunchbox.

Thirsty for more? There’s lots of additional boxed wine recommendations in this roundup!

+ Packaging the Future


Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick and author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life (St. Martin’s Press). A green living expert, she contributes to The Huffington Post and Mother Nature Network (MNN.com)

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7 Comments

  1. Sunshine and Waves July 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Definitely 75 or 150 cl bottles with cork for vintage wines. Makes it possible to preserve the right taste over years to come.

    Definitely 500 cl aseptic cartons for non-vintage wines. Makes it easy to reduce and recycle packaging for fresh wines that are drank within 12 months or so from filling and can be stored at ambient temperature.

    Many areas already have well established recycling for glass and cartons among others so it’s rather easy move.

    As said earlier, one can also continue to reuse that glass decanter or carafe even if serving “only” non-vintage wine.

  2. MikeHimself July 10, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Not as simple as it seems. Some wines are shipped in tankers and bottled locally. Makes it difficult to do the calculations. Also, it could be argued that plastic liners do not bio-degrade and are therefore more polluting.
    So if you are really serious about this, you should make your own by fermenting locally grown fruit and re-use the bottles.

  3. Msgabc July 10, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I have no proof, but i really question your conclusion. As noted, tetrapaks are awesome for preservation and weight savings, but terrible for recycling and not-so-good when it comes to manufacturing. Glass otoh, if awesome for both manufacturing and recycling; weight issues seem managable when the wine is shipped via containerized freight.

    Personally i like the bag-in-a-box, i just wish you coild get higher quality wines in these packages.

  4. dpr July 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Or you could just not drink wine if it’s that big of a deal. TetraPaks are horrible for recycling.

    I have yet to find a drinkable wine in a box. Pretty design, yes. Good wine, notsomuch. I’ll stick with glass, and look down at people for other things. Like hard to read websites (cough cough cough) that have to many ads you can’t find the content.

  5. lazyreader July 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Be it box or bottle, there will always be a demand for fancy bottles. Not just the snobs but the purists of wine. I don’t drink alcohol at all but respect the history. Wine can last for centuries in a well sealed bottle, that’s what makes it valuable. And for the sophisticated, why not use the a decanter. Many tout the aesthetic value of using a decanter, especially one with an elegant design and made with clear glass, and believe that for all but the most fragile of wines that there is not much significant damage to the wine by decanting it.

    I just think it’s funny how France has such strict control over it’s wine industry. In France, government issues level of control to wine growers……………the grapes you can grow, what vineyards may grow it, all thanks to obsolete standards and practices. In California, people are entrepreneurs who are free to grow what they want, when they want, how they want. That’s why sales of wine in France have declined and sales in America and Australia and South Africa are growing. 90 percent of Americas wine comes from California; a changing trend now that New York, Maryland, Virginia, Missouri, and Washington have all taken an interest in vineyards with them growing new grape hybrids not even found in Europe.

  6. Jessica Dailey July 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    I had no idea that it was more eco-friendly to get European wine on the East Coast rather than West Coast wine, due to the transportation emissions. Good to know!

  7. Yuka Yoneda July 8, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Boxed wine = #winning. It’s an Inhabifave!

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