From delicately twisting a corkscrew to get that all-satisfying “pop,” to pouring the perfect amount of wine from bottle to glass, the ceremony of opening a wine bottle has timeless appeal. But tradition isn’t the only consideration when taking a hard look at how your wine is packaged. Sustainability and environmental impact are becoming ever more at the top of consumers’ minds.
So, what makes some wine packaging sustainable, and others not so much?
When it comes to evaluating the sustainability of wine, a 2020 California Wine Institute study found that traditional glass bottles account for 29% of the wine’s carbon footprint, and transportation of the bottles accounts for 13%. That means that nearly half the carbon footprint of a bottle of wine is directly impacted by its packaging and ship-ability.
Plastic may seem controversial when talking about environmental impact.
Allison Jordan, executive director of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance and head of environmental affairs at Wine Institute, says there is a higher demand for sustainable wines and sustainable wine packaging, and there are a few key factors to focus on when considering what that means.
“It’s not just about recyclability but also recycled content,” she says. “If you look at lifecycle, it’s also the amount of electricity used to produce the packaging, and then transportation is also a really important factor and weight is a big part of that.”
In short, the weight of the vessel—which impacts the fossil fuel levels necessary for shipment— its life span, recyclability and the carbon footprint of creating or recycling the packaging material matter most when determining what sustainability means for a container.
Lightweight and Recycled Bottles
Of course, glass still rules the pack when it comes to wine containers. Glass stands as the best bottling option when it comes to aging wine and is the most traditional. But not all glass bottles are created equal, environmentally speaking.
The eco price paid when bottling with glass comes firstly from the bottles’ weight: a 750-ml bottle is about 2.65 pounds. Some winemakers try to address this issue by using lightweight bottles, but even these can weigh 2 pounds when full.