Published On: Wed, Sep 12th, 2012

Conservatives and liberals may differ on wine packaging

Conservatives and liberals may differ on wine packaging

Conservatives and liberals may differ on wine packaging

Add this to another topic conservatives and liberals disagree on: wine packaging. Wines & Vines editor Jim Gordon wrote in his article, Partisan Packaging and Variation, that in wine packaging terms, conservatives favor glass bottles and natural corks. Liberals prefer bag-in-box, PET, paper cartons, foil pouches and now even ceramic and aluminum bottles, plus screwcaps, synthetic corks and even stoppers made from glass.

In essence, according to Gordon, conservatives think inside the bottle, while liberals think outside the bottle. I have to say I’m not sure what the method was for measuring this and obviously there are exceptions to every rule. I failed to find a scientific study that confirms this thought process. However, Gordon’s column did strike a chord with one winery.

At Clayhouse Winery in Paso Robles, CA, winemaker Blake Kuhn said it’s less about thinking outside the box than it is about giving the customers what they want. He uses screw tops and is now filling more kegs, in addition to traditional glass bottles. Kuhn likes kegs because they’re fully recyclable, saves the winery the cost of returns, and they weigh less than glass bottles, so shipping costs and the carbon footprint are both smaller than shipping glass.

As for kegs, Kuhn said Clayhouse has plenty of restaurant accounts that would rather buy a 20-liter keg of wine than individual bottles. In fact, Clayhouse regularly considers all sorts of packaging options, including stainless steel kegs, pouches, cartons, plastic bottles, and bag-in-box. “I think screw-top closures (instead of cork) have opened everyone’s eyes to even more alternatives,” Kuhn said. “Now wineries are using bag-in-box, plastic, and foil pouches as well as kegs. It’s all about packaging that maintains wine quality and delivers whatever the customer wants.”

As I noted in a previous article, environmental and economic concerns have encouraged some in the wine industry to shed some packaging weight. While wine glass bottles are still the majority, the opportunity for alternative packaging is increasing, said David Schuemann, owner and creative director of CF Napa Brand Design, a firm specializing in branding, which includes packaging and structural designs, for the wine, spirits, and beer industries.

“There is a big change happening in the business, and the younger generation, who are green conscious, are the ones leading it into the future,” he told me. “Alternative packaging definitely has legs and it’s here to stay. I don’t see it as a fast fad in any way.” It’s debatable if there are political reasons behind wine producers looking to reduce packaging weight.