When thinking about how we get a bottle of wine from the producer to the shop shelf, it often amazes me that the average customer has no concept of the logistics involved in getting the wine onto the shelf.
Joseph Mellot Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc in PET bottle
Wine can be transported in two ways – either in tank or in bottle. Tank shipping is economical in that the extra weight of all those bottles of wine does not have to be taken into account. However, the importer has to have an efficient bottling facility in place and the producer has to be satisfied that the bottled wine will be of a suitable quality once bottled. Furthermore the producer will probably not have control over the bottling facility so this tends to be used for budget or basic wines.
Shipping bottled wine takes a lot more energy as the bottles themselves have to be transported. For every bottle of wine, a very rough rule of thumb would be that the wine weighs about 2lbs while the bottle can weigh between 2.5 – 3lbs depending on the quality of the bottle. It does not take a genius to see that to transport all the actual bottles in a shipment of wine will use a lot of energy and add to the Carbon Footprint of the cargo.
What can be done to address this? Well, importers obviously try to group loads to reduce energy expenditure and to increase the profitability of a shipment. However the latest initiative that I think is very interesting is from Joseph Mellot in the Loire Valley.
The Mellot name has been synonymous with wine since 1513 when César Mellot was wine advisor to Louis XIV. One would not immediately imagine that such an historical name would be associated with groundbreaking developments like a 'plastic' bottle. However as the producers of many award winning wines and being proactive in using new technology such as screwcap closures, Joseph Mellot has been to the forefront in producing some of the very best wines in the Loire.
The company has spent a lot of time and a huge amount of money developing this new lightweight bottle. While it is made from a type of plastic (PET), the research and development was stringent in that the bottle had to have no detrimental effect on the actual wine.
The savings in energy transporting a much lighter bottle are obvious. What is not obvious is that being lightweight and unbreakable the bottle is also very suitable where weight or safety is an issue. I can see it being used extensively among the sailing fraternity or in aircraft for example due to the weight saving property. It is also ideal for use in areas where glass breakage would be an issue such as beside a swimming pool. Furthermore, at public events, a thrown empty plastic bottle would not be as much of a missile as a glass bottle is and furthermore it would be impossible to injure somebody with this so it has an obvious safety advantage.
As a green, initiative it is exciting that the producers are willing to introduce such an innovative solution to an age old problem of the weight for the bottle in shipping. The wine in the bottle is a delicious Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire with typical grassy flavours and good acidity to produce a mouthwatering table wine.