jamie goode's wine blog: PET wine bottles

Thursday, July 26, 2007

PET wine bottles

PET (a type of plastic) wine bottles are in the news. There's suddenly been a flurry of interest in the subject in the national media here in the UK. Just had a call from Sky News who wanted me to do a live interview at 6.30 this evening (I politely declined, can't make it) along with an environmental expert. Is PET good for the environment? (Much lighter, bottles are also smaller.) Is it good for wine quality? (The issue is oxygen transmission by the plastic, which isn't really known yet, although there are probably some doom merchants who'll suggest that the wine is leaching nasties out of the PET.)

[added later] When I got home I found two samples waiting for me from Sainsbury's (pictured) - both in PET bottles. These are 75cl like regular wine bottles, but the overall dimensions are much smaller. It's not a development I'm terribly keen on, because wines in PET will taste a little different even if iit is just because of package oxygen transmission differences. The only place I can see it being worthwhile is for new inexpensive brands where the novel packaging can be part of the brand image.
[added later] Article now on main site here explores this issue in more depth.



At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Tim Jackson, London said...

I'd have thought that the likes of Coke would have a pretty good view of oxygen transmission rates thru PET, because (if I recall correctly, thinking back 9 years) this was one known issue for shelf-lives of 50cl PET bottles vs. the classic aluminium or steel drinks can.

At 5:48 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Another day, another gimmick. A few years ago various New World brands began to put their wines in bottles so heavy they would snap the ligaments in your wrist simply lifting them (Chile and Argentina take a bow). Now we have plastic-lite. In terms of poetic justice, we surely have discovered the right substance to encase these wines.

More seriously I don't whether it's my sense of taste but water or beer out of plastic tastes of plastic. Is there a chemical exchange going on? What would happen to the wine over time? It would be interesting to do a blind tasting on these wines: plastic versus glass.

Another variable left out of the equation is how much energy does it take to recycle plastic bottles compared to glass? I wonder how much they have thought this big marketing initiative through (because I'm sure it's all to do with marketing and nothing to do the environment)

By the way, Jamie, what did you think of Croser's feisty contribution to the stelvin debate?

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Tim, thanks for this.
Doug, what was Croser's contribution? I haven't seen anything of late.

At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Hi Jamie,

Croser - speaking at an assocation of Wine Educators seminar - said that he was bottling his Tapanappa range under cork after a comparative tasting of wines back to 1970 of wines under stelvin and cork revealed much more complex development under the latter. He said apparently that aged Riesling under stelvin tasted "canned pineapple" and that the pro-stelvin movement was "evangelical" almost to the point of being anti-intellectual.

He's right in a sense. The stelvin/cork debate ultimately degenerated into a tribal wrangle shedding more heat than light; I remember being so harangued by an Australian winemaker who categorically assured me that the future was bright, the future was stelvin, that I was convinced he must be wrong. Stelvin was never the philosopher's stone for winemakers but it made people think about what they were doing - which had to be a good thing. On the other hand PET... what next Red Bull Chardonnay?

At 4:13 PM, Anonymous Wine Bottle Stoppers said...

Interesting, a similar debate raged about the virtues of using plastic as a bottle stopper, versus screw cap or cork.

Historically its been a cost versus product quality issue, but environmental issues need careful consideration when deciding on the best solution.

Its good to know that cork is a natural, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable material and is obtained through one of the most environmentally-friendly harvesting processes in the world.

No single tree is cut down to harvest cork. The bark of trees is stripped every 9-12 years which does not kill the tree, and trees can live for up to 300 years.

Advocates of synthetic corks and screw caps argue that never again will wine be ruined by TCA.

TCA is an extremely potent odorant that can be detected in infinitesimal amounts. A cork besmirched by TCA will impart a noxious aroma and taste to the wine, similar to damp moldy cardboard.

Moreover, screw caps are easy to open and donít require the use of a corkscrew. The counter argument is that wine needs to breathe in the bottle in order to age properly and these devices impede or halt that process.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger a. silverman said...

This thread surfaced in a search on TCA and PET.

I happen to know a great deal about oxygen transmission and PET. These bottles are targeted at the vast majority of wines that sell for under $15/bottle and are not intended to be cellared. If it's to be put away for your daughter's wedding, stay with glass. If it's for tonight or next week or even next year, PET is just fine if it uses Monoxbar(tm) to keep the oxygen out. Triangle taste tests demonstrate non-detectability versus glass, SO2 loss is actually less than with glass -- leading to the prospect of reducing the need to add this oxygen scavenger, which goes to sulfites and requires that embarrassing warning label. No breakage, no glass fragments, no TCA, far fewer truckloads needed --- far less diesel fuel, particles, smog, GHGs.

At 9:59 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Mr or Ms Silverman - thank you for your informed comment, and I'd love to see some of the data you have access to - any chance?


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