Food packaging is not the sexiest of subjects, let’s face it. However, things like the world’s environmental woes, object design and local wine production are more likely to pique one’s interest. With this in mind, the folks at One Planet Wine – an Australian wine company that uses Tetra Paks rather than standard glass bottles – are onto something very sexy.
About two years ago, a group of Australian winemakers and lovers gathered for lunch at one of their vineyards and discussed ways they could make a wine packaging product that was more environmentally sustainable. They mulled over the fact that 98 per cent of wine is drunk within 48 hours of purchase and that a great deal of energy goes into producing glass bottles that are simply thrown away.
The group – who comprised husband-and-wife winemakers Sarah Fletcher and Tim Burvill, Endeavour Vineyards CEO Sam Atkins, and master of wine Phil Reedman – decided Tetra Pak was the way to go. Using close to 90 per cent less packaging waste than standard glass bottles, it’s easy to see why they made this decision.
'Orange juice and long-life milk are put into this type of package, so it has to work for wine," says 35-year-old Burvill.
One Planet Wine comes in a 2008 Shiraz and 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. The "bottles" are about 20cm high, 12cm wide and easily hold their form when thrown into a picnic basket or a shopping trolley. What’s more, the wine is top quality, or so SBS Food discovered when we sampled it at a recent Bécasse Producer’s Lunch. If you don’t believe us, then consider the fact that Burvill is the proud maker of the most expensive wine ever sold in Australia – a bottle of RockBare shiraz that was knocked down at an auction for $110,000.
Naturally, Burvill and his peers had apprehensions about using a packaging product that resembled a cask. 'I thought maybe some people’s reactions would be, 'I’m a serious wine drinker; I don’t drink wine out of a cardboard carton’. That’s certainly some people’s reaction when they see it, and then when you actually talk to them about the product and all the advantages of it, and finally when they taste the wine, most people get it and fall in love with the product," he says.
In Australia, One Planet Wine is among a handful of winemakers using the Tetra Pak, meanwhile others around the world, including in the Champagne region, are embracing environmentally friendly packaging options. A few months back, the New York Times reported that Champagne brand Pommery had developed a lighter glass bottle for their product.
'We’re slimming the shoulders to make the bottle lighter, so our carbon footprint will be reduced to help keep Champagne here for future generations," Thierry Gasco, the master vintner for $80-a-pop Pommery, told the Times.
Pommery’s move is part of the Champagne industry’s "drive" to reduce 25 per cent of the 200,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide it emits every year. While Champagne can’t be bottled using Tetra Paks – because they would likely explode! – the lightening of bottle necks is a sign that even the most traditional of industries can change its tune.
'Wine is such a traditional product; they’ve been making it for thousands of years and we keep coming back to using the same techniques over and over in the production of grapes," says Burvill.
'But, I will say, if you were thinking about making a product that was liquid and was really expensive, the last packaging material you would use is a fragile bottle that could break, and to stop that bottle with a piece of bark. So in terms of innovation, we’re not altering the production of our wine – we’re still making it using traditional techniques – but certainly we’re using modern technology to package the product in a far more sensible and sustainable [way]."
For wine lovers looking to reduce their carbon footprint, purchasing wine that’s packaged in an environmentally sustainable way is certainly a step in the right direction.