I love the great outdoors. Hiking to a remote peak and feeling the sun and wind while admiring the beauty, or kayaking down a river, or lounging on the beach—these are soul-restoring activities in our hectic modern world.
I also love wine. Opening and sharing a stunning bottle with people who will savor it as I do is also soul-restoring to me. I especially enjoy combining these two soul-restoring activities, wine and the outdoors, but there is one major problem: the glass bottle.
Glass bottles are heavy. And glass breaks. This makes packing in and out of the wilderness much more difficult—and there should be no glass on the beach or at the pool. Oh, and did you remember the corkscrew?
Fortunately, we now have wine containers that are great for taking to the beach, pool or wilderness—and they’re just as good as, or even better than, glass bottles for storing wine.
Glass bottles started being used to store and transport wine once glassblowing techniques advanced during the time of the Roman Empire, and became more widespread during the Renaissance and in subsequent centuries. In other words, we have been using glass wine bottles for some 2,000 years—with very little change.
Meanwhile, new “alternative” packaging options have been around for less than 50 years—and used for wine for far less than that. Here are some of the more common types of alternative packaging now being used for wine.
Bag-in-box: Also called boxed wine packaging, this involves a plastic bladder or bag filled with wine; it’s then placed inside a cardboard box. The wine is dispensed through an attached tap or spout. This packaging is convenient and lightweight, and it provides an airtight seal, which helps preserve the wine’s freshness.
Tetra Pak: Tetra Pak cartons are commonly associated with juice and milk, but they are now used for wine packaging, too. These cartons consist of multiple layers of paperboard and plastic, providing protection against light and oxygen.
Cans: Aluminum cans are lightweight, portable and easily recyclable. Cans also offer excellent protection against light and oxygen, ensuring the wine’s quality.
PET plastic bottles: Polyethylene terephthalate bottles are lightweight and shatterproof, making them a viable alternative to glass bottles; they are also recyclable. However, PET bottles may not provide the same level of oxygen protection as glass or other packaging options, which can impact the wine’s aging process.
Pouches: Wine pouches are similar to bag-in-box packaging, but in a smaller format. They are made from flexible materials and are easy to carry. Wine pouches are often used for single-serve portions or for wines consumed quickly after opening.
It wasn’t that long ago that people thought only poor-quality wine was put into a bottle with a screw cap. Screw caps were the first major change in wine packaging for thousands of years—and they’re now considered mainstream, even for higher-quality wines. The same will be true for all of these alternative packages someday, as more quality wines start being sold in them.
And trust me: More quality wines will be sold in them, because these alternative packages offer advantages over bottles.
Convenience and portability: Bag-in-box, Tetra Pak cartons, aluminum cans and pouches can all be tossed in a cooler, backpack or picnic basket, with no opener required and no glass to break.
Preservation of freshness: Bag-in-box is the clear winner in this area. As wine is dispensed from the container, the bag collapses inside the box, preventing the wine from coming into contact with oxygen—which preserves the wine’s freshness. This method allows for wine to stay fresh for weeks or even months. This is perfect for people who only want a single glass of wine on occasion.
Value: Again, bag-in-box wins here. Here in Reno, you can purchase a quality three-liter box of wine in the $15-$20 range—the equivalent of four 750-milliliter bottles. A can of wine is usually 375 milliliters, the equivalent of half a bottle, and costs $6—which can be a value, because you only need to open “half a bottle” at a time.
Environmental impact: Yes, glass can be recycled, but glass is heavy, and the impact of shipping the bottles from the manufacturer, to the winery, to the store, to your home and to the recycling facility creates a large carbon footprint in transportation alone.
Wine quality and variety: You may be shocked to learn that boxed wine has won many gold medals in prestigious wine competitions. Black Box wines have won more than 100 gold medals, and Bota Box wines have more than 145 gold medals.
Today, we have access to great-tasting, quality wines, in convenient, environmentally responsible packaging that’s easy to carry in, and back out, when outdoors—which, given that we live in gorgeous Northern Nevada, is a wonderful thing.