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May 20, 2008

Wine In a Can

Vin a la aluminum.

by Julia Bainbridge

Nothing says summer like kicking back with a can of wine. Well, not quite, but one vintner is selling aluminum-clad wine starting this season. Already a pioneer of biodynamic farming practices and alternative packaging, Boisset Family Estates just launched a new eco-friendly option: Its Mommessin Beaujolais Grande Reserve now comes in 750-ml aluminum bottles. We recently got the low-down on the new packaging from Patrick Egan, Boisset's Innovation Brand Manager.

Egan says the energy needed to produce an aluminum bottle is similar to that needed to produce a glass bottle, but that's where similarities end on the sustainability front.

An average glass bottle weighs nearly twice the amount of an average aluminum bottle (a case of wine bottled in aluminum is 22 pounds, while a case of wine bottled in glass weighs 40 to 50 pounds); "extrapolate even further over the whole transportation cycle of a wine and these differences really add up." More fuel is required to haul and ship heavier packages, for example. What's more, nearly twice as many aluminum cases can fit onto a pallet as glass cases (90 cases of aluminum to 56 cases of glass)--size matters when talking about environmental shipping costs.

Once every last drop of that Beaujolais has been consumed (and I hope it is), the benefits of aluminum packaging continue. For one thing, aluminum is more durable--imagine chucking your water-filled glass wine bottle at the foot of the track before a run (eesh). Egan says aluminum recycles at twice the rate of glass in this country. And even when glass is recycled, the life of the material is much shorter than that of aluminum. (Ninety-nine percent of an aluminum container is retained and reused, as opposed to glass's 50 percent.) "So while the energy costs may start out similar for glass and aluminum, they quickly diverge as you follow the life cycle of the container."

Another cool factor about Boisset's Beaujolais: A small dot on the label changes color to let you know when your wine has chilled to the perfect serving temperature. Amazing.


Boisset Family Estates is doing a disservice by packaging their wine in any other material than glass. What is not mentioned in the article is that the aluminum bottle container lining is composed of an organic material that has a greater potential to interact with the wine product than if it were glass. The aluminum container will cool faster than glass, but will also warm up faster (a function of both mass and container surface area), which may also have adverse effects for the product within.

Glass is genuinely 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without any loss of product integrity. It is also made from plentiful natural occurring, locally sourced raw materials, and there is no danger of these materials being exhausted. Products across the board are also using light-weighted glass bottles, drastically cutting shipping energy costs.

Glass, in my opinion, is the only option for wine. No other packaging material can beat the purity, taste, and sophistication that comes with wine packaged in glass.

I would have to disagree with you on the claim you make that discounts Mr. Egan's statement that aluminum keeps wine cooler longer than glass. He is absolutely correct; the aluminum bottle is thicker than an aluminum can. - the beer industry has done studies on this already and has proved that an aluminum bottle keeps a beer colder for up to 50 minutes longer than glass.

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Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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