Early this year, I wrote the blog post In Search of a Green(er) Wine Bottle, which details our quest for a wine bottle that both appealed to our aesthetics and didn't weigh more than the wine inside it. We had, before our 2008 bottling (which included the 2006 reds and the 2007 whites) adopted a beautiful, but heavy, bottle for our top wines and have spent the last two years grappling with the suspicion that we'd come to exactly the wrong conclusion and were undermining our efforts toward sustainability and annoying our most loyal customers.
After Neil and I visited all the glass vendors at the Unified Grape & Wine Symposium, I wrote:
What we're looking for is a bottle that looks like a top-end bottle, but weighs half as much. And, somewhat to our surprise, those bottles just don't exist yet. We aren't willing to go to a cheap-feeling or cheap-looking bottle, but would love to be able to further reduce the weight of the bottle we use. We are interested in hearing from you as to what you look for in bottles, both in a wine that you already know and when you're choosing a new wine off a retail shelf.
The comments that readers left in that blog piece as well as on our Facebook page intrigued us. The respondents who wanted lighter bottles outvoted those who cared about the heft and stature of the bottle by at least five to one. And there are good reasons for this. Big wine bottles don't fit in people's wine racks. They are harder to pour. They cost more to ship. And they cost more to manufacture.
As we thought about the challenge and looked at bottle after bottle we came to the conclusion that the aesthetic idea that a broader, taller bottle is higher quality may be becoming a relic of a more profligate age, in the same way that it's easy to imagine a future where the luxury SUV -- for a time the epitome of solid, prosperous respectability -- carries an ever-greater implication of environmental tone-deafness.
We went back to looking at simple, classic Burgundy bottles, and came to the conclusion that the one that we liked best was also the lightest. It weighs just 16.5 ounces, barely half the 31.5 ounces of the Esprit bottle we used the past two years. It fits fine in everyone's wine racks. It will be much easier to pour. It will work better in our bottling line. And a case of wine bottled in the new bottle weighs more than 11 pounds less than it would have in the old.
The efficiency and environmental consequences of this change are significant. This year, we moved more than 8000 cases of wine into this new bottle. That change reduces the amount of glass that we are buying, shipping to us and then shipping either via truck to our wholesalers or via air freight to our direct customers by 90,000 pounds. Those 90,000 pounds accounted for nearly 26% of the weight of the filled cases, and provided zero utility for the end consumer. In fact, they provided negative utility, as they made the wine they contained harder to store, pour, and move.
So, when you first see the wines in the new bottle, let us know what you think. We hope that you'll agree that the bottle looks great. And we're very happy that we can share the wines we're so proud of in a package that is consistent with our ethic.