Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Plastic wine bottles – a fab idea

Do you remember the hoo-hah over corks versus screwcaps? It took South Africans a good decade to get over their snobbery regarding screwcaps, and I admit I was one of those nay-sayers – I so enjoyed the ritual around uncorking a bottle of wine. Now, as Johann so perspicaciously puts it, ‘Late in the evening, when I’m looking in the rack for another bottle of wine to open, I go for the screwcap. It’s just so much easier.’

And now we have wine in plastic bottles. Put baldly like that, I must say I wouldn’t be convinced, but having seen Backsberg’s elegant new PET bottle of Tread Lightly Merlot (isn’t the label gorgeous?), I’m a convert. For people like me who shop at chains for their wine, these lightweight little bottles (although the volume is still 750ml, like their bigger glass compatriots) make perfect sense – no more lugging heavy glass from trolley to car boot, and then from car boot to wine rack. And no more risk of breakages, either. (‘And perfect for picnics!’ said a 12-year-old observer, and I hope he was just passing on something he’d heard his mom say…)

The immediate assumption that glass is more environmentally friendly than plastic, although it seems intuitively right, isn’t actually accurate. It’s the same debate that swirls around disposable-versus-cloth nappies – sure, landfill is a problem where disposables are concerned, but you’ve got to take into account the enormous amounts of water and electricity required to wash cloth nappies. Using these resources contributes considerably to the carbon footprint.

So it is with plastic. Mainly, the cost savings come in the form of transport (and therefore fuel usage and carbon emissions) – the plastic [thanks, Davie H!] bottles are considerably smaller and lighter, which hugely cuts down on the sheer volume of transport required, and therefore lessens the carbon footprint. The PET bottles are also, like glass bottles, fully recyclable. (For more about this, click here.)

The one possible drawback is that wine doesn’t keep in plastic, which is why these bottles have ‘filled on…’ and ‘use by…’ dates stamped on their labels. But, as another observer (not the 12-year-old, this time) said, ‘It’s not like we lay down our wines. We buy ’em and we drink ’em.’ And if you do want to put up a wine for savouring at some later date, you can still obviously opt for glass.

We drank the glass-bottled Railroad Red first on Saturday night, then the plastic-bottled Backsberg Tread Lightly, and there was no discernible difference in quality. Both were delicious.

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Davie H said...

Just trying to be helpful, here.
You wrote
"the glass bottles are considerably smaller and lighter"

but I think you've had either a wrong word moment from August, substituting glass for plastic, or too many glasses of red.

I hope it's the latter.


Muriel said...

Thanks, Dave, you sharp-eyed reader you! And how I wish it had been the latter; alas, it was the former.