Plastic Bottles Good for Wine Footprint, Bad For Quality

Plastic Bottles Good for Wine Footprint, Bad For Quality

Wine companies and retailers have been switching away from glass bottles in order to lighten the environmental footprint of their packaging, but in doing so they are shortening the lives of some wines.

White wine stays fresh for only six months when it is in plastic bottles and bags, according to a study by the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (ISVV) of Bordeaux.

Over one year, the French research group measured the amounts of gases in different wine packaging and tested the color and taste of the wines at regular intervals.

The group tested red and white Bordeaux wines in 75cl and 18.7cl glass, single-layer PET and multi-player PET bottles, and bag-in-box packaging.

The white wine in plastic bottles and bags had an increase in oxygen along with decreases in carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide (used to protect wine from bacteria and oxygen), with the most significant changes noticed in the smaller bottles. Those wines also had a "rotten fruit flavor" and significant color changes according to the group of 25 expert and novice tasters.

There were only slight changes noticed in the red wine and its packaging, and the ISVV intends to continue studying the wines.

Wine makers have switched to plastic packaging due to the environmental benefits that lighter packaging made with fewer resources can have, since the transportation of lighter products leads to less fuel use and fewer carbon dioxide emissions during transportation.

One note that the ISVV made is that it studied the wines starting at the point that the packaging was filled, not when they were put on the market. Retailers like Marks & Spencer and Waitrose in the U.K. have said that their wines in plastic bottles will stay fresh for a year, a similar claim made by companies that produce bag-in-box wines as well. Marks & Spencer just recently converted all of its 25cl bottles of wine to plastic packaging, a move that cuts the bottle weight by 88 percent.