I have been suffering from one of the worst chest infections in my life and have been unable to taste or even think about wine clearly for the last month, so apologies for the extended silence.
As I was shopping for milk in my local co-op convenience store the other day, I came across one of the latest novelties in packaging for wine. The tetrapack.
I have seen the format before, (I am thinking of French Rabbit from Boisset) but I hadn’t actually seen it on shelf before. I was intrigued to find this in a small store in my local area, so I bought it for curiosity’s sake. Unfortunately, when I opened it to try it, I couldn’t taste it, so I have no comments on the quality of the wine.
The wine in question is Andrew Peace‘s masterpeace Australian Chardonnay, launched at the Australia Day Tasting in January.
Is this the future for wine? Let me think about some pro’s and con’s first.
On the positive side;
It weighs less so it is cheaper and more environmentally friendly to ship
On the negative side;
The opaque carton protects the wine from the harmful effects of bright sunlight and UV
It is a sterile, sealed environment unlikely to become “corked”
It gives greater surface for marketing messages and useful information
It is easier to store; no wine rack required
I believe it is supposed to be recyclable
It is not all that different from the bag-in-box format we are already familiar with and which is becoming more popular
It has been done before for the cheapest of the cheap wines in the days that these were undrinkable (things have improved even at this level in the wine trade), and is therefore tarnished with this perception
It is still made from plastic and various metallic compounds, so how environmentally friendly can it be?
You get no visual clues at all about the wine. Think of the attractions of rose wines, deep gold sweet wines, etc. All wines will look the same, or at least the colour the marketer/printer want you to think it is
Bottle shapes have always been a differentiator, not just on weight for ‘better’ wines, but classic regional shapes like the tall bottles from Alsace, or embossed Chateau-neuf-du-pape
It is not all that different from the bag-in-box format we are already familiar with
None of the pros and cons immediately jump out at me as “killer” reasons for or against. This packaging is likely to be used only for cheap, young wine to be drunk immediately, so convenience will matter. And if, on balance, it is more environmentally friendly to produce and dispose of, then even better.
So, is this the future of wine? I don’t consider myself an old-fashioned wine purist. I am all for the screwcap and other modern closures for example. However, I am not convinced by this format for the simple reason that it further reduces wine to a mere convenience beverage, one that happens to contain alcohol and be made from grapes.
If we are to educate consumers about responsible drinking, encouraging them to drink wine but to do so in moderation and hopefully at a quality level that will bring them pleasure, then it is important we do not “dumb it down” too much.
Wine branding is not only about building a name and image for the producer, or even of the region, but for the product category itself. This isn’t about being elitist (although I recognise it could sound that way), it is about building a sensible Culture of Wine. Quality packaging is integral to that I think. That isn’t to say we should stick to glass per se, but I would like to see something better differentiated than a carton.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this is it, but it is certainly something to ponder further.