a very heavy empty bottle of wine

Helen of Troy may have had “The face that launched a thousand ships,” but when I was out to dinner with my husband and we brought a bottle of wine, it was “The bottle that launched a thousand words.”  Upon sitting at our table, we placed the bottle at the edge so that our waitress could open it for us. (thank you $15 corkage fee) As I put the bottle on the table, I made the snide remark that this winery obviously doesn’t believe in sustainability as it was probably one of the most heaviest bottles I had ever felt.

The waitress came over to the table and asked if we wanted her to open the bottle. We answered with a resounding “Yes.”  She picked the bottle up and actually grunted. She then said, “This is one heavy bottle!” But worse… she continued… “This must be a great bottle of wine.”

The Hulk

If I had been doused with gamma rays earlier in my life, I would have shredded my clothing, turned green and screamed. But instead, I took the opportunity as a teaching moment and asked her why she made that deduction. She said, “Oh with a bottle this heavy, it must be a high quality wine, isn’t it?” 

In a Decanter article dated March 17, 2014 Chris Hatcher, chief winemaker at Wolf Blass, stated ‘A premium wine needs a premium package, but with some of those types of bottle the wine doesn’t always live up to [the image],’  But he admits that ‘the extra cost of heavy bottles might be money better spent on the wine itself at some estates.’   

With the exception of Champagne glass, (or Sparkling made in the champenoise method) which needs to be heavier and thicker to contain the six atmospheres of pressure, there is no benefit to having a thicker, heavier bottle.  Right from the beginning, in the winery it causes issues. A standard pallet holds fifty-six cases, but the bigger bottles, take up more space in addition to the weight, so a pallet only holds fifty cases. This means the winery needs to store more pallets, which  in turn costs them more money. The glass is also more expensive to have shipped to the winery, again increasing the Cost of Goods (COG.) Who do you think ultimately pays for that COG increase? Yes, you the consumer. 

Let’s Talk the Environment

The weight of an average wine bottle is about 500 grams. Keep in mind this can vary immensely. There are bottles that are between 300-900 grams, depending on the quality and thickness of the glass. The standard champagne bottle used to weigh 900 g, but recently some producers have reduced this to 835 g and some even into the 700s. 

Sustainable Wine Growing estimates that almost half of the wine bottle’s carbon footprint comes from the production and mishandling of packaging – and 85% of that packaging is glass.

Impacts from packaging are due to the energy requirements of producing the requisite materials, such as the glass bottle and corrugated box. However, the closure had a relatively small impact on the overall wine life cycle with impacts ranging from 1–3%. Packaging has a significant contribution to the overall California wine footprint and packaging design decisions have the ability to significantly reduce a winery’s footprint (refer to Figure 2). For example, light weighting (also called dematerialization) of glass bottles will lead to significant reductions in environmental burden.

chart showing carbon footprint of winery
sourced from: sustainablewinegrowing.org

According to wrap.org, a 20% reduction in a wine bottle’s weight would save 100g of CO2 emissions per bottle from packaging production and transportation. A 40% weight reduction would save 234g of CO2. In 2018, Gaia Consulting calculated the CO2 footprints of the different types of wine packaging. The article demonstrated that a lightweight glass bottle (less than 420 grams) yields 525 g CO2e/l, while a traditional glass bottle (about 540 grams) equated to 675 g CO2e/l. The research clearly stated that the greatest environmental impacts in the wine industry are caused by the manufacture of product packaging.

bottle images showing their carbon footprint
image ©https://www.alko.fi/

Where Did This Come From?

Why do consumers correlate these two completely non-related entities? Where did this concept come from? Why do people equate heavy bottles with quality? It isn’t the glass that makes a good wine, its the fruit that is inside that makes a great wine. Bottle weight, to me is equivalent to  Napoleon complex. (I could have gone with a different way some men feel they need to compensate, but kept this G rated) What are your thoughts? 

Peter Griffin long car
From “And the Wiener is…” (s3e5). Twentieth Television Animation


very heavy wine bottle
The bottle that launched a thousand words; winery crossed out – It’s not my  job to be their conscious.


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