A group of winemakers is working to decrease their bottle weight in the name of sustainability

Posted at 2:29 PM, Mar 26, 2024

UNITED KINGDOM — With more focus than ever on the climate and sustainability these days, entire industries are taking a closer look at ways to reduce their carbon footprint and impact earth.

In the U.K., a candid discussion is underway about how the wine industry can cut back. For wine growers, sustainability typically means making changes within the vineyards to reduce water usage or even grow different varieties of grapes that are more climate resilient.

“But at the end of the day, anything up to about 50% of the total carbon footprint of wine is the bottle,” said Peter Stanbury, the director of research at the Sustainable Wine Roundtable.

Stanbury has worked on sustainability efforts in different industries for more than 30 years.

The Sustainable Wine Roundtable held a virtual meeting in March to talk about reducing bottle weights. It's a coalition of more than 100 groups from around the world including Whole Foods. Last October, some of the members signed an agreement to change their bottles.

“The commitment that they're making is that they will reduce the average bottle weight, to below 420 grammes by the end of 2026. Now, bearing in mind that the current average bottle weight is somewhere around 550 grammes, that's a 25% reduction in the bottle weight. Therefore, if the bottle is half the carbon footprint, it's a 12.5% reduction in the total carbon footprint of the wine that our members are selling,” Stanbury said.

Stanbury says it could not only benefit the environment but also save on costs since less glass is needed.

“It's not just in the manufacturing piece. It's also, if you're if you've got a lighter bottle, your transport costs are lower because you're carting less weight around, or you can put more wine bottles on a pallet and therefore you need fewer loads to ship,” he said. “So, all the way through the supply chain, there's benefits.”

Stanbury insists this change won't affect the wine quality. Now the coalition is pushing for more winemakers to sign on.

The real challenge will be convincing both the industry and consumers that a lighter weight bottle doesn’t mean that the product is a cheaper or lower quality wine.

Lighter bottles will also take some considerations around packaging, handling and transport.

The roundtable is also looking at other wine packaging to see whether more changes can be made, and it wants to come up with an international wine sustainability standard like a label that can appear on the bottle so that consumers know the maker is meeting a set of minimum standards. Part of that includes a comparison tool that tracks bottle miles to understand the journey a bottle makes in its lifetime from manufacturing to packaging to transport to stores.

In the end, Stanbury says if they can get enough buy in and prove that this concept will work others might follow suit like beer companies or sauce companies, and with all of this effort, lighter bottles could mean a lighter load on the environment and the industry could impact earth.