Tag Archives: heavy bottles

Will listing bottle weights in wine reviews help save the planet?

wie bottles
“Bottle weight.. we don’t need no stinkin’ bottle weight.”

Maybe not, but it’s much more effective than giving yet another 92 to yet another overpriced wine

Who knew wine bottle weights would be one of the next great battlegrounds in the fight against climate change? But that appears to be the case.

• In February, wine critic Jancis Robinson announced she would list bottle weights in her reviews, with the idea that great wine doesn’t need to be in a heavy bottle.

• In June, a variety of wine writers (myself included) got an email with an open letter from Italian producer Max de Zarobe, asking that we take a winery’s sustainability efforts into account when scoring their wine.

• Last week, Dave McIntyre wrote a piece in the Washington Post decrying heavy wine bottles for the environmental obscenity that they are – low recycling rates and carbon footprint among many faults. And which, frankly, made the most sense of almost all of the stuff I’ve read on the subject, and I’d say that even if Dave wasn’t my friend.

Heavy wine bottles once mattered – say, 200 years ago, when wine was shipped in horse carts over rutted European roads and the bottle needed to be robust enough to stand up to the punishment.

Today, the heavy bottle is nothing more than marketing – call it an enological phallic symbol for an industry dominated by men who sell big, expensive bottles of wine to other men. A woman executive, whose company uses the lightweight PET bottle (made of plastic), told me her harshest critics weren’t consumers, but older men in the wine business who were aghast that her company didn’t do what tradition demanded.

Which, of course, speaks volumes about how effective listing bottle weights in reviews would be. I’m not against it; in fact, I ranted about the subject seven years ago — yes, seven years ago. Two of the worst offenders then were Bonterra and its “organically-farmed wine” and a Downton Abbey wine. What better way to convince consumers you’re making “real wine” than with a heavy bottle?

In other words, the people who make decisions in the wine business could care less about bottle weights. If they did, they would have downsized years ago. Lighter bottles mean cheaper production and shipping costs and less wear and tear on equipment. If saving serious money didn’t convince them, then why would the bottle weight in a review?

And, frankly, I don’t think the wine drinkers who read Robinson and rest of the Winestream Media care much, either. What matters to them are points, not how heavy. If it’s 94 points and a heavy bottle, who cares?

Having said that, I’ll start listing bottle weights for the most egregious offenders, if only to follow Dave’s example. Most of the wines I review, given their price, long ago gave up any heavy bottle pretense. And though listing weights may not do much, it’s still more than most of the rest of the wine business is doing.

Photo: “Two boxes of green wine bottles” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0