This week’s wine news: Meet the flat wine bottle, plus one more yummy wine lawsuit and trying to define artisan wine
• Bottle of the future? How about a 750 ml plastic wine bottle, made from 100 percent recycled material and is flat enough to slide through a mail slot? The Wine Curmudgeon is beside himself with excitement. “I was surprised by how little the wine bottle had changed in the last 200 years,” Santiago Navarro told Wine Business International magazine. His goal: Find a bottle better suited to home delivery and that would interest younger wine consumers. The article reports that the bottle is lightweight and environmentally friendly — and it didn’t break when dropped more than four feet onto a tiled floor.
• Bring on the attorneys! Regular visitors here know how much fun the WC gets from wine lawsuits, and this one is even better than most. JaM Cellars, which makes Butter Chardonnay, has filed a series of lawsuits against The Wine Group, which makes Franzia Bold & Jammy cabernet sauvignon and Rich & Buttery chardonnay. JaM alleges that the Franzia products infringe on its trademarks and “is likely to cause consumer confusion, deception or mistake.” Where’s Shakespeare when you need him? The story in the link does a decent job of explaining a difficult subject, complete with sidebar discussing legal precdents. To me, though the best thing is that JaM has been suing other producers since 2013 to defend its trademarks. One would think that the money would be better spent improving the wine, but I’m just a cranky wine writer and not a marketing guru.
• So what is artisan? Artisan wine is one of those terms difficult to define. There is no legal standard, and Big Wine mostly uses the same production techniques as the smallest producer. And this news release, with its 40-word first sentence that is full of gibberish and jargon, doesn’t help matters much. It mostly does a mediocre job of promoting the company that says it’s going to help artisan wineries and doesn’t really say what it’s going to do to help them or what an artisan winery is. It almost makes me want to bring back the Curmudgies.
This week’s wine news: Is the plastic PET bottle the future of wine? Plus, Coronavirus wine humor and Utah may let residents bring wine into the state legally
• Is plastic the future? One analyst, noting that most wine produced today is made in bulk and to drink immediately, says recycled PET is “a realistic alternative” to glass bottles. Emilie Steckenborn, writing for the Beverage Daily website, says the plastic bottles are much better than the traditional glass bottle – lighter, more cost effective to ship and store, and infinitely more environmentally friendly. In this, the piece is surprisingly frank about the inefficiencies of the traditional bottle, and she sounds more like a certain curmudgeon than a member of the Winestream Media.
• Coronavirus wine? Let me apologize for this item first, but I couldn’t resist: A Dallas wine shop says it has “Coronavirus vaccine sold here: bubbly, white, red available.” As the article notes, it’s a refreshing change from the toilet paper hording stories that are dominating the news and even – dare we say – a reason to smile? Also, please note the difference between this and the hucksters and scam artists flooding the market with fake cures and testing kits.
• Finally, Utah? Regular visitors here know the WC enjoys poking fun at Utah, whose liquor laws are some of the most restrictive – and silliest – in the country. Well, there may be one less reason to poke fun: the state is about to let the state’s residents join wine clubs and bring wine in from another state without committing a crime. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the bill just needs the governor’s signature. Fortunately, the new law is very Utah – no home delivery for wine club members, who would have to pick the wine up at a liquor store and pay the state’s 88 percent markup in addition to the cost of the wine.
The 750 ml bottle and cork – why is it still with us, and will we ever move past it?
Those are the two questions I look at in a free-lance article for the Spirited trade magazine. The answer to the first question is rooted in wine history, tradition, and even innovation. As wine marketer Paul Tincknell points out, the cork and bottle was cutting edge technology in the 17th century.
The answer to the second question, refreshingly, is yes — and perhaps sooner than we think.
Daniel Tripolitano, director strategy, innovation and insights, global marketing for Treasury Wine Estates, says a change is going to come. He isn’t quite sure when or what the change will be. But in an era when consumers are less enamored of romance and tradition and more concerned about convenience and sustainability, something different is almost inevitable.
Also worth noting: As baby boomers give way to younger wine drinkers, dinner becomes less important as an occasion. The bottle-and-cork isn’t as well suited to a picnic, boating, or day at the beach as is a can, box, or PET bottle. And what happens if you forget the corkscrew?
“That’s where the disruption is going to come,” says Tripolitano. “That’s the compelling proposition that’s going to drive [a change in packaging].”
And a tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to Spirited editor Alexandra Russell, who bought the story. She understands that trade magazine journalism doesn’t have to be dull and boring.
This week’s wine news: Tablas Creek embraces lighter wine bottles, plus wine thief gets 18 months and Sweden’s wine industry
• Lighter bottles: Jason Haas of the Tablas Creek winery in Paso Robles asks a question that has always puzzled me: “So, given that lighter bottles cost less and people seem to like them more, why are there still wineries using the heavy bottles?” The post, discussing the winery’s almost decade long switch to lighter wine bottles, is well worth reading. It offers insight into how wineries make marketing decisions – or don’t, as the case may be. Haas says the lighter bottles, besides the positive environmental impact, have saved the winery untold amounts of money. So what’s the answer to his question? Apparently, heavy bottles still denote quality to retailers and producers, if not to all consumers.
• Wine scam: William Holder, whose wine storage scam bilked wine collectors out of their wine and as much as $1.5 million, will spend 18 months in federal prison. He has also been ordered to make restitution. Holder charged collectors for storing their high-end wine, but then sold some of it to retailers and brokers around the country. Hence, when the customers came to collect their wine, it wasn’t there.
• Even in Sweden: David Morrison at The Wine Gourd writes about Swedish wine: The “main limitation of Swedish wines at the moment is that they are not good value for money” because of “high production costs associated with the small volumes.” We’ve heard that before, haven’t we? Morrison says quality seems to be good among the three dozen or so Swedish producers, despite the price/value problems. This is especially impressive since the Swedes have to grow hybrids that can handle the colder climate, and hybrids are notoriously difficult to turn into quality wine.