Are people really talking about putting decent wine into plastic bottles? They can’t do that; that’s… wrong! This is what I thought when I first heard that some quality wineries were seriously considering plastic packaging. After checking with a few industry sources, I’m not so sure that plastic is so bad.
What if we did use plastic instead of glass for wine? Well, there are the weight benefits to using plastic. Picture your Uncle Herman who works on the loading docks. He happens to load trucks for a winery (or for a wine of the month club, for that matter). Since plastic bottles are significantly lighter than glass bottles, switching to plastic would put less physical strain on him. Anything that can help prevent a back injury is an improvement upon an older system. Light plastic bottles are much easier to handle and transport than glass bottles, saving both money and CO2 emissions.
On the other hand, glass is a tried and true method of storing wine. Wine can be stored in glass bottles for a much longer time than it can be stored in plastic bottles. For some wines, cellaring can take decades. You aren’t going to get that with plastic bottles. This is due to plastic’s permeability to oxygen. Special plastic bottles with an inside metallic lining have a shelf life of about 1.5 to 2 years, according to some manufacturers. Bottles without this lining would probably fair much poorer in the shelf life department.
As far as recyclability goes, glass and plastic pretty much tie. While it is true that there are more recycle centers accepting glass than plastic, this probably won’t last. I am very curious, though, how well the metallic lining in the higher end plastic bottles fair in the recycling process. Perhaps it’s not a problem.
So now that we’ve done the “what-ifs”, where does that leave us? For wine that is best drank fresh I think plastic could be a good idea. For wine that needs to age, perhaps we should stick with glass, for better quality.
There are benefits to both glass and plastic wine bottles. Neither option has a true edge over the other as of yet. Even the experts can’t decide on which is best. Perhaps sitting down with a bottle of each can help you choose. If that doesn’t work, after 2 bottles of wine, you may not be too concerned about the matter either way!