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Winemakers think inside the box

Call it the case of unintended consequences, but rising glass prices are giving new status to wines that come in plastic and boxes.

by: Leslie Gevirtz | 27 Sep 2007

The big glass producers, Compagnie de Saint Gobain are giving small wineries a hard time, according to vintners. They're not producing enough bottles so, as with any shortage, prices are rising.

"Glass comes from sand, right? I have not noticed any shortage there, have you?" Kurt Eckert, assistant vice president for fine wines at the US importer Frederick Wildman and Sons said.

Saint Gobain issued a statement saying it couldn't produce enough bottles as it lacked the capacity while Owens-Illinois refused comment.

So, facing an early harvest and no place to put their wine, some vintners turned to the European Commission filing a complaint while others turned to alternative packaging.

One of Burgundy's larger producers, Boisset, came out with a new label called Yellow Jersey, a reference to the Tour de France. It comes in a dark-coloured, plastic container topped by a screw cap similar to the premium bottled waters.

Another Boisset brand, French Rabbit, comes in Tetra-Paks, the kind of container used for fruit juices and toddlers.

South African vintner Michael Back, owner of Backsberg Estate Cellars, is using lighter glass bottles and planting trees as a way of lowering shipping costs and lessening harm to the environment.

The winery, South Africa's first accredited carbon neutral wine estate, tries to do "as little or less environmental harm than most," said John Spiers, a spokesman for Backsberg.

Sometimes packaging is a matter of environmental concern, sometimes, it's a matter of economic necessity and, sometimes, it's a marketing strategy.

What does all this mean for wine drinkers?

The next time you have a picnic, you don't have to remember a corkscrew to have a fairly nice drop of wine.

- None


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