08/30/2021 Jaume Pujol, Abadia de Poblet winemaker
04 August 2022
Federico Oldenburg, journalist specializing in wines
Although the glass bottle has been intimately linked to the history and origin of wine, image, and marketing of wine for at least three centuries, the traditional container that has been standardized to house this beverage is not free from controversy. The debate that has arisen in recent years around this continent is based on the environmental impact of its manufacture, as well as the ecological consequences of its transportation in the context of a globalized market.
According to studies conducted on the wine sector, the carbon footprint generated by the production of a bottle of wine is 2.2±1.3 kg CO2. While this index takes into account all the processes of production, marketing, and consumption (from the planting of the vineyard, the harvest to bottling and consumption, including the management of the waste generated at every stage), the impact of the manufacture and handling of the bottle undoubtedly plays a major role in the emission of greenhouse gases, a determining factor in environmental deterioration.
The standard weight of a glass wine bottle is currently between 350 g and 450 g, with up to 800 g for sparkling wines.
Currently, the average weight of a standard 0.75 liter (empty) bottle of wine is 350-450 g., which in the case of sparkling wines increases to 800 g, due to their specific feature of sizes of wine bottles, designed to allow secondary fermentation to take place in the bottle itself. Cava, champagne, and other sparkling wines of the world require the use of a thicker glass, capable of resisting the pressure of carbon dioxide gas, which will be taken into account for the weight of the bottle of wine. It is true that nowadays there are a lot of wine new arrivals, and you can even find wines in tins.
However, there are bottles on the market, as well as magnum bottles of wine, with a significantly higher weight. The large sizes, such as the Salomon, with a capacity of 18 liters, weighs 43 kg (full), while the Primat, with a capacity of 27 liters, weighs 65 kg.
In addition to the volume, the design also influences the weight of the bottle. This is the case of those wines that, in order to underline their Premium limited edition wines status (or justify their high price) are presented in 0.75-liter bottles of specific models that weigh well over 800g.
The trend of extraordinarily heavy wine bottles had its peak around a decade ago and originated when some wineries in the New World (especially in the United States) decided to use bulkier containers to bottle their high-end wines, with the goal of standing out from their European competitors, who were attached to the tradition of keeping the classic Bordeaux and Burgundy bottle designs, exceptionally using the Rhine format for some whites. This marketing strategy was so effective that the craze for heavy bottles spread throughout the global vineyard.
The Raventós Codorníu group has been a pioneer in reducing the weight of its wine bottles, with the goal of reducing CO2 emissions at different stages of the production process.
The growing sensitivity of winegrowers and consumers to the planet’s environmental situation has led to strong opposition to the use of heavier-than-average weight packaging. So, in Canada, the Ontario Liquor Control Board has started to apply surcharges to wineries that do not comply with the 420 g maximum standard weight requirement. And in France, the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne introduced in 2010 the 835 g bottle, which reduced the standard 900 g model by 65 g, with the aim of reducing carbon emissions.
The objective of using lighter wine bottles to contribute to the preservation of the environment has also been imposed in Spain, where the Raventós Codorníu group introduced in 2010 the Futuro bottle, with a specific design for its Cavas and 100 g lighter than the generic 900 g model, which was then used for bottling sparkling wines.
With this initiative, Codorníu would reduce CO2 emissions by more than 1,000 tons per year. An 11% reduction in weight would reduce gas emissions throughout the production process, at a rate of 25 grams of CO2 per bottle. The measure also made it possible to reduce the ecological impact of cellar handling and transportation of the Cavas, as well as recycling. Currently, CO2 grams have also been reduced to 50 grams per bottle, as a result of reducing transportation, handling, and final waste. In this regard, Codorníu has always been a pioneer in reducing its carbon footprint in the Cava sector.
British Master of Wine, critic, and writer, Jancis Robinson, is one of the expert voices most involved in raising awareness among wineries and public opinion about the importance of reducing the weight of bottles. In Spain, Carlos Delgado, wine critic at El País, has also taken a stand against the use of excessively heavy glass containers, publishing in 2014, in his blog, an article entitled La insoportable pesadez de la botella (the unbearable heaviness of the bottle), from which we extract this paragraph:
"We live in a society where the container has the same, if not more, importance than the content. The external appearance is often valued above the intrinsic virtues of a product. This supremacy of the ancillary over the substantial allows savvy marketers to give the appearance of superior quality to mediocre products. That doesn’t mean, of course, that any wine bottled in 800-gram or larger bottles can’t be very good, even excellent"
The debate over weight is yet another chapter in the long history of wine and its relationship with the glass bottle. Three centuries later, it is still the most suitable container to hold, transport, store, and serve this beverage. Especially, because it has the advantage of being an inert container, which does not alter the characteristics of the liquid it contains.
If you wish to delve deeper into the world of wine, here are some suggestions that may be of interest to you, of different types of bottles and weights, the best wines to give as a gift. Choose the one that suits you best!