Although I am not a subscriber to Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages – the paywall section of her website – I do receive a regular email updating me what is new on the site. Her email of 12th February 2021 raised the the long time complaint of over-heavy wine bottles:
‘Many of you will know that we are keenly aware that wine’s biggest carbon footprint is created by the manufacture and transport of glass bottles. We’ve written extensively (ad nauseam?) on the subject and we know that many wine lovers are concerned about those particularly heavy wine bottles favoured by some producers. They use up even more fossil fuels to make and ship, sometimes utterly illogical distances from furnace to bottler. And a practical objection in some quarters is that they tend to be opaque and to give little indication of how much is left in the bottle.
One Purple Pager, Arnold von Büren of Lucerne, suggested on our Members’ forum that we include bottle weights in our tasting notes – even declaring that he was prepared to pay more for his membership if we did! After some discussion of the logistics, we are now trying to weigh particularly heavy or particularly light bottles before tasting any of their contents so as to respectively condemn or praise those who chose to use them.’
Although there are alternatives to glass a very significant proportion of the world’s wine comes still comes in glass bottles. I agree entirely with Jancis over foolishly heavy wine bottles, whose perpetrators wrongly imagine is an indicator of quality and seriousness. Instead it shows an over-regard for bling and, more importantly, a disregard for the environmental impact of these obese bottles and a disregard for those who have to lift cases of these obese wines. Fortunately many wines now come in cases of six rather than cases of 12 but even so…!
I thought it would be interesting to weigh 20 still wine bottles. All of the bottles (75cl) were weighed empty without their closures – so no corks or screwcaps, though all still had their lower capsules attached. The 20 bottles provided some intriguing results. The most obese bottle was the 2019 Original Series Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot from Stellenbosch weighing in at a heavy 914 grams. The back label provides the clue to why an over-weight bottle was chosen: ‘The Original Series is a special selection of wines from some of the most respected wine regions in the world.’ Costing £6.99 this South African red looks to have ambitions above its price point …
In contrast the most willowy was the 2019 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo weighing in at just 367 grams – 60% less heavy than the Stellenbosch red.
The second heaviest bottles at 802 grams was the 2014 Jarret de Montchenin, an Anjou Blanc (100% Chenin Blanc) from Château de Passavant – a long time organic domaine. Given that this wine would have been bottled in 2015 it may be that they are now using lighter bottles. if not, like other organic domaines, whose containers are overweight, they ought to be considering putting their bottles on a strict diet.
The third heaviest bottle was the Grande Alberone Zinfandel from Puglia (699 grams) as was the fourth one – a 2019 Gavi (639 grams). Both of these wines came from Aldi, which is not a surprise as theirs is most interesting supermarket wine selection around here in our Scottish lockdown.
Of the 20 bottles – three weighed in at under 400 grams: the Montepulciano above, Toro Loco Reserva (386 gms) from Spain and The Wine Society’s Fino (393 grams). Eleven naked bottles came in between 400 grams and 449 grams, while there were two between 450-499 grams. As already mentioned two weighed more than 600 grams, one at more than 800 grams and one over 900 grams. The total weight of the 20 bottles was 9770 gms giving average weight of 488.5 grams. However, take out the two heaviest and the average drops to 447 grams. Then leaving out the four decidedly over-weight bottles, the average for the majority (16 bottles) comes down to a much more respectable 419.75 grams.
Clearly 20 bottles is but a small sample. It does, however, provide some evidence that from a selection of moderately priced wines only a few use excessively heavy bottles. I strongly suspect that weighing, for example, 20 super-premium Italian wines the results would be rather different…
The two other slimline bottles: