A can of red, a bag of white – wine world responds to climate change

John Wilson: Transporting wine in bottles leaves a large carbon footprint, so here are some alternatives


Growing grapes and making wine are not major contributors to climate change, although wineries have been slow to recapture CO2 emissions. The two big problems are bottles and transport. “Why do we put wine into bottles?”, asks Ronan Farrell of importer Wine Lab. “It is simply a transport vessel and you couldn’t think of a worse one in so many ways.” 

We like glass bottles and in some ways they are one of the more eco-friendly forms of packaging. Glass can be recycled indefinitely in a closed loop cycle, and it’s made from widely available natural materials. On the downside, it requires a large amount of energy to manufacture, and we only use it once before recycling. Also, glass is relatively heavy and breaks easily.

We don’t produce wine on this island yet, so it must all be imported, often from faraway countries such as New Zealand and Argentina. Many inexpensive wines are now shipped in giant 25,000 litre flexi-tanks and bottled in Europe, reducing shipping costs and sea miles. 

Alternatives to glass include plastic bottles, bag-in-box, Tetra Paks and cans. All work well for wines destined for drinking young. Wine Lab has led the way here with alternative forms of packaging. It supplies wine in mini-kegs to restaurants and pubs. “People are now used to the idea, especially those concerned about climate change. We’ve 60 wines in keg and a dozen cocktails; we work with some serious producers and have done every style,” Farrell says. They collect their empties and ship them back to the Netherland for re-use. They also offer wine in pouches, bag-in-box and cans.

Gareth Keogh of Wines Direct says it will continue importing a range of bag-in-box wines first brought in during lockdown. “They are lighter, better value and it means you can have a decent glass of wine whenever you need it.”

At the other end of the supply chain, Phillip Cox of Romanian producer Cramele Recas says: “We have been pushing glass suppliers for many years to supply lighter-weight bottles, and we have had some success. We currently use some of the lightest bottles available, around 345-365g empty weight, compared to the industry average of 450-500g. That means we can fit around 10 per cent more wine in an average truck, saving both money and carbon footprint.”

“We are always looking for alternative solutions to glass, but so far I can’t say we found any. Plastic bottles can offer a lightweight alternative, but nobody wants to hear about plastic right now. Bag-in-box is important and growing in popularity in regions such as Scandinavia, but their lifespan is only about nine months. So, we will keep pushing for lighter packaging, bottles, closures and cartons, and look for new solutions.”

Old Vine Garnacha No.5 2019, Canned Wine Co

14.5%, €7 for a 250ml can

A full-bodied red with refreshing strawberry fruits and a smooth tannin-free finish. Perfect with a mid-week lamb or beef stew.

From: The Bottle Shop, Bray, bottleshopbray.ie; Deveney’s, Dublin 14, deveneys.ie; Cass & Co, Dungarvan, cassansdco.ie; The Lighthouse, Dún Laoghaire, lighthousedublin.com; MVP, Dublin 8, mvpdublin.com; Neighbourhood Wine, neighbourhoodwine.ie; The Bernard Shaw, Dublin 7, thebernardshaw.com; Provender & Family, Dublin 7; winelab.ie.

Wildflower Shiraz 2020, Cramele Recas, Romania (vegan)

13.5%, €13.95 

A medium-bodied wine in a lightweight bottle; a smooth Syrah with ripe plum fruits and a touch of spice. Try with herby pork chops or a chicken and pepper tray bake. 

From: O’Briens, Obrienswine.ie. 

Un’Ombra Sauvignon Blanc 2020, IGP Trevenezie 13%, €25 for a 150cl pouch

A subtle Sauvignon, lightly aromatic with lively green fruits and a crisp dry finish. A great aperitif, with salads featuring goat’s cheese, or seafood pasta dishes.

From: The Bottle Shop, Bray, bottleshopbray.ie; The Circular, Rialto, D8, thecircular.ie; Deveney’s, Dublin 14, Deveneys.ie; Lennox St Grocer, Dublin 8, lennoxstreet.ie; Beau Vino, Castleknock, beau-vino.ie; Neighbourhood Wine, neighbourhoodwine.ie; station2stationwine.ie; The Wine Pair, Dublin 8, thewinepairdublin.com; The Lamplight, Clifden, thelamplight.ie. 

Colutta Pinot Grigio 2020, Friuli Colli Orientali 13%, €62.30 for a 3lt bag-in-box

Floral with a perfect mix of fleshy textured peach fruits, cantaloupe melon and zesty lemon. A very seductive wine to drink solo, with grilled sea bass, or a carbonara. 

From: Wines Direct, Mullingar, winesdirect.ie.

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