Alternative wine packaging: thinking inside the box

alternative wine packaging
Theo Gough (left) and Oli Purnell (right), The Copper Crew.

Wine has been presented in glass bottles for so long now that the association between the product and its packaging is umbilical. We have come to think of wine as belonging in bottles. It is an association that has served wine lovers well: glass is inert, robust and attractive; and no one has yet invented a viable alternative for ageing wine. Over the years, other formats have been launched for ‘drink now’ wine, from bag-in-box (BIB) to aluminium cans and plastic bottles. But they have had a chequered history. Until fairly recently the wine inside was often cheap, not always cheerful, and sometimes prone to oxidation or other faults.

That is starting to change. A quiet revolution is underway, driven by the climate crisis, better packaging technology, lifestyle changes and young entrepreneurs who are determined to prove that presenting high-quality wine in non-glass formats is not only viable, but more convenient and better for the planet. For wine lovers concerned about the environmental impact of glass or just ready to try something different, a growing range of delicious and increasingly classy wines are available in smart, more sustainable packaging.

Scroll down to see Rupert Joy’s selection of alternative format wines to try

Raising the bar

Jessica Julmy, Château Galoupet, Provence

After conducting a carbon self-audit in 2021, Jason Haas of Tablas Creek in California was ‘blown away’ by how much of his winery’s footprint came from glass bottles alone. He had dismissed moving to BIB because of its low-cost image in the US, but, he says: ‘A friend said to me, there has to be a high-end winery that goes first. I spent a lot of time thinking about that and decided he was right.’ Haas cautiously launched his Patelin de Tablas Rose? 2021 in 3-litre BIBs this year at US$95 ( They sold out in less than four hours. ‘The feedback was unbelievably positive. People are excited to confound their friends’ expectations. It’s the cutting edge of sustainability.’

Jessica Julmy was similarly surprised to discover, while developing the LVMH flagship sustainability project at Cha?teau Galoupet in Provence, that 40% of its carbon footprint came from packaging. ‘I realised it was no use planting trees and fostering an ecosystem without tackling that.’ After comparing non-glass formats, she decided to package her second wine Nomade in a flat polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle made of recycled plastic salvaged from coasts at risk of ocean pollution. Julmy admits that bottling a £20-plus classed growth rose? in PET was not an easy decision. ‘There are so many preconceived ideas about plastic,’ she says.

In the UK, a group of innovative, like-minded wine companies launched the Wine Traders for Alternative Formats in 2021, aimed at reducing reliance on single-use glass bottles. ‘Sustainability is a huge motivator, but quality is the key,’ says WTAF founding member Ollie Lea of the The BIB Wine Co. ‘The more quality wine is put into alternative packaging, the more it is showing its potential. Our aim is to push the boundaries upwards.’ Lea, whose 2019 red Sancerre 2.25L BIB sells at £55 (£18.33 per 75cl equivalent), believes more and more high-quality wine sellers will move into alternative formats.

Laylo is another young company trying to challenge the perception that BIBs are about cheap wine. Co-founder Laura Riches says of her elegantly designed wine boxes: ‘We wanted to overcome the stigma associated with BIBs, so we decided to make ours look nothing like the others. We choose the best wine we can find in each price bracket and our packaging is inspired by where it comes from.’ As Jamie Wynne-Griffiths of UK distributor Propeller puts it: ‘BIBs are no longer like what your mum had in the fridge 20 years ago.’

For Rich Hamblin of More Wine, who sells wine in BIBs, pouches and cans, ‘the challenge is…

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Alternative wine packaging: thinking inside the box  
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