Wine Bottle Evolution?

Today’s wine bottle comes from a long history of wine storage. Originally, containers were made of stone, wood, leather or earthenware. The Greek amphora was used to store up to 30 gallons of wine or oil. During the dark ages, casks were invented, but for long term storage, they imparted a bit too much oakiness!

The original glass bottles were for wealthy Europeans and were thin-walled glass bottles used to transport wine from the cask to be drunk immediately. Since they were so fragile, they were often supported with metal frames or wicker (which is still used for some Chianti bottles).

Today’s wine bottle actually owes its beginnings not to the French… It was the English that developed heavier, pigmented glass that allowed cork to be used as a stopper. The shape was an easy-to-make balloon shape. In the 18th century, cellar ageing was started when it was found that bottle ageing helped some wines. Storing balloon shaped bottles, though, is difficult, so cylindrical bottles were developed to allow better storage. To further enhance wine bottles, molds were developed in the 19th century that allowed consistently shaped bottles.

Today’s wine bottles are typically derivative of French styles. Bordeaux wines are generally found in high-shouldered bottles that allow sediment to be trapped while pouring. Burgundy wines are in sloped bottles, and Champagne bottles are thicker and shaped to allow for the extra pressure from the carbonated wine. In fact, without the indentation on the bottle of the bottle (the “punt”), the bottom of a champagne bottle wouldn’t be able to take the pressure! Most new world wines follow similar patterns, though that’s not always the case.
Color is actually very important in a wine bottle, too; in fact, it’s more important than the shape. Color in the glass can help protect the wine from damage due to ultraviolet light. With cellaring in protected areas, though, color takes on less significance.

A new stage in evolution?

An Australian winemaker, Palandri, has created what they hope to be the next phase of wine storage, the Cheer Pack, according to The Australian. Why fool with a good thing? The Cheer Pack is recyclable, weighs less and takes up less space than a traditional bottle. The Cheer pack is made of plastic and aluminium, and the company says that it performs identically to traditional glass bottles, imparting no taste differences.

15,000 cases have been shipped to Canada, and Palandri hopes to boost its earnings by $32 million Australian within 2 years.

What do you think of this new packaging strategy? Personally, I’d like to see savings in shipping/transportation instead of increased revenue for the company, or at least some mix of both. Otherwise, if the cost is going to be the same, I’m more a traditionalist and would prefer good old glass!

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Reader Comments

So, um, what do they look like? The Palandri web site (as of 26 Nov at 10AM PST) is curiously devoid of any mention of the new container…
And: I’ve been reading “A History of the World in Six Glasses”, and found it interesting to learn that, once emptied, the amphora was discarded because it was too expensive to ship them back. The vintage and vineyard source were usually imprinted on the amphorae, and they were carefully cellared for years and even decades. The Romans especially understood that aging in amphorae could improve a wine; it wasn’t an 18th century discovery (though perhaps a rediscovery).
If you really want to be a traditionalist, go back to the amphora and the wine bowl, and dilute your wine with water as they did in the really old days…:)
thanks! - j

It will be interesting to see what this new package actually looks like - what parts are plastic and what is aluminum.

I would think that in the short term it would be fine but not so great for long-term storage. If you’ve ever had a plastic bottled soft-drink that you’ve kept too long and it’s gone flat, you know there is some transference through the plastic.

Additionally aluminum with acidic liquids is also not a great idea - although there have been improvements in aluminum processing that reduce the interaction.

It’s great that the Aussies continue to try new things, though - they seem to be the ones most willing to challenge traditions!

I’ve contact Palandri for an image but have heard nothing back as yet.

Sounds similar in concept to French Rabbit packaging to me:

That is a tetrapack with aluminium in the mix (to protect from UV I think).

I wonder if it’s like the “Prêt à boire” concept posted about on WS on October 15th 2006.