Exploring Alternative Wine Packaging

Rebecca Germolus on Aug 1, 2023

Wine lovers’ interest in alternative wine packages is rapidly growing. Putting wine in non-glass containers isn’t something new. Yet, premium quality wines in alternative packaging—especially environmentally friendly and recyclable packaging—haven’t always easy been to find. I wasn’t sure what I’d find as I explored the offerings along the Wine Road, but was pleasantly surprised at what I discovered.

BLUE BIN: A Game Changer

I was blown away by the latest release from Ron Rubin Brands, whose wines include Ron Rubin Winery, River Road Wines, and the newest offering, BLUE BIN Wines.

BLUE BIN bottles are made from 100% recycled materials that are also 100% recyclable. The bottles are lined with an ultra-thin protective layer of glass called Plasmax. This protective layer ensures the wine’s quality isn’t affected by contact with the plastic. And, the Plasmax layer washes away in the recycling process. How cool is that!

That’s just the beginning of how this new bottle shrinks our carbon footprint. The plastic bottles each weigh only 52 grams (less than 2 ounces), versus a glass bottle at 420+ grams/bottle (nearly a pound). Shipping a case of wine that weighs about 20 pounds versus a case weighs 40 or more pounds reduces the carbon emissions of transportation. Another personal benefit of lightweight bottles is that a case or six pack is much easier to lift than a comparable quantity of glass bottles. I’m forever asking for help to lift heavy cases of wine.

On the left side are four Blue Bin wine bottles with labels that read 100% recycled bottle and the name of the wine sitting on a sandy beach. On the right side is a bicycle with a wooden box over the back tire. In the box are two wine bottles with Blue Bin wine labels.

Alternative To-Go Options

Because BLUE BIN wine is in shatterproof, light weight plastic bottles, it’s perfect to take where glass isn’t welcome or shouldn’t go — campsites, boats, the pool or beach—and the lightweight bottles are easy to carry in a backpack or purse.

Currently, BLUE BIN has four wines— Vin Rosé, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. I was lucky enough to taste all of them, and discovered all four are delicious. Not what I’d expected from a $15 wine in a plastic bottle. Ron Rubin and his team put a lot of thought and effort into this wine and the new packaging. I highly recommend you track some down and try it for yourself. Good for the planet, tastes great — a winning combination!

Super-Sized Alternative Wine Packages

Box wine has been around for a long time, and often with a reputation for suboptimal quality. During my research I discovered at least two wineries, both in Dry Creek Valley and next-door neighbors, that have been putting their premium wines into a 3L bag-in-box for over a decade.

Peterson Winery’s first bag-in-box wine was released in 2011. They wanted to offer their premium wines in an environmentally friendly container that would also be easy to transport and versatile to use. Three bag-in-box containers fit into a shipping box, and no additional packing material is needed. Since each box is the equivalent of four 750mL bottles of wine, three boxes equal one case of wine bottles.  A case of glass wine bottles packed in a shipper case weighs at least 40 lbs. An equivalent quantity, or three boxes of wine, with the shipper box weighs 21.5 lbs. If you’ve paid for a wine shipment recently, you’ll know that shipping bag-in-box wine is a big savings, and like BLUE BIN, the carbon emissions are reduced with transporting a lighter load.

A glass of red wine with a Peterson Winery logo. Behind are three boxes of Peterson wine with colorful labels in the center of each box.

Peterson Winery has three to five different bag-in-box offerings at all times. They rotate the selection, and always try to have a Zinfandel, a red blend, and a white wine or a rosé available by the box. I have friends who do a lot of RV traveling and always take Peterson’s box wines with them. A box can last up to three or four weeks once it’s open. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find anyone who has had a box of Peterson wine last that long to verify this information.

Another Box Wine Option

Peterson’s neighbor, Amphora Wines also offers a bag-in-box wine. Every spring, the Amphora Rosé is offered in a 3L box until it sells out, generally by early fall. Amphora has been offering their Rosé as a box wine annually since 2013, and their first box wine was offered in 2012.

In the foreground is a wine glass with the Amphora logo, and has a small amount of rose colored wine in it. Three boxes of wine with Amphora labels are right behind the wine glass. In the background are clay amphora pots used to ferment wine.

Premium box wines are perfect for large gatherings, picnics, taking on a houseboat, or serving poolside. You’ll not only save on packaging when purchasing a box of wine, you’ll also save a little on the cost versus buying four glass bottles of the same wine. Check out Peterson and Amphora’s boxed wines the next time you’re having a party or are traveling. You might find the convenience, savings and lighter carbon footprint, not to mention the great taste, will have you coming back for more.

Refillable Growler

Longboard Vineyards’ owner/winemaker Oded Shakked introduced his refillable one-liter growler in 2018. Oded wanted to provide a premium wine in a zero-waste alternative package for local wine lovers. (This wine isn’t currently available for shipping.)

Barrel 5, the current offering, is a red blend that is mostly old vine Carignan (also spelled Carignane) from Redwood Valley in Mendocino County. The old vine Carignan is blended with a few other hearty red varietals to make an easy sipping, delicious wine.

A hand is holding a growler bottles with a Barrel 5 label on it. The growler is being filled from a French oak wine barrel through a spigot.

Your first purchase ($24) includes the cost of the growler, and subsequent refills are only $19.50. That’s a heck of a deal for a 1L bottle of wine (one liter equals 34 ounces.) Remember most wine bottles are 750mL, so you’re getting an additional 250mL with each purchase.

Sparkling in a Can

Ever wanted to take some bubbly along on a camping trip or to enjoy with a picnic at the beach, but a glass bottle just wasn’t welcome? Sofia Wines’ Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine has been available in cans since 2004!

A little background: Sofia Wines was launched in 1998 as a wedding gift to Sofia Coppola from her father, Francis Coppola (yes, the famed director and namesake of Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville.) Sofia embraced her gift and took it to the next level by bottling the sparkling wine in cans starting in 2004. Sofia actually helped pioneer the original technology to create canned sparkling wine.

Today Sofia sparkling wine in a can comes in two “flavors” — Blanc de Blancs and Brut Rosé. Each can is 187ml (about one glass worth of wine) and retails for around $5. You can also purchase a four pack or a party pack (24 cans) of each of the different offerings.

Francis Coppola Sofia Brut Rose four pack box on the left side. On the right side an open can of Sofia Blanc de Blancs sparkling surrounded by items like a strawberry, champagne cork, a glass of champagne with a strawberry floating in it, and shiny reflective spheres.

More Can Options

Coppola Winery also has Pinot Noir available in a can, which is sold in 4 packs. Another great option for alternative wine packaging that is recyclable and easy to take where traditional glass bottles aren’t welcome.

Glass vs. Alternative Packaging

Don’t worry, glass wine bottles won’t be disappearing off the shelves any time soon. The ritual of opening a bottle of wine — from popping the cork to watching and listening to the wine pour into a glass — has a romantic appeal to it. And, the wine industry has a lot of invested infrastructure in place to support wine in glass bottles. But sometimes an alternative wine package is required. Hope you now have some options to try out and determine which ones fit best into your active, planet-friendly lifestyle.

Happy Sipping!

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Posted by Rebecca Germolus

Rebecca Germolus, co-owner of Maximum Value Marketing, loves Sonoma County and playing along the Wine Road. Rebecca daily immerses herself in wine country by providing cost-effective marketing and writing solutions to wineries and restaurants.

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