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PET bottle push for organic wine

A major push to bottle Sud de France organic wines in PET (polyethylene terephtalate) has been launched, thanks to strategic financing from the Languedoc-Roussillon regional government

The Nîmes-based Union des Vignerons des Garrigues (UVG) is bottling the wine of one of its members, Vignerons de la Voie d’Héraclès, in new generation PET bottles manufactured using the cold blow method that requires less energy to manufacture a bottle that is completely recyclable. In using the cold process, bottles are produced that are much more oxygen-proof than the PET bottles manufactured using a hot process. These bottles take either aluminium or plastic screw caps, allowing a longer shelf life

The bottles are currently being made in 25 cl and 1 litre bottles for retail outlets while a 18.75 cl version is being produced for in-flight use.
However, according to Christine Cornil, UVG export manager, there are issues of size with the industry standard 75 cl bottle that has prompted the move to create a one litre bottle.

She says: “The 75 cl PET is so much smaller than the traditional glass bottle. It has a much lower profile that does not look so good on the shelf compared with neighbouring bottles.”

The problem has been found by other winegrowers and retailers who have switched to 75 cl PET bottles; the absence of thick glass on the base and neck of a bottle can shrink the size of the PET alternative substantially.
Cornil continues: “The litre bottle we are making is the same size as the traditional glass bottle yet provides 33% more volume. This will appeal to retailers.”

Vignerons de la Voie d’Héraclès, based in Vergèze, is one of France’s largest producers of organic wine, making 2.5 million litres annually. The winegrower will sell red, white and rosé wines in the bottles.

On the menu

Currently the PET-bottled wine is being sold on-trade at cafeterias. The 25 cl bottles are used for the Chais du Soleil brand, sold throughout France. However, Cornil points out, the physical elements have encountered some issues with users.

She says: “These bottles have a film which avoids the problems with oxygen ermeation. The problem has been that the film is white. This means that it is restricted to red wine bottling as no-one will accept it for white wine.
“Without this film, the wine will be unaffected for only four months. With the film, the wine is secure for at least eight months.”
Market resistence is currently found in consumers’ attitudes to plastic wine bottles. This does not present UVG with insurmountable problems, Cornil believes.

She says: “We have found that when the bottle is on the table, consumers have no problem with it. When it is on the table, you do not recognise it is not glass. In fact, many do not notice it is not glass until they pick up the bottles. Then they say they wouldn’t drink wine from a plastic bottle.”
How significant is this consumer resistence?

She says: “It is like the situation five years ago with screw caps on wine bottles. Then, people said they were fit only for cheap wine. Now the best Chablis and Burgundy can be found in screw cap bottles. It will be like this with plastic bottles.”

The issue of PET wine bottles has simmered for a number of years throughout the Old and New World areas. Proponents of their use point out that the lower weight of the bottles reduces the weight of bottled wine substantially when it is transported, leading to lower carbon emissions in transport; breakages are eliminated in the supply chain; and PET can be recycled. A typical filled 75 cl glass bottle of wine can weigh 1.3 kg while an empty PET bottle will weigh just 50 gms.

As export manager, part of Cornil’s work is to visit foreign markets to promote her vineyard’s wine.

In mid-November, she attended a Sud de France tasting of regional organic wines at the Maison de la Region Languedoc-Roussillon in London to promote her packaging in the UK. She has also visited Eastern European markets.
The regional Languedoc-Roussillon government has supported the bottling initiative with an investment of €500,000, €300,000 of which was made available as loan financing.

Report by James Graham

December 09



1 December 2009 - Felicity Murray