RSS Feeds

Advanced search

You are in:


Packaging innovation key to sparkling wines

The innovation in packaging and closures session at the International Sparking Wine Symposium held last month at Denbies winery in Surrey, UK, was hosted by Jamie Goode, journalist, consultant, and founder of along with Derek Boltwood, owner, Chillifish Design, Paulo Lopes, head of R&D at Amorim, and Alexandre Penet, consultant, winemaker and owner of La Maison Penet Champagne

Jamie Goode introduced the session by emphasizing how fragile our perception is of sparking wine. We are not detecting chemicals yet there are high-end reactions. Recently Jamie was involved in an experiment where they had both novices and experts examining blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs; the experts were not as good as the novices. The novices didn’t like the more expensive Champagne and the experts appeared to like the more complex Champagne. The trade experts also couldn’t tell the difference between the vintage and non-vintages.

This, he said, proves that our perception is very fragile and expectation matters greatly in the processing of information. Expectation helps us attribute opinion and although flavour and quality are significant, marketing and packaging shape our perception and are therefore vital. Innovation is necessary in selling fizz. Champagne casts a shadow over the sparkling wine market because the C word is magical – it raises expectations – the liquid doesn’t even have to taste that good as long as it’s Champagne. The C word muddies the category of fizz.

Derek Boltwood expressed the importance of point of sale packaging. He said the secret of packaging is to:

- Get noticed

- Deliver the message

- Get a reaction

- Add value


Brands should perfectly satisfy expectations of their audience, using both design and accident together. At the point of purchase is when packaging comes into play.

He gave as an example the story how Fat Bastard wine from France got its name. At the end of a tasting of several disappointing wines, Thierry (winemaker) and Guy Anderson both came across a full-bodied interesting red – this was immediately christened as a ‘Fat Bastard’ and the name stuck. The wine now stands out really well on the shelf, has its own website and wine club, and is popular in both the US and UK.

The name and packaging of Fat Bastard attracts a younger more modern audience than, for example, Rioja Grand Familia, which has completely different brand values and, therefore, far more orthodox branding. The Rioja Gran Familia targets the mature man, 35-37 years old, and the more conservative supermarket shoppers who see Rioja as a brand.

Creating a brand is not an exact science, he said, some brands come about by chance, e.g Fat Bastard. If your product is not noticed in the shop, it won’t be sold. “Unseen is Unsold.”

He explained that, of course, getting noticed doesn’t guarantee a sale, but it does draw customers in. You need to get a very positive reaction from the shopper to engage. And once you’ve drawn the customer in, further appeal is needed in the label via a meaningful message e.g a discount, new product, or promotion. Awards medal also stand out.

PRSI recent research, he said, showed that shoppers can only process two or three messages at any time, so you need to consider what three messages will sell a wine? But, he said, it is also very important not to devalue your product if it’s premium by using less than premium packaging and design. “Everything you spend on packaging adds value to your product and therefore you can charge more because the shopper sees it to be worth more. However, packaging and design never makes up for a poor product.”

Alexandre Penet is from an old family in Champagne, growing vines in Champagne for over 400 years. Having moved to other wineries over the years before coming back to Penet, he is now both an insider and outsider to the business.

He believes that knowledgeable and discerning people want ‘authenticity’ especially in niche food and drink products. He also said that having a good product alone is not enough – you also need create a difference through the packaging.

As an example, he showed the design of a Penet Chardonnay, which is based on the design of a British car (Morgan) – refined, classy and authentic. Penet added an aluminum plate with different levels of embossment, a truly innovative design with many layers on the label.

Penet also includes detailed information on the back of the label – the limited edition bottle number, when applicable for exclusivity, the date and year of harvest, date of disgorgement, how many bottles were produced, plus terrior information.

The more discerning customers can find what they need from an exclusive wine.

Another recent innovation in bottle design and technology is the addition of a QR code, which was created in Japan in 2009 and first used on wine bottles wine by Penet.

“When the QR code was created in 2009 not many had the technology or phone to read it, but you don’t need a lot of money to include these on a label, and they add so much information to the bottle.

Paulo Lopes is been involved in the latest research and ongoing projects on natural cork. He explained how corks effect the properties of sparkling wine – sensorial, physical and chemical – and the strategies to achieve inertia, which include traceability, better storage conditions, exclusion of raw materials attacked by mould, and the exclusion of chlorines. He also explained the cures to these problems: vapourization in the waterstream, and FBT – dynamic water stream application.

Quality control is vital and Amorim does a chemical analysis and sensory assessment of every product. With natural cork stoppers, he said, it is necessary to individually control each cork – it’s not all done in a scientific lab.

He explained that to avoid problems with sealing and to ensure the optimum physical parametres of sparkling wine corks, cork and bottle neck pairing is very important. He also discussed how oxygen transmission through sparkling corks allows important amounts of oxygen to be released into the wine. He went on to look at other things that may affect wine quality, such as phenolic acids and aldehydes. The continuous migration of these compounds over time affects the quality of wine, although, he added, the amounts are quite low. There are, however, ongoing studies to help us to understand what is happening to wine quality during ageing and the cork’s place in this.

2 January 2014 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor