Back in May, I complained that while the New Zealand wine industry prided itself on its green credentials, it had thus far failed miserably on environmentally friendly packaging (making me somewhat unpopular with various members of the NZ trade!)
While the rest of the wine world has turned to lightweight bottles, plastic (a.k.a PET) bottles, and tetrapaks, Kiwis had been stuck in the twentieth with heavy bottles. The lightest bottle available in New Zealand was 450g yet the Aussies were already down at 330g, reducing energy use by 20% and water by 12%.
At the time, Mike Needham, national sales manager for glass bottle manufacturer O-I, admitted it was expensive technology to install, and New Zealand was a relatively small producer of wine. “I don’t think people will go down to 350g or 300g. We have found very few people that are interested. The industry has not been as demanding here as in Australia,” he said.
Yet there was interest from producers. And this week, Nelson organic producer Richmond Plains has bottled its first wine in a 325 gram bottle.
Lars Jensen, owner of Richmond Plains, says, “It has been a big challenge to find suitable lightweight bottles in New Zealand. The lightest bottles we have been able to use previously were 40% heavier. So these really do make a big difference to the environment and across our business.”
The bottles are 20 mm shorter which means it is possible to stack more cases onto a pallet and fit more into a container. Taking fewer resources to produce and transport, reducing fossil fuels consumption significantly. They are also much lighter for trade and customers to handle with a case weighing 1.5 kg less at just 13kg.
Jensen adds, “Maximising the use of our resources and minimising our impact on the environment is a global issue so we’re very excited to be leading the way by using such lightweight bottles.”
I hope that others will follow their lead.
Unfortunately, consumers often feel they are getting better value for money and a better wine if it is packaged in a heavy bottle.
However, a WRAP study found bottle weight differences of up to 40% (for an empty container) and 20% (for a full container) were not noticed among a significant number of those surveyed, so perhaps if the proportions of the bottle mimic those of a heavier equivalent there will be little impact in perceived values.
Eden Valley Riesling producers have launched a proprietary bottle, embossed in the same vein as Chateauneuf du Pape. And the first vintage using this bottle - 2011 – is hitting shelves now.
The green flute has a symbol on the front representing the rolling hills of the Eden Valley and the region’s name is also embossed. It gives the region’s wines much better on-shelf presence and gives confused consumers a better idea what to expect if they’ve tried an Eden Valley Riesling before.
While it’s early days for the bottle, the region’s two biggest producers, Yalumba and Peter Lehmann, have not come on board for the first release. The price per bottle - some quote 90 cents, others more, others less - is perhaps a little high, particularly in the current economic climate when producers are looking to cut costs. However, a special mould had to be created to produce the bottles hence the high cost. What’s more, the Eden Valley is not a mass producer so the economy of scale is certainly not there to bring costs down.
Yalumba’s Louisa Rose, explains their decision. “The issue for us is that it’s quite expensive and our brands are much bigger than most. It’s a commercial decision at the moment but I think it’s a great idea.”
And Ian Hongell, winemaker at Peter Lehmann, adds “We are not using the Eden Valley bottle because we have our own proprietary bottle.”
Yet, if the biggest producers came on board, they would have the economy of scale, and the project would have more clout.
One of the area’s most renowned producers, Henschke, has bottled its 2011 Julius Riesling in the proprietary bottle but Stephen Henschke admits, “Not enough are using it but I think more people will be influenced to start.”
I certainly hope more producers do come on board. It is a small region that is technically part of the Barossa zone and there is very little awareness of the area.
Thus far the Clare Valley has achieved a higher profile status for its Rieslings but with greater unity and widespread adoption of this bottle, there is an opportunity for the area to become known as the premium Australian Riesling region. It should take a leaf out of Central Otago’s book, which has become known as the leading new world Pinot Noir producer through its collaborative marketing efforts.
There is a real opportunity for the region: Eden Valley Rieslings offers fresh wines that are clean and modern, and would suit the current consumers’ appetite for vibrant, unoaked styles. With moderate alcohol levels (12-12.5%), lemon, lime and lavender aromatics, they would appeal to a wide audience.
Yet it is relatively unknown: as part of the Barossa, it often gets overshadowed by its bigger brother. The proprietary bottle is a good start to increase its recognition, but it shouldn’t stop there.
*Packaging manufacturer Amcor produces the proprietary bottles. I have contacted them, asking for details on production costs, price per bottle and units sold thus far but they have not responded to my calls.
Well, it didn’t get any worse. And there were some interesting insights worthy of a news story from Prosecco estimating it will quintuple in size by 2035 to one billion bottles plus some revealing statistics: Wine Intelligence’s Lulie Halstead revealed social media was relevant to just 13% of regular wine drinkers in the UK but 62% in China. Food for thought
On the last afternoon, I did a tour of the conference, getting folks’ opinions. The main benefit of the conference? Networking. How often do you get Jancis Robinson, Robert Parker and co. in the same room? It was a great opportunity to reconnect with contacts and old friends and meet new ones.
I am also much more knowledgeable about the Asian markets thanks to Jeannie Cho Lee, sommelier Yang Lu from the Peninsula, Shanghai and Don St Pierre Jnr of ASC.
The conference finished with a final debate on the ‘future of wine’ with an illustrious panel. Yet it failed to deliver any excitement. The conference should have gone out with a bang with the high profile names on stage but instead ended with a fizzle, with many shuffling out before the conclusion.
If there is to be a future for Wine Future (and there’s plans for Brazil 2013), exhibitors and other delegates have to speak out about the issues they had, not just confide that they agreed with what I said in my blog in a private moment (although thanks for the support)!
I want more debate, smaller break off seminars and less time allowing the biggest players in the industry to tell us about their company. What do you want?
“I’m doing my best”, says Pancho Campo, in response to his critics on day one of Wine Future Hong Kong 2011.
In an interview with Campo following the disappointing first day of Wine Future, there appears to have been some soul-searching in a bid to improve the rest of the summit.
If you read yesterday’s blog (if not, it’s below), I was less than impressed with the content of the discussions. Too much self-promotion and not enough fresh insight.
I have had a lot of response to the blog from delegates agreeing with my blog (although Tim Atkin MW did point out he doesn’t like being called old media: “I’ve got an award-winning website,” he said. Sorry, Tim!)
Campo said, “We send every speaker a list of questions we wanted them to answer” but he admitted many had gone off topic, talked too much about their brands and there had be more debate between speakers and audience, and this had been one of the failings of the last summit.
“In Wine Future 2009 the main things our questionnaires showed us that one, there were too many people talking their brands. And two, very few time for Q&A,” he said.
One speaker today did not talk about his brand very much – and it was one of the highlights. However, Campo revealed that gentleman had considered reworking his talk to include some infomation on his brand after hearing all the company guff yesterday. I’m glad he didn’t.
Campo added, “The only speaker that was a success in 2009 was Gary Vaynerchuk and that was not because of what he said but how he said it.”
“One of the problems the industry has is we have great minds but terrible speakers.”
So, we’re only part way through day two and things have picked up a little. But many speakers have been allowed to go on and time for questions has run out. Many people have been encouraged to write down questions but the speakers run over and then slope off without one question being asked. We have to go backstage if we want to ask the questions.
There have been some interesting nuggets of information (and there’s still plenty to go today) but there has continued to be a lot of ‘I’ll just tell you a little bit about my brand’. Please don’t; do your best instead.
I once dropped a jar of beetroot on a friend of a friend’s floor, and have never been allowed to forget it.
Spilling red wine can be equally calamitous, and the latest red wine spill has turned into a You’ve Been Framed slick. A liquor store in Wisconsin was left trying to stem a red wine tide when a 78ft long shelving unit, holding a total of 6,810 bottles of wine and champagne smashed to the floor.
Unfortunately it’s not enough to get rid of the world’s oversupply: excess production stands at 30 million hectolitres each year (OIV, 2008) but every little helps!
Perhaps the crash had something to do with the shelves, which were more than 30 years old, showing they don’t improve with age.