29 March 2018 We are resurrecting this article in our Throwback Thursday series partly because its 10-year-old content is an interesting reminder of the issue of bottle weight and how long it has been with us, and partly because it reminds us what a fine and innovative company Bibendum Wine has been, on the day that Conviviality, the mammoth but fairly recently formed group made up of Bibendum, importers PLB, dominant drinks wholesaler Matthew Clark, retailers Bargain Booze and Wine Rack and several other drinks companies, announces it is to file for administration. We wish its 2,600 employees the very best of luck and hope that a viable plan for the future can be found. Perhaps Bibendum PLB's old boss Michael Saunders, who sold the company to Conviviality in 2016, will be tempted back in to the fray?
24 September 2008 Things are really happening now in the UK in terms of reducing the weight of wine bottles. See, for example, our Name and shame heavy bottles campaign.
In Wrapping it right: those lighter bottles, I described the first phase of the Glassrite project set up in the UK in 2006 by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) to work with importers, retailers, brand owners and manufacturers but also hoping to influence producers around the world who supply wine to the small island. They aim to reduce both the amount of glass entering the UK waste stream and the level of carbon emissions in the drinks’ industry.
Last week they launched Glassrite phase 2, which will run from now until November 2009 and aims to carry on the good work of phase 1 by further encouraging the use of lighter weight bottles, increasing the bulk importation of wine into the UK and the use of recycled content in wine bottles. (They estimate a reduction in CO2 emissions of over 28,000 tonnes, equivalent to taking more than 8,500 cars off the road, as a result of phase 1 initiatives.) ‘The emphasis will be working with wine communities which supply the UK, such as the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Europe’ and it will be managed by WSP, a design, engineering and management consultancy specialising in transport and environmental projects.
Phase 2 will also include the trial development of a sub-300g wine bottle that is both attractive and commercially viable and of lighter weight champagne and sparkling wine bottles. It seems ironic that fizzy champagne could not even exist until the development in the 17th century of bottles heavy and strong enough to withstand the pressure inside. Fortunately, glass manufacturing technology has moved on since the days of St-Évremond's exile in London.
On the same day that Glassrite launched its next phase, innovative UK wine company Bibendum was busy trumpeting the new lightweight bottles for its UK-bottled wine – one weighing in at 404g and the other a flyweight at just 356g. They claim this will potentially reduce their annual glass use by more than 195 tonnes – the equivalent of more than 500,000 fewer bottles. It will also reduce their annual CO2 emissions by 621 tonnes, through savings in packaging and transport (calculated according to WRAP’s online Wine Ready Reckoner) – ‘equivalent to taking 196 vehicles off the road’. For more on Bibendum’s ‘green team’, Vivid, see here.
Earlier this month, Errazuriz, one of Chile’s most successful exporters, announced that it would be the first major Chilean brand to move to lighter bottles, respresenting a 12.4% reduction in glass weight compared with their existing ones (425g compared with 485g). Owing to the limited supply of lightweight bottles in Chile – only green Bordeaux bottles are currently available – the campaign will start with most of their red wines. Pinot Noir has to wait for the arrival of the lighter burgundy bottle but this and the whites will surely follow in the less crushing footsteps of the other reds. Errazuriz will also be adorning these bottles with neck collars to ‘promote the benefits of light weight bottles and offer consumers the chance to win long-life light bulbs in return for ‘bright ideas’ in the form of energy saving suggestions’. (I think there must be a sizeable stock pile of these long-life bulbs somewhere – they seem to be the giveaway of the moment and I have my own increasingly unnecessary collection under the stairs.)
Having read Bibendum’s claim that reducing their CO2 emissions is equivalent to taking 196 vehicles off the road, I am mildly reluctant to point out that the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) estimated that there were 33 million cars on UK roads in 2006 but at least the above accounts represent three small steps away from the stupidly heavy bottles Jancis rightly rails against in Down with bodybuilder bottles.