In an important step towards more sustainable wine packaging, nine major wine retailers – Laithwaites, Lidl GB, Naked Wines UK, Naked Wines USA, Sweden’s Systembolaget AB, The Wine Society, Virgin Wines, Waitrose and Whole Foods Market – have agreed to reduce the average weight of their bottles by around 25% in the next three years.
Research led by Dr Peter Stanbury of the Sustainable Wine Roundtable (SWR) has shown that as much as half of the carbon impact of wine comes from glass bottles. His report on Reducing Wine Bottle Weight examines the facts and makes recommendations for change. The average weight of a 750ml still wine bottle is 550g, but Stanbury insists that: ‘There is no practical reason why all wines should not be presented in bottles around 420g or lighter.’ As Jancis Robinson MW and other leading wine commentators have argued for years, ‘lighter bottles is an easy win for the wine sector to reduce its carbon emissions’.
Stanbury hopes his research will dispel inaccurate assumptions about consumer preferences and bottle production constraints. ‘When you look in detail at certain factoids – for example that consumes prefer heavier bottles because they associate them with quality, or that lighter weight bottles are too fragile – it turns out that they’re simply not true. Consumers choose wine for a range of different reasons and making lighter bottles just requires slightly more careful handling on bottling lines.’
Under the SWR Bottle Weight Accord, launched on 10 October, the group of retailers will reduce the average weight of 750ml still wine bottles to below 420g by the end of 2026, making phased reductions and reporting progress to the SWR. According to Stanbury, the 25% reduction in bottle weight equates to carbon savings of over 23m kilos a year.
‘I hope this is the start of something truly transformational,’ says Dom de Ville of The Wine Society, calling on wine businesses all over the world to join the accord. Gad Pettersson of Systembolaget notes that the Swedish wine monopoly has already reduced its average bottle weight to 477g and will introduce an ‘absolute ban on the very heaviest bottles’ from March 2024. Ella Worley says that Naked Wines USA has been reducing the weight of its bottles for some time and consumers have not noticed.
Stanbury wants to reach a situation where lighter bottles are the norm. He sees implementing the accord as just the first step in a journey of ‘saving carbon and costs through collaboration’. Next steps include examining optimal bottle weight for sparkling wine, helping producers and retailers make better choices on alternative packaging (bag in box, cans, PET bottles, etc) and creating a ‘bottle miles carbon calculator’ to drive down carbon.
Stanbury stresses that getting the accord delivered requires a collaborative approach across the whole supply chain, for example through supporting producers in regions like Beaujolais and South Africa who find it difficult to obtain lighter bottles, working with the bottle makers and communicating better to consumers. His message to wine lovers is: ‘If you are serious about sustainability, the easiest thing you can do is choose lighter bottles.’