Tablas Creek’s Jason Haas recounts his winery’s experience moving to a lighter bottle 10 years ago.
So, in ten years we have saved roughly 1,370,000 pounds of glass weight, or 685 tons.
That extra weight came with costs at every stage. We had to pay more to have it manufactured, shipped to us, and then either trucked away for wholesale sales or sent via UPS or FedEx to our direct customers. We needed larger wine racks to fit the wines in our library, which means we could store fewer bottles per square foot of space. Our trucking company can fit three more pallets of our flagship wines (22 pallets vs. 19) in the new package before reaching their legal weight limit, which means that for the roughly 40% of this wine that we sell via wholesale, we’ve had to run roughly one fewer full truck of cases of wine each year up to the Vineyard Brands warehouse in American Canyon, CA. And those are just the hard costs. The invisible environmental cost savings are massive as well, with less weight having to be driven or flown around in every stage between manufacture and consumption.
So the winery saves significant costs and the environment benefits from the reduced carbon footprint as well. And his customers have been overwhelmingly supportive since they pay less for transportation and storage as well. Yet, I’m constantly coming across wines with massively heavy bottles that seem to serve no purpose.
Jason then poses the obvious question.
So, given that lighter bottles cost less and people seem to like them more, why are there still wineries using the heavy bottles? That’s complicated.
What’s complicated about it? The only reason he can come up with after reviewing Twitter threads on the topic is that some customers associate a heavier bottle with a more serious wine. That isn’t complicated; it’s stupid. It is one of those irrational associations that when you think about it obviously makes little sense. Why would a heavy bottle indicate quality? As Jason points out some of the finest wines in the world use a modestly sized bottle.
But he is no doubt right. It’s hard enough to sell wine without also having to overcome irrational, unconscious resistance from consumers who are probably not aware that they are making such a foolish inference.
But to be honest, when I see a wine in a beastly bottle I question the judgment of the winery especially if they brag about the sustainability of their operation. I’m more inclined to think they are operating out of habit rather than deliberation.
This is really an education issue. Wineries should reduce bottle weights and be proactive in pointing out to consumers that wine quality has nothing to do with bottle weight. Make that part of your sustainability pitch.
It’s surprising that more wineries haven’t taken up the cause championed by Tablas Creek.