I’ve noticed that more expensive wines often come in heavier bottles. Is there any relationship between the weight of a wine bottle and its quality?
Ego-driven vintners can signal their lofty ambitions by selecting so-called bodybuilder bottles for top-of-the-line red and white wines, using dark-coloured, heavyweight containers that have presence on a table. These bottles also imply a capacity for long-term aging and justification for the expense. Ten or 20 years ago, these sorts of self-important, wrist-busting bottles were more common, but they have fallen out of fashion as an ecofriendly mindset has evolved.
Issues of sustainability, emissions and resource management have led a global movement towards using lighter bottles to lower costs and reduce a winery’s carbon footprint and, presumably, compensation claims for back injuries and other aliments for bottling-line and liquor-store workers.
The weight of an empty 750 ml wine bottle can range from 350 grams to almost a kilo.
Heavy bottles can convey gravitas to consumers, which is why a variety of flagship wines from Argentina, Italy and Napa Valley continue to come in weighty, often custom-made, bottles to make them stand out.
Lighter-weight bottles can have an image problem for typical consumers searching the aisle for a purchase. The shape, size and colour of a bottle are easy triggers, along with a brand name, price or label. But consumer perception about wine quality is no longer solely tied to its packaging.
In 2010, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario launched a lightweight-glass-bottle program to assist in reducing the carbon footprint for the products it was purchasing and to lessen the overall weight of cases handled by retail and logistics employees. A maximum weight of 420 grams or 460 grams for products packaged in taller hock or flute style bottles, the shape favoured by German riesling producers, was put in place for wines retailing for $16 or less. That dollar figure is set to climb to $19 per bottle by April 2022, which will cover the vast majority of the wine the LCBO handles each year.
Exceptions are made for sparkling wines, which require stronger glass to maintain the pressure created by the bubbles, and specialty purchases for online or short-term in-store release.
The LCBO’s website explains that more than 90 per cent of the products in their system meet the lightweight-glass restrictions. Similar policies have been implemented by other major retailers, such as British supermarket chains Tesco and Sainsbury’s, without any impact on drinkability or increased breakage from shipping mishaps.
While premium wines require polished and stylish packaging, heavyweight bottles have never been a reliable determining factor for a wine’s quality. Quality has always been about the liquid inside the container, and that will always be the case, especially as producers increasingly think outside the bottle and embrace alternative packages, including lightweight aluminum cans.