While there are a vast number of wines available, they are almost always packaged in multi-serving glass bottles. But in the past few years, there has been a slow, sure move toward “single serving” wine packaging. The thinking is that wine drinkers with active lifestyles might want to take along smaller-sized containers rather than lug entire bottles. Imagine the convenience when backpacking, bicycling or picnicking. Single servings are also good for marketing—winemakers can encourage consumers to sample different wines without committing to purchase a whole bottle.
It’s easy enough for winemakers to create diminutive versions of their glass bottles, of course. Those have been on the market for a decade, but they are not easily portable and they can break. Still, both winemakers and consumers have always looked at glass as essential in the packaging of wine. That is, until now.
Some of the recent single-serving wine packaging is downright innovative. Target (yes, the retailer) offers Wine Cubes, square packages containing four single servings of wine. Each unit has the distinct feeling of an adult juice-pak. Winemaker Francis Ford Coppola has introduced two packaging breakthroughs: single servings in foil-sealed glasses that look like tumblers and single servings of its Sofia brand in chic pink and silver mini-cans with a plastic straw attached to the side—again reminiscent of a child-size juice drink.
But the most imaginative and apparently eco-friendly single-serving wine comes from Volute, a company started last year. Volute packages its single servings in a bottle—but it is a unique aluminum bottle, elegantly shaped and with trendy graphics, including color-coded designations for red, white and rosé varieties.
Volute believes consumers will warm to the idea of fine wine packaged in aluminum bottles, and its rationale is compelling. The company says aluminum is shatterproof, eco-friendly because of its lighter weight, and 100 percent recyclable. It is also better than glass, the company says, because it protects the wine from light. According to Volute, light can “cause the wine aromas to deteriorate.” The aluminum has been specially treated to make it compatible with the wine. At the present time, you need a can opener to open a Volute bottle, but the company is said to be working on a screw-off cap.
Volute has managed to invoke the latest popular eco-phrase—carbon footprint—in its brand story. For the same volume of wine, the Volute aluminum can—sorry, bottle—weighs four times less than glass. In its corporate blog, the company writes, “The Volute bottles have a lower carbon footprint than their glass counterparts. The Volute bottles are made of aluminum, which is recycled at a rate of over 50% in the US (and over 90% in Sweden) vs. 20% for glass…Producing a Volute bottle from recycled aluminum requires about 90% less raw materials, 50% less water and pollutes 50% less air. Then comes the transportation. Due to its lower weight, importing Volute wine generates 30% less CO2 than the same volume of wine in glass bottles.”
To fight the perception that wine simply has to be in glass bottles, Volute takes some time to explain that wine hasn’t always been packaged that way. “Throughout history,” the company says, “every civilization simply used the container that would protect the wine best, based on their knowledge and technology at that time. The Egyptians and Greeks used amphoras. In the Middle Ages wine was stored in goatskin. Ceramics were used—even wood.”
The company’s website waxes poetic about the many opportunities to grab some Volute and go: “sporting events, sailing, at the beach, at the pool, camping, on the mountain, Sunday afternoon.” The four friends who started the company were living in France at the time and wanted to do all those things, and more, but did not want to give up their wine. They couldn’t find anything more convenient than a heavy glass bottle, so they came up with a “portable premium wine” and brought the idea to the US.
That explains why the wines in Volute bottles are from France. “We source our wine from small, independent Bordeaux wineries that possess the same values and views as we do,” the company says. Volute says it uses only higher quality French wines classified as “Appellation d’Origine Controlée” (AOC), which are strictly regulated.
As unique as Volute is, other breakthroughs in wine packaging are coming to the market too. French company WineSide, for example, recently introduced its “Circle”—AOC wines packaged in slender glass tubes with twist-off tops. WineSide packages the tubes individually, in boxed sets and in limited editions. WineSide can personalize tubes and single packs for corporate gifts and events.
Single-serving wine packaging might open up market opportunities for new brands such as Volute and WineSide. It may also force well-known wine brands to repackage their product to keep up with consumer demand. I’ll drink to that.