Moving some bottles around in my cellar yesterday, I was struck by
how many I had that seemed extra heavy and would not fit in my wine
racks. I’m partly to blame for the latter hindrance, because when I had
the cellar installed four years ago I bought the cheapest racks
available. (Rather spend the money on the wine, I thought!) But the
weight of some of these really got me thinking, as I straightened out my
creaky back for the umpteenth time. Just how heavy are these things?
So I took some bottles upstairs and pulled out my kitchen scale. The
most striking finding was in comparing two bottles of California Pinot
Noir. Edna Valley Vineyard 2006 Paragon, a slim Burgundy-styled bottle that fit easily in my rack, weighed in at 2 pounds 11 ounces, or 1,230 grams. Sanford Sta. Rita Hills 2006, in contrast,
weighed 3 pounds 11 ounces, or 1,665 grams. As you can see in the
photo, the Sanford is a little taller and a little wider than the Edna
Valley. But much heavier.
An entire pound’s difference. Twelve pounds per case. About 600 – 840
extra pounds per pallet (depending on the number of cases in a pallet,
which seems to vary – perhaps larger bottles make for larger cases,
resulting in fewer cases per pallet?) How much extra transportation cost
(for both the empty and the full bottles) in getting this wine to
market? What effect not only on our pocketbooks but on greenhouse gas
emissions? Per bottle, perhaps negligible; but industry wide? I weighed
several different bottles of varying shapes – the Edna Valley and the
Sanford represented the extremes.
Wineries have made a big deal lately about “going green” and reducing
their “carbon footprints.” Many have installed solar power – it takes a
lot of electricity to keep those barrel rooms cool, after all. Others
tout sustainable, organic or biodynamic viticulture as ways they can be
good stewards of the land. All these steps are laudable. But more can be
So I say to winemakers – put your egos in the wine itself, not the bottles that hold the wine. Use lighter bottles.
Jancis Robinson has been
railing against “bodybuilder bottles” for some time, and this year
launched a crusade to rally consumers against heavyweight bottles. Count
me on your team, Jancis!