Wine in plastic bottles?

Not to everyone's taste

By Ian Hickinbotham
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Wine bottles in a South Australian cellar

Wine bottles in a South Australian cellar [©Winepros/]

Ian Hickinbotham, author of Australian Plonky
Australian Plonky by Ian Hickinbotham
A cellar full of old wine


PET bottles are the very common bottles used for soft drinks, like lemonade. They have never been considered of good enough quality to use for packaging wine. The concern has been slow oxidation of the wine because the PET is not impervious to air with its oxygen.

However, the need to decrease carried weight on aeroplanes has been a pressure on winegrowers to pack their wines in PET bottles. The plastic is much lighter than glass (and due to recent social developments, is safer than glass bottles that can be deliberately smashed and then used as a weapon). Perhaps a compromise situation is developing: PET bottles are being used in-flight, hopefully with an agreed 'use by' date printed on the bottles.

Historically, even soft drink companies have had a policy of withdrawing stock of their drinks packed in PET bottles after they have been on shop shelves for a set time. This may concern loss of gas rather than oxidation as such, but once the gas has gone, the beverage is subject to normal oxidation.

Another current attraction of PET bottles is the trend to requiring winegrowers to re-use bottles which would seem to be confined to glass bottles. It hardly seems practical to wash PET bottles, given their current initial cost advantage (which may change given that PET is a 'by-product' of the petroleum industry the raw material for which is a finite resource) and susceptibility to being scratched internally by 'bottle-brushes' during the washing. 

Further, given the vulnerability of both white and red table wines to being affected by exposure to light (especially in the heated environment of shop windows) coloured PET would seem to be essential, if not highly desirable as dictated by fashion.

Well known Marks and Spencer announced earlier this year it intended to have all its single serve wine in multi-layer PET bottles. However, the important French Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences in Bordeaux has just stated that wine in multi-layer PET bottles exhibited reduced quality within only six months. 

Such an eminent proclamation should reinforce the diffidence of Australian winegrowers about using PET bottles. 



Ian Hickinbotham, one of the most innovative and influential oenologists in Australia over his 50 year career, is the author of Australian Plonky (see related review below).


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January 07th, 2011
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