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 done.
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!