Jun 23, 2009
PLASTIC wine bottles may be a greener alternative to glass, but they're not particularly friendly to top-notch reds and whites, a new study has shown.
At least two Australian winemakers have begun producing wines in plastic bottles, arguing it is a convenient and environmentally friendly way to consume the drop.
The plastic is 100 per cent recyclable, while the glass in wine bottles can be only partially recycled.
But a study commissioned by the plastic bottle manufacturer Portavin has cast doubt over the viability of wine stored in plastic.
The study found that in the short-term, wine stored in glass and plastic tasted similar, but the wine stored in the plastic bottles started to deteriorate after about eight months and is best consumed within 12 months of bottling.
The polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles are permeable to air, which oxidises the wine. Wine bottlers can limit the amount of oxygen that enters the bottle with an oxygen scavenger - sachets containing material including fine iron powder covered with sea salt - but these are effective for only about 12 months.
"Oxygen permeates the wine and it becomes oxidised," Portavin managing director Ian Matthews said.
While 90 per cent of wine sold in Australia is consumed within 48 hours, consumers haven't embraced plastic.
"It's more a case of when it's going to happen rather than if it's going to happen," Mr Matthews said. "It's well-suited to high-turnover wines in the $13- to $15-a-bottle category, which accounts for the vast majority of wine sold."
PET bottles produce almost 30 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than glass bottles and are cheaper and safer to recycle.
Wine manufacturer Wolf Blass promotes its new plastic-bottled green-label wine as an environmentally friendly alternative to glass.
Global brand director Oliver Horn said initial sales were pleasing but he was unsure if Australian wine drinkers were willing to give up glass, with the company having launched plastic in Canada and Britain three years ago.
"Consumers liked the convenience factor, but that was not enough to overcome the romance of glass," he said.
SHIRAZ has knocked off chardonnay as Australia's top drop.
The grape variety regained its position as the most popular for the first time since 2006, according to the Winemakers' Federation of Australia Vintage Report. Shiraz accounted for 23.6 per cent of the total crush, compared with chardonnay's 23.4 per cent. Chardonnay remained the country's most popular white wine.
The report, which surveyed 340 wineries representing 89 per cent of wine growers, revealed a 7 per cent drop in the nation's wine grape production, equivalent to about 125,000 tonnes.
Growers were affected by drought, higher temperatures and water shortages.
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