Every so often, a new trend comes along in the wine industry. In some cases, these trends extend well beyond the country that birthed them and can even affect the most established industries, such as the Italian wine industry.
Wine in cardboard boxes is one such trend.
We can already hear the purists among you snorting in derision. But there’s no denying that this trend has endured for much longer than many people anticipated. In fact, we’ve been able to buy wine in boxes for decades at this point.
But now, there’s a new trend within that trend. The introduction of Tetra Paks will apparently change the boxed wine industry. In fact, many people claim that Tetra Paks may one day replace the glass bottles that we’re all so familiar with.
We don’t see that happening. To see why, we’re going to talk about what Tetra Paks are and what they claim to offer. Then, we’re going to look at why glass bottles are still the best option if you want to enjoy the best Italian wine experience.
What Are Tetra Paks?
Tetra Paks have actually existed for a long time. In fact, if you’ve had a glass of fruit juice this morning, the likelihood is that it came from a Tetra Pak. They’re even used to package vegetables and other products in some markets.
And now, they’re used as the packaging for a number of wines.
These cardboard cartons apparently provide a number of benefits, some of which supposedly affect the quality of the wine itself.
For example, the combination of cardboard and the carton’s special layers are supposed to prevent UV rays from getting to the wine inside. As we all know, exposure to the sun’s rays can lead to a wine spoiling, which is why you’re supposed to store wines in dark locations. Avoiding the sun issue altogether actually sounds like a good thing for Italian wines.
Tetra Paks are also natural insulators. If a producer pours a cold wine into the pak, it’ll stay that way for longer. Again, this comes down to the special layers inside the packaging. They prevent cool air from escaping as well as ensuring that heat doesn’t penetrate into the wine. Naturally, this should be a good thing for white wines.
There’s also the safety issue to consider. A dropped glass of wine results in shards of glass flying all over the place. If you have kids or pets at home, that’s hardly the most desirable of scenarios. All of those cuts and other mishaps can be avoided if you’re drinking from a Tetra Pak. After all, dropping the pak just leads to a dent in the carton. At worst, it’ll split open and you’ll lose the contents. But you won’t get anything worse than a papercut from the packaging.
But it’s the supposed environmental benefits that have brought these cartons to the fore in recent years. Proponents will argue that their light weight, coupled with the ability to pack more of them into the available space, means that transporting them leaves a smaller carbon footprint that transporting the equivalent amount of wine stored in glass bottles.
Moreover, more places than ever offer carton recycling. This has always been a major plus point for glass packaging. Glass is easy to recycle, which means you can reuse it multiple times. Cartons usually end up crushed and sent to landfill, though that might be changing.
So to conclude, Tetra Pak proponents will tell you that the wine in these cartons maintains its quality because of the packaging’s insulated and light-resistant properties. They’re safer and they’re more environmentally friendly too.
The problems with these arguments don’t hold a lot of water when placed under closer scrutiny.
The safety one isn’t up for dispute. There’s no denying that card is much safer than glass. However, that also doesn’t affect the quality of the wine in any way. And as long as you’re careful, you shouldn’t run into any problems with glass bottles.
It’s the quality argument that doesn’t sit right with us.
First, let’s take a closer look at the packaging itself. There are several layers of plastic inside a Tetra Pak carton. These include the likes of polyethylene. Of course, this means that there are chemical additions to the inside of the packaging that can affect the quality of the wine. Tetra Paks also make use of aluminum to add to the insulation qualities mentioned above. Again, this is a metal that can have an effect on the wine inside the carton.
Granted, these layers protect the wine from UV light. But so does storing them in a dark place. The problem is that they may also change the chemical composition of the wine in a way that you’d never get with glass bottles.
The recycling and green arguments also start to fall down when you consider these layers too. Remember that you can recycle plastic, paper, and metals together. Each needs to be separated before you can recycle them. That means a lot of work goes into recycling the average Tetra Pak carton. There may be as many as four layers of plastic to separate, alongside a layer of aluminum, before you can recycle the paper. And even then, recyclers can’t separate the aluminum from the plastic.
The end result is a packaging that takes an awful lot of energy to recycle.
Compare that to glass, which is easy to recycle, and you can see how the green argument falls down.
The Final Word
We’re not saying that Tetra Paks are the worst wine containers in the world. However, we will argue that glass is a much better option. Many of the reported benefits of Tetra Paks fall down under closer scrutiny and it’s likely that the very nature of the packaging has an effect on the quality of your wine.
That means we don’t see these becoming to go to packaging option for Italian wines. Glass will likely endure for many years to come.