Plastic on trial for wine

Last updated 00:00 03/08/2007

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Wine companies are watching with interest a trial selling New Zealand wine in recyclable plastic bottles instead of glass in Sainsbury's supermarkets in Britain.

The trial, starting this month to test consumer reaction, involves a New Zealand sauvignon blanc and an Australian rose sold under Sainsbury's own label.

The new wine bottle looks exactly the same as a glass bottle but is 12.5 per cent lighter, and the trial is one of the supermarket chain's projects to be more energy efficient.

The supplier of the New Zealand wine has not been named as the wine is shipped in bulk and bottled in Britain. Sainsbury's said this meant nearly twice the amount of wine could be transported per container and bulk shipping reduced the environmental impact of transportation, which reduced the impact of carbon emissions.

British consumers buy one billion bottles of wine a year, using 500,000 tonnes of glass for packaging. Sainsbury's said reducing the weight of all glass wine bottles to the lightest available could reduce carbon emissions by around 90,000 tonnes.

Wine Marlborough marketing manager Tom Trolove said the plastic bottle trial did not sound like something that would be helpful to Marlborough's reputation as a quality wine producer targeting the premium end of the market.

"Plastic does not do that," he said.

Marlborough winery Grove Mill which became carboNZero certified last year, sells wine to Sainsbury's but is not part of the trial.

Grove Mill chief executive Rob White said they would watch consumer reaction. He said there could be some environmental advantages.

"However, I am not sure the difference between glass and plastic is that significant.

"One concern is the integrity of the product. Wine is sensitive to light and oxidation. As long as the integrity of the wine is good it's probably got things going for it," White said.

Pernod Ricard supplies wine in small plastic bottles to airlines to save on weight.

NZ Winegrowers global marketing director Chris York said the market would decide what it wanted.

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