In an Upside-Down World, Is America Ready for Flat Bottles?

A new plastic wine bottle format is coming to the U.S. market, but potential benefits of convenience and sustainability keep it on the level
In an Upside-Down World, Is America Ready for Flat Bottles?
Finally, a way to play Wine Jenga that doesn't end in disaster (Photo: Viinilinna, Aino Maaranta)
Jun 24, 2020

What does wine come in? A glass bottle, sure. Maybe a box. Maybe a can. But as much as innovative alternative packaging is catching on in the wine world, plastic bottles (lacking that satisfying click-hiss we all associate with cracking open a can of wine?) remain a hard sell, at least in the U.S. London-based packaging developer Garçon Wines is trying to change that with its line of bottles that aren't just plastic, but also flat. Stay with us.

The bottles were designed with a somewhat British predicament in mind: “to solve the problem of missed deliveries of wine to U.K. homes through the invention of full-size, flat wine bottles designed to fit through an average U.K. letterbox,” Santiago Navarro, Garçon Wines’ CEO and cofounder, told Unfiltered via email. With increased online sales and decreased contact with the world beyond one's letterbox during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a 600 percent rise in demand for the special deliveries. The bottles have also been a hit in the Netherlands and Sweden, and will shortly launch in Finland as well, according to Navarro. But he also thinks “letterbox delivery is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Flat bottles on shelf
The (wine) world is flat! Earth-friendliness and sustainability are perhaps the top benefits of a flat-bottle revolution. (Courtesy of Garçon Wines)

“Round bottles are beautiful but the most spatially inefficient shape,” Navarro explained. “When packed alone or together they lose nearly all the space around them.” So Navarro and his team went with a “cross-section design” of the classic Bordeaux bottle; they hold 750ml, so they're a bit taller than standard bottles, but you can stack 'em⁠—which turns out to be key to one of the company's driving goals.

Sustainability is a guiding principle. The bottles are made from recycled, and recyclable, PET plastic, and their space-efficiency would help squeeze more wine into shipping containers, which could cut down CO2 emissions; that they're lightweight also helps.

Garçon Wines aims to see its flat bottles stateside by the fourth quarter of 2020, with packaging company Amcor producing the eco-friendly bottles in northern California. It isn’t settled yet just where the American wine to fill these bottles will come from, but Garçon is in talks with West Coast producers like Crimson Wine Group, which owns Seghesio, Pine Ridge and Archery Summit. It's early days, though: Garçon has done a lot of R&D on stats and science⁠—but they're still working on a name for the product.—C.D.


River in Argentina Flows Red with Wine, Which Turns Out to Be Bad, Actually

Last month, water turned into wine for residents of Cafayate, a small town in the Salta province of northern Argentina. But when a channel of the Chuscha river began gushing purple, locals quickly realized it was no miraculous cause for celebration (as these things sometimes are).

According to Radio Impacto 98.5, a local radio station, a broken pipe somewhere among the vineyards is a likely culprit. "When we arrived with our cameras, we noticed that this sediment or wine pulp settled in the sand," explained one observer. "One of the pipes is broken due to the flooding of the river on December 29, and now flows into the channel"; another February flood pulled in more stones and debris.

Salta, with some of the world's highest-elevation vineyards, has in recent years become a darling region for seekers of upper-Andes expressions of Malbec and Torrontés. Less welcome is the arrival of wine gunk and whatever other pollutants locals fear may have flooded the Chusca. Cafayate city council have demanded answers from the authorities on whose watch this happened and pushed to get river samples analyzed, to make sure that the water is fully turned back into water.—E.B.


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