From flat bottles to plastic-free packaging and lighter containers, companies across the globe are working on ways to reduce the wine industry’s ecological footprint. Recently, an Australian wine company has thrown its hat into the ring with label-free—meaning paper- and ink-free—bottles.
This year, Fourth Wave Wine launched its new, sustainability-focused brand, Crate, created with branding company Denomination. But you won’t be seeing any Crate labels on store shelves … literally. The wines have no labels. Instead, Crate’s name appears solely on each screwcapped wine’s aluminum capsule, along with a QR code leading to information about the wine’s origin, grape, vintage and alcohol percentage, plus brand details and other legally required tidbits. (This information is included on the bottles’ shipping carton, the namesake “crate,” as well.)
“As a starting point, we were interested in addressing two key issues for wine consumers, one being the environment and the second being the need to deliver greater value,” Fourth Wave Wine managing director Ross Marshall told Wine Spectator via email. “Without the cost of labels and unnecessary packaging, etc., the savings can be put back into improving the wine quality.”
The label-less approach also means a potentially lower environmental impact, since the bottles use no paper, ink, adhesive or foil. Plus, the screwcap minimizes the chance of waste due to a TCA-tainted cork. To reduce the carbon footprint of transportation, the bottles themselves are made from locally sourced glass, and each only weighs in at about 11.6 ounces, significantly lighter than a typical wine bottle. The bottles are also “off-color,” neither green nor clear, requiring less processing; and none are tossed for being aesthetically imperfect or non-standard.
Three Crate wines are currently available: a 2021 McLaren Vale Shiraz, a 2021 Barossa Shiraz and a 2021 Coonawarra Cabernet. “There is always the possibility to expand the range,” said Marshall. “But for now we are excited to see how Crate is received by consumers.”
True to Crate’s name, the wines are sold exclusively in six-bottle cases, for about $60 Australian dollars. (You won’t be able to buy an individual bottle.) The boxes are also made from recycled (and recyclable) materials. For now, the wines are only available at independent retailers in Australia, but the Crate team expects interest from markets abroad.
“To our knowledge, Crate is the first wine brand to contain all the information required—for individual sale on the bottle—on the cap, rather than on a label,” said Marshall. Time will tell if other brands follow Crate’s lead and use the same technology, or whether other countries’ alcohol regulators will permit such labeling. But, for now, the Crate team is prepared to adapt. “As technology continues to evolve and more efficient sustainable processes become available, we believe there is potential for new packaging technologies, and we will continue to explore these as they emerge.”