Champagne houses have earned a reputation for over-the-top gift packaging, wrapping their cuvées in everything from a Jean-Paul Gaultier red-leather corset and Paco Rabanne chain mail to Yayoi Kusama's psychedelic flowers and a Lady Gaga sculpture. But Ruinart Champagne recently announced a more minimalist though no less impressive approach: Its Second Skin, a new form of eco-packaging that replaces gift boxes for its 750ml non-vintage blanc de blancs and rosé bottlings.
The distinctive wrapper is a 100 percent paper case molded to the shape of the bottle. It’s plastic-free, entirely recyclable and approximately nine times lighter than the gift boxes previously used by Ruinart. The paper is sourced from certified ecologically managed forests in Europe, and the cases are also produced in Europe, by James Cropper and Pusterla 1880, without using any air freight. All these factors ultimately reduce the Second Skin’s carbon footprint by 60 percent, particularly notable since gift-boxed wines currently account for 25 percent of Ruinart’s production.
“[The Second Skin] is a disruptive innovation, a luxury minimalist protection,” says Ruinart chef de caves Frédéric Panaiotis. “Signed with the maison's monogram, the paper closure system is a discreet and elegant finish.” The color and texture evoke that of Champagne’s deep chalk caves, known as the Crayères, used as cellars by several houses; Ruinart’s is one of the most dramatic.
The Second Skin, which required two years of research and development, impresses not only for its aesthetic and its eco-friendly innovation. It also protects the wine within Ruinart’s clear bottles from UV damage and proves resilient during service when placed in ice buckets for several hours.
“Paper, alone, is not sufficient to filter out all the light,” explains Panaiotis. “So additional research and testing was required to find a new technique, which required enriching the cellulose mix with a natural metallic oxide to reinforce the opacity. Altogether it took seven prototypes to get the perfect result.” Panaiotis notes that the Second Skin is such a good light deterrent that Ruinart is already developing an eco-friendly casing for its Dom Ruinart vintage-dated bottlings, as well as for magnums.
Ruinart is marking the release of its first Second Skin–enclosed bottles by supporting the U.S.-based nonprofit Conservation International’s Protect an Acre program, helping protect nearly 500,000 trees around the world. It’s another step along the journey of sustainability for the Champagne house, which already boasts solar panels and LED lighting at the winery, certification for its vineyards, a zero-air-freight policy and a 98.7 percent waste-recycling record.
Reengineering the Bottle
Last year, German bottle manufacturer Wiegand-Glas uncorked its latest attempt to make wine more environmentally friendly: the Eco2Bottle (the “2” is a nod to the planet’s nemesis, CO2), with a 30 percent lower carbon footprint than the company’s other 750ml Bordeaux-style bottles.
What makes this bottle so “green” (beyond its color)? Well, to start, it’s made from at least 92.5 percent recycled glass. “This is definitely higher than the industry average,” explained Lukas Neubauer, Wiegand-Glas’ head of controlling and corporate strategy. While that’s around 60 percent in Germany, he noted, “In the international environment, it is likely to be significantly lower.” The company also got the bottle weight down to 390 grams, 16 percent lighter than the average weight of its standard bottles in 2019—a crucial element when transportation remains one of the wine industry's biggest contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.
Getting the product just right required a collaborative effort over the course of a year, with initial concepts developed with students at Geisenheim University, involvement by their major customer for the bottle, the massive German winery F.W. Langguth, and coordination with the eco-consultants at ClimatePartner.
Aiming to make the bottle "climate neutral," Wiegand-Glas works with Austria-based power company Verbund to make the bottle solely with hydropower electricity. Plus, they’re looking to put even more CO2 on the curb through their work with ClimatePartner and its reforestation efforts in Germany, planting a new tree to offset every ton of CO2 emissions that couldn't be eliminated in their own production process or by their partners.
Wiegand-Glas plans to extend the concept beyond the single Eco2Bottle to other bottles and glass products. “Of course, we plan to increase this number, develop new and better products and further reduce the carbon footprint,” Neubauer noted. “We will see where this journey together leads us.”
From Stopping Cracked Phones to Stopping Cooked Wines
Across the Atlantic, Colorado-based company Otter Products—the company that has saved countless iPhones from unfortunate ends with its protective OtterBox cases—has taken on the task of making wine delivery greener with its new reusable Liviri Vino shipping cases.
“Several members of the team personally had experienced the difficulty of shipping wine,” explained Brian Jacoby, senior vice president of global business development for Liviri, which also makes the Liviri Fresh cooler for shipping meals and perishables and Liviri Sprint box for grocery deliveries. That prompted the team to look into the demands and inefficiencies of shipping wine safely, such as having to delay shipments during extremely hot or cold weather, which can spoil wine and damage bottles. The result was a sturdy alternative to the classic cardboard-box-with-inserts that could travel year-round.
Launched last year, the hard thermoplastic Liviri Vino features vacuum-insulated panels which, combined with reusable ice-pack inserts, can keep wine at a consistent temperature for five to seven days. The padded boxes are sold in four- and six-bottle versions for transporting standard Bordeaux-, Burgundy- and Riesling-shaped bottles, but the resuable protective inserts can be fitted for other wines (Champagne’s gotta travel), as well as beer and spirits.
The box is made to be durable enough to be reused weekly for at least two years; once the customer receives the wine, they can simply reclose the lid, secure the quick-clasp latches and stick on the shipping label for returns. (FedEx offers a flat rate for return ground shipping of Liviri Vino containers.) At the end of their life span, the Liviri Vino can be taken apart and recycled.
Otter Products ran a third-party lifecycle assessment with environmental consulting company thinkstep to get a full read on the box’s eco effects, comparing it to a single-use shipper with Styrofoam inserts and disposable ice packs sent by air freight in summer and winter months. Liviri Vino showed a lower environmental impact after 25 uses and in seven of the nine factors measured, said Jacoby, while the remaining two were essentially even. Much of the improvement comes from eliminating the need for wineries to send wine via costly and high-emission air freight rather than waiting for temperate weather, as well from requiring far less water to manufacture than it does to make corrugated cardboard.
High-end West Coast wine companies like Alejandro Bulgheroni Estate, Boisset Collection, Bryant Family and most recently 00 Wines are already using the crates. “When it comes to conserving our natural resources,” Jacoby said, “we’re all in this together.”
Enjoy Unfiltered? The best of Unfiltered's round-up of drinks in pop culture can now be delivered straight to your inbox every other week! Sign up now to receive the Unfiltered e-mail newsletter, featuring the latest scoop on how wine intersects with film, TV, music, sports, politics and more.