On Tetra Pak, pet and BIB wines


Most people think wine writers taste fantastic wines all the time, and enjoy excellent, exotic, and fine food along with the best libations all the time.

I wish this were true.

Wine writers experience their fair share of foul-tasting stuff, and hardly anyone complains. It is part of the job.

Ever since the Ontario government decided to promote recycling and reducing carbon emissions, the L C B O never ceased to seek suppliers willing to offer wines in alternative and recyclable packages.

Glass is recyclable, but heavier than tetra pack which happens to be much lighter and consumes less shelf space. Weight benefits transportation companies as it weighs less and consumes less space.

Boisset, a huge wine producer and marketer, was the first to offer two wines in six-sided tetra prisma packaging with the umbrella name of French Rabbit.

These products were launched with great fanfare, and have been successful enough to expand the line. All are blended in southern France and shipped in bulk to North America.

Tetra Pak prisma packaging lines are very expensive and require huge runs to justify the expense. Even some other French wineries in competition with Boisset ship their wines to Italy for tetra pack packaging.

Consumers of tetra prisma packaged wines should be aware that blends change from one run to the next, and plastic liners of the packaging degrades, thus exposing the wine to oxygen, the liberator and death of wine.

Tetra prisma packaged wines should be consumed within nine to 12 months after packaging. Researchers determined that tetra packages cost a lot to recycle, and in fact practically all are shipped to China to be deconstructed.

After several years, the demand for tetra-packaged wine has diminished considerably.

The PET (polyethylene terepthalate, a thermoplastic polymer of polyester resin) bottle that many consider to be better than tetra pack,

was introduced a year later than Tetra Pak but to date has been at best a moderate success. It is more successful with distilled products and soft drink manufacturers.

Bag-in-a-Box (BIB) was invented in Australia by Thomas Angus (a winemaker) in 1967. It was considered to be a practical invention to encourage people to enjoy wine as a daily beverage, but proved to be impractical because of difficulty in pouring, and consequently, oxidation of wines.

A few years later Charles Malpas of Penfold`s patented an airtight tap welded into the collapsible bag to solve the oxidation problem.

The BIB is suitable for large format (3 and more litres) packaging, and generally for inexpensive wines.

Although it is made with lined plastic, oxygen still penetrates the wine, albeit at a slow rate.

Such packages display prominently, a best before date.

They were successful for a short period in 1970`s, then fell out of favour, as wine drinkers, mainly young North American drinkers, in general started looking for more flavour and refinement.

Now, at least one winery offers canned wine. It is doubtful whether or not it will capture the imagination of consumers.

I have tasted close to ahundred tetra packaged wines and can report that some were hopelessly oxidized, others tasted as if they were haphazardly blended bin-end wines that winemakers were glad to get rid of, yet others were difficult to pour, and spilled.

Some could be considered cheerful picnic wines and suitable for informal garden parties, featuring plenty of BBQ, sausages, or hamburgers, with sweet and sour sauces.

In the end, none of the above packing has been as successful as bottles, and most have faded within a few years.

Glass technology can produce light-weight bottles weighing a little less than 500 grams, and this should help reduce transportation costs, and reduce shelf space.

If you see any, make sure to examine package date and ask where and how the containers were stored.


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