The greenest way to drink your grapes is from a paper bottle
Tipples that are just the tonic for saving the planet! Forget glass, the greenest way to drink your grapes is from a paper bottle
- Drink producers are experimenting with ways to reduce their carbon footprint
- English Vine hopes to sell all its wines in paper bottles by 2026
- Louise Atkinson gives verdict on four alcoholic beverages sold in paper bottles
At the most discerning get-togethers this summer, you may find yourself sipping wine or gin that was poured from a paper bottle, not a glass one.
Big drinks producers such as Bacardi, Johnnie Walker, Absolut and Carlsberg are experimenting with ways to reduce their carbon footprint.
But while they test different combinations of paper pulp and sustainable bioplastics, a few small independents have already begun to sell alcohol in lightweight, environmentally friendly paper-based bottles.
Essex winemaker The English Vine was the first to embrace paper: its No.1 wine is now sold in a ‘Frugal’ bottle made by the UK company Frugalpac. English Vine hopes to sell all its wines in paper bottles by 2026.
The Frugal bottle looks like glass but is five times lighter and its carbon footprint is 84 per cent lower.
Louise Atkinson gives verdict on four alcoholic beverages sold in paper bottles, as drink producers experiment with ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Pictured: Green Man Woodland gin
Italian wine brand Cantina Goccia is also available in the UK to buy online in Frugal bottles, as are two brands of gin — Green Man Woodland and School Night.
Frugalpac, based in Ipswich, Suffolk, has adapted the familiar bag-in-a-box concept to create a bottle-shaped cardboard outer casing made from 84 per cent recycled material. This wraps around a thin plastic ‘bladder’ (weighing 15g, compared with 64g for a typical plastic bottle) that keeps the drink inside fresh.
It looks like an ordinary bottle of wine but when it’s empty, the paper casing can be pulled apart and thrown into your paper/cardboard recycling, while the plastic bag and neck go into the ‘others’ bin.
Glass is endlessly recyclable, so you might assume it ticked all environmental boxes. But it must be heated to more than 1400c to melt it down (compared with 260c to melt most plastic bottles). And its weight (a one-litre glass bottle weighs 16 times more than plastic) means the carbon emissions from transporting it are huge.
In the UK, although glass is fully recyclable, 29 per cent of it still ends up in landfill.
Pernod Ricard introduced a prototype paper bottle for a raspberry cocktail version of Absolut vodka at the start of this year. The bottle, made from 57 per cent paper and 43 per cent recycled plastic (in the lining) is claimed to be fully recyclable ‘where facilities are available’. But in the UK, that is considered specialist recycling.
Carlsberg was one of the first big names to reveal a prototype paper bottle, in 2018. It has yet to reach supermarket shelves, although the group’s Simon Boas Hoffmeyer says it aims to ‘create a bottle that is fully bio-based and recyclable’ while protecting the beer inside.
The prototype will be trialled later this year in markets where recycling is sufficiently sophisticated to create a ‘closed loop’. Sadly, the UK recycling system is unlikely to pass muster.
For all paper-based bottles, complications arise because the layer that encases the drink must be ‘food grade’ quality by law (so you can’t use recycled paper or plastics); and the paper must incorporate quite a bit of plastic to give it resilience, which compromises the ease with which it can be recycled.
So how do paper bottles compare? We put four to the test . . .
GREAT GREEN GIN
Green Man Woodland gin, £30, silentpool distillers.com
This is a London dry gin handcrafted with 25 botanicals including birch, rowan, hawthorn and rosemary by Surrey-based Silent Pool.
Louise said Cantina Goccia (pictured) is very tasty and not spoiled in any way by coming out of a paper bottle
Managing director Ian McCulloch says the advent of the Frugalpac bottle was the catalyst for creating a sustainable gin based on the hedgerow flavours of the Surrey forests.
VERDICT: The bottle looks stunning and the gin is delicious —you really can pick out the woodland flavours. Bonus: when I accidentally knocked the bottle off a table on to a stone floor, it rolled away unscathed. 5/5
Cantina Goccia, £12.50, woodwinters.com
This is red, white and rosé wine from two vineyards in Umbria in the heart of Italy. Owner Ceri Parke says: ‘This is an exciting move in a very traditional industry. We passionately believe this is a real game-changer for the wine industry.’
VERDICT: I tasted 3Q, which is an unwooded Sangiovese red which purports to offer ‘red and black fruit and a hint of dark chocolate’. It is certainly very tasty and not spoiled in any way by coming out of a paper bottle, though the paper case is not particularly pretty. 4/5
School Night gin, £25, nbdistillery.com
Louise said School Night gin (pictured) tastes just like classic gin and is delicious with tonic, ice and a lemon slice.
This contains 21 per cent alcohol (compared with 42 per cent for most gin) and was created by an independent distillery on the east coast of Scotland in a black paper bottle.
VERDICT: It tastes just like classic gin and is delicious with tonic, ice and a lemon slice. The dull cardboard-coloured bottle is so light, it takes a little getting used to: when you pick it up, you at first assume it’s empty, and have to slightly adjust your pouring action to avoid sloshing too much into your glass. 4/5
No 1, £12.59, theenglishvine.co.uk
Louise said No 1 (pictured) looks attractive on the table and the wine quality was unaffected by the mode of bottling
This is an easy-drinking white with a distinct elderflower note, made from the Bacchus grape grown in Essex vineyards. It is vegan but not organic.
VERDICT: This bottle looks attractive on the table, with none of the downmarket connotations of a box of wine on the sideboard.
It chilled within ten minutes in our freezer without the cardboard going soggy, but started to go very limp after sitting in an ice bucket.
The wine comes with the eco-advantage of ‘buying local’, having been shipped from Essex rather than sunnier climes. Although the wine quality is clearly unaffected by the mode of bottling, it has a rather thin, slightly tangy taste which would make it better suited to being consumed with a meal. 3/5
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