Paper or Plastic? Wine by the Box, Keg and Can

The ancient Romans are said to have pioneered a packaging breakthrough by putting wines in glass bottles. As subsequent generations of wine producers realized, wine tasted better, looked better and lasted longer this way. Glass also allowed winemakers of different countries and regions to tailor individual looks—tall, thin green bottles for wines of the Mosel, square-necked bottles for Bordeaux and rounder, brownish bottles for Burgundy.

Today’s wine-packaging breakthroughs include metal barrels, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, aluminum cans and even test tubes (available only in France, at least for now). Winemakers proclaim the ecological friendliness (smaller carbon footprint!) and the economy (cheaper than glass!) of some of these new formats, but I wondered if any of them actually one-up the Romans. Do they make a wine look better, taste better, last longer or, for that matter, express a regional identity? I don’t think, for example, I could tell a Bordeaux from a Burgundy in a Tetra Pak.


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