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The changing face of the wine industry
During the global pandemic, the wine industry proved its versatility in finding flexible solutions. From a largely on-premise distribution model to creating more accessible e-commerce and convenience retail options, quick moving suppliers enabled the wine industry to demonstrate its resilience. However, with change now the only constant in the wine industry, how are producers continuing to adapt?
Five trends transforming the world of wine1:
- Supply chain issues and price inflation are creating challenges for cost management and margin structure. This is leading buyers to look beyond tried-and-tested purchasing routes
- Colour boundaries are being pushed as more experimental wines defy genre classification (Eg. macerated whites and multiple red and white grape variety fermentations)
- Natural wines are moving from niche to the mainstream
- Sparkling wine is becoming a staple for consumers, moving it from being a treat to a mid-week drink
- Ecommerce is becoming even more creative so as to keep Covid-acquired customers.
Despite the impact climate change is having on wine production that is being felt across the world, the wine industry is still predicted to grow by a CAGR of 4.28% until 20262. The fastest growing market is Asia Pacific; however, Europe is still the largest market. Key factors expected to fuel growth over the coming years are product premiumisation and the demand for wine due to its health benefits. At present, the five biggest wine consuming countries drink half of the world’s wine (49%)3.
Wine packaging predictions
Although the wine industry is facing significant change, an area that has been slower to embrace adaptation is wine packaging. However, according to industry predictions, change is on the horizon for wine packaging and includes:
- Increased sustainability – a growing interest in the light
weighting of glass packaging in non-sparkling wines, to
help major retailers meet their carbon reduction targets4,
particularly as up to half of a wine’s carbon footprint comes
from its glass bottle5
- On the go consumption - Canned wine popularity continues
to grow, particularly when paired with low-alcohol
formulation RTD options6
- Plastics bottles – ecommerce and sustainability concerns are
driving niche development of 100% recyclable, 750ml, flat
Polyethylene Terephthalate wine bottles7
- Biodegradable bottles - Bacardi is setting an example
in the spirits arena. By 2023 it will be using plastic-free,
biodegradable spirits bottles made from palm-, soy- and
- Bag-in-box – this continues to grow in popularity, particularly
as the traditional aluminium-lined bags are replaced by
malleable polymer alternatives that don’t trigger wine
Evolutions in wine sealing
Since the earliest vintners began producing wine on a large scale in 6,000BC, the challenge has been how to store and serve this precious commodity. For many years the glass bottle and cork have seemed like a match made in heaven. However, over recent years, issues with cork taint have led to wine providers exploring other options.
The challenge of using cork:
- Pressure changes in the bottle can cause movement and/or wine creep
- Cork shows a wide variation in oxygen transfer characteristics9
- Synthetic corks have high gas permeability and are only suitable for wines destined for early drinking10
- If insertion machinery is faulty it can lead to the compression of air into the wine
- Cork can harbour chloranisole-producing microbes that can lead to 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) and other taint causing compounds that can spoil the wine.
A maturing relationship?
Over the years the question of maturation has been raised when it comes to screwcaps. Afterall isn’t a cork needed for the wine to breathe, to develop and to age properly? The answer to this is a simple ‘no’. “Oxygen is not the agent of normal bottle maturation16”. In fact, bottle maturation is the opposite of oxidation and it is via ‘a process of reduction or asphyxia, by which wine develops in the bottle.17” To summarise, “When a wine ages in the bottle, the oxidation – reduction potential - decreases regularly until it reaches a minimum value, depending on how well the bottle is sealed. Reactions that take place in bottled wine do not require oxygen.18”
The screw cap and liner – a match made in heaven
Screwcap closures differ greatly from cylindrical stoppers made of cork or synthetic materials in their mode of sealing. The main difference is that they seal around the rim of the bottle, rather than along the internal surface of the bottle’s neck. The screwcap is traditionally formed of a malleable aluminium alloy that is rolled onto the bottle. This is then combined with a wine liner that creates a seal between the closure and the bottle:”
- The screwcap and liner exclude oxygen from the bottle, and thereby promote the development of bottle bouquet
- Screwcaps are guaranteed against failure for 10 years, but realistically can be expected to last at least 20 years
- The liner is compressed onto the surface of the bottle rim (120 kg) and held in place by the aluminium outer
- The high pressure hermetic seal is capable of withstanding relatively large pressure and temperature increases
- A total gas barrier is created, offering perfect inclusion/exclusion.
Screwcaps and liners are proven wine sealing technology. Using a specialised liner, such as Selig’s oenoseal®, ensures excellent oxygen barrier performance, no negative impact on wines prone to reductive notes and a reduction and prevention of volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs)....all from a technology that is cheaper than a cork.
1. Zachary Sussman, wine writer, featured in Saveur, Wine & Spirits, The World of Fine Wine, Food & Wine, The Wall Street Journal Magazine. Author of The Essential Wine Book (2020)
3. International Organisation of Vine and Wine, 2021
9. The Australian Wine Research Institute report, 2001
11. Cork Quality Council
12. Wine Enthusiast, winemag.com
14. Godden et al study comparing the performance of a range of closures appears in Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research, 2001
15. Godden et al study comparing the performance of a range of closures appears in Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research, 2001
16. Ribéreau-Gayon et al, “Traité d’Oenologie – Sciences et Techniques du Vin” Vol.3, 1976
17. E. Peynaud, Knowing and Making Wine, 1984
18. P. Ribéreau-Gayon et al (2000), “Handbook of Enology - Vol.2 The Chemistry of Wine Stabilization and Treatments”