Packaging wine has been a dilemma for ages. Is it Ok to put wine in plastic bottles? Can you use plastic bottles to store wine over the long term or is it a short-term wine storage container?
Plastic bottles are recommended for short-term wine storage (up to 6 months) but should not be used for long-term wine storage. This is because, after 6 months, you will start losing the wine flavor or aroma in addition to the potential for wine oxidation thus lowering the wine quality. Moreover, some plastics have BPAs which are harmful especially when food is stored in them for a long time. Even though plastic bottles are considered an eco-friendly wine packaging option we can’t see the option of them replacing glass wine bottles soon.
Of course, there are wines stored in PET bottles with advantages such as reduced weight, robustness meaning they don’t break easily, and having smaller sizes as compared to glass bottles.
Let’s dive into detail on whether it is Ok to put wine in plastic bottles:
Is it Ok to put wine in plastic bottles?
We do not recommend putting wine in plastic bottles for long-term storage. You can use plastic wines for short-term storage(up to 6 months) but you should not use them for long-term wine storage. This is because, after 6 months, you will start losing the wine flavor or aroma in addition to the potential for wine oxidation thus lowering the wine quality. Moreover, some plastics have BPAs which are harmful especially when food is stored in them for a long time. Even though considered an eco-friendly wine packaging option we can’t see the option of them replacing glass wine bottles soon.
Other than the potential for spoilage and health issues related to the presence of BPAs in the wines, the other issue that people get when buying wines in PET bottles is the negative image associated with plastics.
I can’t imagine serving high-end guests at Hopsters Brewing Company with wine being poured from a plastic wine bottle. This is despite having some excellent quality wines being packaged in plastic bottles.
The following are the disadvantages of storing wine in plastic wine bottles:
1. Negative image emanating from plastic bottles
Most people associate plastics with cheap and sub-standard things. This is especially so for wines where a plastic-packed wine appears cheap to the eye. Image is everything when it comes to wines and serving high-end customers.
Moreover, it will take additional convincing for people to consider plastics as environmentally friendly. This is despite the fact that you can recycle plastics to make bottles or other products.
Finally, plastic bottles are getting banned in some countries which will need convincing even to import wine packed in plastic bottles into those countries. This is especially true when governments learn that the packaging is only good for short-term storage.
2. Increased risk of wine oxidation
Plastic bottles as compared to glass bottles allow more oxygen ingress into the wine. This means that you are likely to get oxidation of the wine when it is stored in PET bottles as compared to glass wines.
Oxidation is one of the main causes of wine spoilage. The oxidation of wine occurs due to exposure to air which leads to a series of chemical reactions that convert ethanol (alcohol) to acetaldehyde. It leads to discoloration of the wine and also changes the taste and smell.
Oxidized wine thus has not only a concentrated color but also gives your wine glassy, apple-y aromas or nutty, and flavors. Of note is that the oxidized wine is not dangerous to consume but you will not enjoy the unpleasant taste. Oxidized wine is similar in taste to consuming flat soda or stale bread.
To manage this, most plastic wine bottle manufacturers have managed to introduce barrier technologies and oxygen scavengers to reduce the oxidation of the wine. However, at high temperatures, the barrier technology loses its effectiveness thus we recommend checking the range of transport and also the storage conditions.
3. Risk of plastics having BPAs
Most people are scared of taking food packaged in plastic bottles because of the potential of plastics having BPAs which are harmful to your health. BPAs have been associated with possible health effects on the consumer brains, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants, and children. It is also associated with other health risks in all generations.
Therefore, packaging wines, especially for long-term storage, can increase the risk of consuming BPAs in your wine. The exposure can be increased when with long-term storage, the bottle integrity gets compromised.
The potential for having BPA in your wine can be a hindrance for all people and especially when health concerns are touched. Moreover, plastic wine bottles also release phthalates into the wine thus polluting the wine.
However, from research, PET bottles are pretty safe to store your wine in for the short term.
4. Losing the wine flavor or aroma
Because plastic bottles do not lock out air as well as glass bottles, it also means that you can lose carbonation and aroma faster when the wine is packed in PET bottles. This means that you will not enjoy the quality that you desire in wine if the wine is stored for over 6 months.
After six months, the wine continually loses the wine flavor or aroma which can leave it flat when the wine is stored for a very long time. Most of the wines taste better with aging even though the aging period is different in different wines.
The wine flavor loss or aroma loss can leave you frustrated after you have aged the wine for a long time expecting an excellent flavor, aroma, and quality.
5. Plastic bottles are not environmentally friendly
Even though they are plastic bottles are more recyclable as compared to glass bottles, they pose a danger to marine life and even non-marine life. You can easily find an animal chewing a plastic bottle that is misplaced which does not occur for glass bottles.
Therefore, glass bottles, even though they also have a very long time (1 million years) to decompose as compared to up to 450 years for plastic bottles to biodegrade, offer less risk to animals compared to plastic bottles.
Reasons for using Pet Bottles for wines
There are a number of advantages that you can quote when using plastic bottles for storing wines. These reasons range from the cost, weight, ease of transport, durability, and potential for recycling among other reasons.
Let’s check in detail what each of the advantages entails:
1. Cost of plastic bottles
Plastics are generally cheaper to manufacture than glass and thus provide a cheaper wine storage vessel. Because of the manufacturing process, glass wine bottles are quite expensive to manufacture and transport.
Due to this, wine packed in plastic bottles passes less manufacturing and transport costs to the consumer as compared to glass wine bottles. The end result is that wine in plastic bottles will be relatively cheaper than wine in glass bottles.
We know this may come as an advantage but for people looking for vintage wines, it comes as a disadvantage to have cheaper wine in the market.
2. Plastic wine bottles weigh less
If you are looking for potential gains in the reduction of carbon emissions as well as transport costs, then plastic bottles should be used to package, store, and transport wines.
The 75 cl glass bottle has an approximate weight of 400 g while the PET bottle of the same size weighs approximately 54 g. This means that the plastic bottle will have between 10 to 20 percent of the weight of a glass bottle.
Having one-eighth of the weight means that there is less usage of fossil fuels in transporting both the empty containers and the wine when already packed. Moreover, transport is easier since the weight is markedly lower.
3. Durability of the plastic bottles: robustness
Plastic bottles even after a drop will in most cases be intact as compared to glass bottles. This makes plastic bottles more durable as compared to glass bottles. The bottles are robust which makes them safer and easier to transport.
The plastic bottle’s durability is great for recycling and also for long-term wine storage even though it is not recommended. You can carry the wine in a plastic bottle without worrying about dropping it all the time.
Moreover, even if the plastic bottle drops and cracks, you can still enjoy the wine instead of worrying about the small glass parts that make the wine unconsumable if the glass bottle cracks.
4. Glass bottles are smaller in size
We all know that glass bottles are not only fragile, brittle, and heavier, but also bigger in size as compared to plastic bottles of the same size. This influences the way they are packed for storage and transport.
For example, if you have limited space in your cellar or wine fridge, you can consider PET wine bottles to ensure you store more wine without worrying about brittleness.
The small size also enables you to consume less space in transportation. Reduced transportation cost either increases the profit margin for the manufacturer or lowers the final price to the consumer.
5. Ease of recycling of plastic wine bottles
Plastic bottles are easier to collect, transport, and recycle as compared to glass wine bottles. This is because most companies can melt the plastic and mold it into different items as compared to recycling glass bottles which require specialized technology to recycle.
The lack of technology for recycling and the longevity of the glass bottles makes them a biohazard to the environment. Moreover, it occupies more space in landfills as compared to glass bottles.
Even though concerns are still rife about the ‘real world’ recyclability of plastics, most regions not only in the developed world but even in the developing world can easily recycle plastic wine bottles. For example, in the UK, 92% of the local councils have recycling plants for plastics.
Synthetic or Plastic Cork Vs Real Cork
There are several reasons for and against the plastic cork and real cork in storing your wine. The main reasons for using real cork are that they give you the authentic look which gives confidence to the partakers and also does not let in the air into the wine bottle minimizing oxidation.
Wine oxidation can be a major turn-off from using cheap plastic or synthetic corks. This is because it makes the wine unpalatable due to color and taste changes.
Moreover, real corks utilize the natural humidity from the wine to keep the wine bottle locked for the longest time possible. This gives you the ability to age your wine for as long as you want.
The same can’t be said of plastic wine corks. They are not humidified by the wine which means with time adverse oxidation can occur to the wine.
Plastic bottles are here to stay. However, it will take some convincing for people to accept that expensive wine can be stored in plastic bottles. The cheap appearance and the health consideration for most people would lead them to avoid wines in plastic bottles.
Storing wines in plastic containers has its own advantages including being lighter, smaller, and less fragile. These three features reduce the transportation details and costs markedly while also reducing the carbon footprint.
However, even though plastic bottles are easier to recycle, both of them take a lot of time before being biodegraded.
Dombre, C., Rigou, P., Wirth, J., & Chalier, P. (2015). Aromatic evolution of wine packed in virgin and recycled PET bottles. Food Chemistry, 176, 376-387. DOI:10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.12.074