California importer cuts through table-wine clutter with ecology-conscious containers.

Glass bottles still are used for domestic packaging, but French wines imported by Boisset Family Estates are crossing the Atlantic Ocean in PET containers with an oxygen scavenger. Boisset also will switch to PET from aluminum containers for November’s release of Mommessin Beaujolais. Source: Constar International Inc.

The war on carbon created a beachhead for PET bottles on a surprising front in August when three varietals of French wines imported by Boisset Family Estates began washing up on US shores.

Lifecycle analysis of a package’s carbon footprint drove the decision to drop glass in favor of preforms produced at Constar International Inc.’s UK facility. Constar then ships the monolayer preforms, which include the oxygen scavenger MonOxbar Plus in its matrix, to Manypack a French converter. Manypack blowmolds two claret and one burgundy style wine containers. The containers then are filled at the French wineries Louis Bernard in the Rhone Valley and Yellow Jersey, in the southern region of Pays d’oc. The three wines debuted at Target stores.

Using the Wal-Mart sustainability scorecard, Boisset determined that transatlantic shipping of the 750 mm PET bottles resulted in half as many greenhouse gases as shipping glass bottles because of their lower weight, according to Alex Fioravanti, marketing director at Philadelphia-based Constar. The plastic containers closely emulate the look of glass but weigh one-eighth as much. “Only when people pick it up do they realize it’s not glass,” says Fioravanti. The oxygen barrier provides a shelf life of 12 months, he adds.

For Sausalito, CA-based Boisset, the plastic bottles are the latest in a string of nontraditional, ecology-driven innovations in wine packaging. A few years ago, the firm’s French Rabbit brand pioneered the use of Tetra Pak aseptic containers. Last November, Mommessin Beaujolais Grande Reserve was released in a 750 mm aluminum bottle outfitted with a temperature-sensing dot that changes color when the appropriate chill temperature is reached. When the 2008 Beaujolais is released, Mommessin will be filled in PET instead of aluminum, but the temperature sensor will be retained.

“We have been producing wines responsibly for some time, and the adoption of forward-thinking packaging allows us to contribute to carbon reduction, while making it easier for our customers to be more green when enjoying our wines,” says president Jean-Charles Boisset, whose firm manages 26 brands and labels produced at its own wineries and in partnership with vintners in Europe and the US.

Boisset’s Yellow Jersey Pinot Noir was imported in bulk last year and filled in Canada in oxygen-scavenging PET blow-molded by Mississauga, Ontario-based converter MPI Packaging Inc. 

For more information:

Alex Fioravanti, Constar International Inc., 215-552-3735