Weighty bottles

tikal PatriotaA post on Jancis Robinson’s, MW, Purple Pages brings up the question of heavy wine bottles. The wine pictured to the right is one of the worst offenders. To pour this at the restaurant, in order to ensure I was not going to drop it, I had to pick it up with two hands. Ha ha, guys said, that’s because you’re a girl. Ha ha, I’d joke, those Argentinians are so macho they need a big bottle.

But I had thought of this before, when one of the producers out here, Lieb Family Cellars, picked out the bottles for their wines, big heavy bottles. Not as bad as the Tikal, but bigger than the average bottle. Their salesman mentioned how much heavier they are to carry.

And to ship I thought. Why would Mark Lieb want to do that? It’s kind of like a four rail fence. Most of the time three rails will do, but four shows you’ve got the money to spend. Big bottles are expensive and show the producer’s got the scratch.

But the weight’s effect goes further than a salesman’s back. Here’s what Jancis had to say. In May she put up a post titled “Name and shame the heavy bottles.” This was an update of a 2006 post “Down with bodybuilder bottles,” in which she said:

Producers think that we will automatically assume that a wine is superior if it comes in a heavy bottle, preferably one with shoulders that slope out a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s, no matter that they are much more awkward to handle on a bottling line than a perfect cylinder with parallel sides.

But if anyone thinks that a wine must be better because it comes packaged in a bottle that weighs as much as a telephone directory, then they are stupid. I’m sorry but it’s true. Here in the Britain we see all manner of ambitiously marketed wines, Languedoc reds retailing at well under £6 a bottle for example, being bottled in glass so thick and heavy that it’s actually quite an effort to lift the bottle to top up a glass. It is quite clear, simply by looking at the price tag, that there is no direct correlation between bottle weight and wine quality.

Aside from pointing out potential stupidity, she also cites the environmental impact of heavy bottles:
If wine producers were to collectively decide to be more sensible about their bottle choices, our world of wine could make a real impact on the amount of natural resources used up by manufacturing and transporting glass around the globe.
Lieb didn’t make the list offered by the erudite posters on the Purple Pages. So I nominate them. Marketing is important, but the money spent on excess glass is better off put to use elsewhere. However, they are not the only offenders. Other local producers put their tête de cuvée wines in super skull crackers, like Bedell’s Gallery and Wölffer’s Premier Cru. High-priced wines all.
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3 Comments

Filed under The Local Cellars

3 responses to “Weighty bottles

  1. Peggy

    I offer this up not as an excuse, since I am employed by one of the “offending” wineries, but….I recently encountered one of those heavy bottles at a Spanish wine tasting and couldn’t resist asking the producer why he chose the “macho” bottle, when it seems like a waste of resources all around. He replied that because they are so much more diligent about recycling in Europe, this bottle is actually BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, because they are recycling and reusing all that extra glass they have lying around! Do you think his marketing department instructed him to say that????

  2. Have you picked up a bottle of Martha Clara’s 6025 lately…those bottles are doozies. Roanoke Vineyards uses a lot of heavy bottles of their reds as well.

    My issue with the Lieb bottles is that they don’t fit well in my cellar racking!

    Peggy, in these times of “green” it’s entirely possible that the marketing department DID tell him to say that actually 🙂

  3. gmoore

    I am a former member of LaCrema’s wine club. Having gone through many of their bottles, I can say that those bottles are impossibly heavy. They must put lead in them or something.

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