How to toast Earth Day

Dr. Vino is still working the low-carbon wine beat. It seems someone has actually taken up the challenge of delivering a quality wine in TetraPak packaging. These cardboard-and-aluminum “juice boxes” are dramatically lighter than traditional glass bottles, and therefore greatly reduce carbon emissions from shipping.

Actually, the maker of the Yellow + Blue Malbec has taken a number of measures to shave emissions:

> Instead of bottling the wine in Mendoza, he put them in a 24,000 liter flexitank. The wine was trucked over the Andes, loaded onto a ship on the Chilean coast, then shipped through the Panama canal and up to Montreal below deck in an insulated container (but not refrigerated). There it was trucked to Toronto where the TetraPak packaging material was waiting…

> The facility in Toronto is also certified organic. The wine is put in the one liter boxes that weigh 40 grams each (compared to 500 – 750g for a bottle) and loaded onto a truck for a warehouse in New Jersey.

That might sound like quite a journey — and it is — but it still represents a 50% reduction in carbon footprint from the traditional method of bottling near the source.

Of course, TetraPak has its own issues (hard to recycle; makes product look like industrial cleaner; etc.), and locally produced wines are still going to be a better bet if carbon is your sole consideration. But if you’re interested in voting with your dollars for a shift in global production techniques, consider picking up a…bottle? Box? Pack? It should be a good conversation starter at the very least, and that’s not a bad feature in any wine.

One small problem: I have no idea where to find Yellow + Blue. If I find out, I’ll post an update.

(Dr. Vino does have advice for locavores as well. Of course, left coast wine drinkers are well-covered. East coasters might check out the Lenz Estate Merlot, produced on Long Island.)

**Disclaimer**: As noted in the past, I know a fair amount about carbon and very little about wine. Buyer beware, particularly if your palate is easily offended.

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  1. Chad - April 22, 2008

    “locally produced wines are still going to be a better bet if carbon is your sole consideration”
    Are you really sure of this? From the research I have seen, and from my experiences working for both large chemical companies and local beverage distributors, I can confidentally say that scale matters. A lot. “Buying local” almost always means “buying small-scale” which means “buying inefficiency”. Those twenty miles your local farmer drives each Saturday morning to the local farmer’s market could easily embed just as much CO2 into the products (per unit) as is found in foods shipped on large ships all the way across the planet.
    It may be sad, but it is true: the more specialized the products you buy, the less efficient the process of making and delivering them to you is. This can often more than offset any gains you think you are getting.

  2. Adam Stein - April 22, 2008

    Buying local wines isn’t really like going to the farmer’s market. These are the same wines produced at scale for export — you just choose the ones which happen to be produced close by. Seems pretty safe to say that a New Zealand sauvignon blanc is going to have lower footprint when consumed in New Zealand than when consumed in Florida. Although there might be some corner-case exceptions to this rule, it remains a pretty good heuristic.

  3. tom - April 22, 2008

    We are purchasing Terrapasses for hotel guests that travle to our remote location. We will be having biodynamic and organic winemaker dinners in the fall and will be offering similar passes to attendees. Ideas to promote this/participation are welcom Tom

  4. Lisa - April 22, 2008

    I have been purchasing a nice Pinot Grigio called “Bandit” that comes in the same kind of TetraPak as you describe above. I don’t know the entire method for shipping, but I like the wine, and if I can find it in Albuquerque, NM, it’s sure to be readily available elsewhere! Thanks for keeping wine in the carbon equation.
    Here’s the website:

  5. Robert Gurley - April 24, 2008

    Here in San Anselmo, CA, our local winery goes even further to green the wine experience. Paul Kreider, owner of Ross Valley Winery, has instituted and received permission from the authorities, and is now offering to clients the ability to buy wine in a take home, refillable carafe. A customer buys the reusable labelled bottle, fills it at the winery from a special made vintage, and carries it home, able to return another day to refill at a reduced cost over sealed bottled wine. The wine, made to be consumed within a week, has fewer sulfites (none added), reduced bottling costs and waste, and is fun to experience. The best part is how good the wine itself tastes. On top of it all, what a much more satisfying wine experience to be so locally sustaining.
    It’s cheaper to produce, cheaper to sell, cheaper to buy, and wonderful to drink.

  6. matt - April 24, 2008

    I sell wine for a living; I do not like boxed wines because they leak if you are not careful in shipping of them. When they leak you not only lose 5 liters in that box but often wreck one or two other boxes. Customers will not buy box wine if it looks like it got ran over by tuck. Also have had problems with the wine going bad in the box because of pin hole leaks let in air that cause wine turn bad. Sure glass breaks to but then you only lose 750ml or 1.5 liters.

  7. jolie - April 24, 2008

    Just wanted to share- I just moved to Virginia and found it to be the land of Bacchus. There are many fantastic local wineries and most are sold within the wine shops. I know Dr. Vino was picking one wine for east coasters, but thought I’d get even more local for my fellow virginians/quasi-southerners.

  8. Uncle B - May 27, 2008

    In an age without motorcars, we will have door to door wine, and milk delivery in recyclable containers by solar/plugin battery delivery vans, and have more time to grow our gardens at our geothermal/solar heated Solar powered ultra low running cost homes. Yes, some may be mushroom shaped, just like the Smurfs’, and probably super insulated. most will have satellite cable and phone. All will have happier, less scheduled people who will have time to enjoy wine and all else that can go with it. Right now, we have no idea the price we pay for oil!

  9. NancyJ - August 27, 2008

    OK – so how is the package recycled? We do not need more land fills. Can they be shipped back to the manufacturer?