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Marketing,Wine,Wine Writer

Does the weight of a bottle have anything to do with the quality of the wine?

How do you feel about the weight of wine bottles these days?

I know of one wine writer who, when the bottles began to take on the “Big Boy” effect, had serious issues right away. It’s only been within the last 10 years that wine bottles have put on the extra pounds…

As part of the fattening of America, they’ve been super-sized.

Are you impressed?

Do you pick up a wine bottle from a shelf, and make a decision based on the complete packaging, including that the wine bottle, combined with the wine within it, now weighs five pounds?

When I first started working at Belvedere Winery, a case of wine was 36 pounds. (Each bottle filled with wine weighed three pounds, times 12 bottles in the case.) When we shipped the wine, we automatically put the weight down as 36 pounds. Some marketing department must have decided that it wanted its brand to take on a new and improved persona, I’m thinking. I would begin with the wine (hopefully), and end with the bottle… Now, a case of wine can weigh up to 50 pounds. That means that each bottle became 1.16666666666666 times heavier.

But I’m still back to what’s in the bottle, not the bottle itself, having the quality that I’d like to enjoy. I’d rather have the extra dollars it takes to make quality of the wine be the real consideration. Does it take a “complete package” to sell you, though, on the quality of the wine within?

How do you feel about this issue? I’d really like to hear your pros and cons.

6 Responses to “Does the weight of a bottle have anything to do with the quality of the wine?”

  1. Jon Bjork says:

    I’ll raise my hand and admit guilt to having chosen a very heavy bottle for our wine. I do believe the entire package makes a difference to the buying decision and brand perception.

    I feel that – just as a wine needs to be in balance – packaging decisions need to be appropriate to the cost and marketing of the wine.

    For example, I know of one producer that uses heavy glass for a wine that normally sells for $7 a bottle. It always makes me question if the wine is any good. On the flip side, if I were to pick up a $100 bottle of wine and found it light weight with no punt, I would seriously question what the marketing department was thinking.

    Another factor, of course, is whether or not the winery is marketing themselves as green. I would feel a winery wasn’t being completely sincere if even one of their programs contained heavy glass.

    For our winery, we had the bad luck of trying to establish a cult wine in 2008 from the pre-collapse 2006 vintage. We are also producing only 100 cases and make claims only on a luxury experience, rather than a green one. If our marketing plan called for thousands of cases of production, I couldn’t in good conscience have chosen heavy glass.

    In correcting from the recession’s shake up of the industry, we are shifting our next vintage from $45 per case heavy glass, down to less heavy (but still not light) $18 per case glass, as well as lowering our retail price.

    But the bottom line is that we put most of our money into the winegrapes and labs to keep quality as high as possible.

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Great answer, Jon. It, like everything else you’ve done, is in balance with your facts.

  3. Nathan says:

    If you look at top-tier Bordeaux wines, they are almost all in bottles that might be considered ‘light’ or ‘cheap’ in comparison to some of the glass one sees in Napa Valley.

    However, Heitz and Silver Oak are still using old-school, pretty standard glass, from what I remember. Maybe it is just for those who are relative newcomers, trying to differentiate themselves from the field?

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Good thoughts, Nathan. It’s definitely a California thing. Bordeaux’s not had to advertise since? Ever?

  5. Bertrand says:

    I think for big companies the problem is to match the purchasing of dry goods with their size and the message they are trying to convey. As you might know there are less and less producers of glass bottles in the world.

    I must admit that when I look at more and more countries (outside the US) becoming more eco-conscious it is now a “requirement” to ship wine in light glass bottles (weighing less than 420 grams per) and if you are not in the game their your chances of even entering the market are lowered. This is most likely a direction that will be approached by some control states in the future as less shipping means more $$$ in margin and therefore more taxes for the state.

    The luck in the US is that the share of export for domestic wines is fairly small and goes to Canada by truck and I think the local producer do not yet feel the impact as they have a more captive market that is driven my novelty and originality.

    I personally think the consumer as been spoiled by marketing for the past 10 years with a package first approach and then a wine profile that could fit a price point (or even be plain crazy sometimes).

    As a producer based in Burgundy it would make me sad to see high end wines age in thinner bottles but I must admit, this is most likely the future when it comes to our entry level wines (regional appellations) and the varietals as shipping across the Atlantic is becoming pricier every year.

    But I must admit buying wine calls upon the Epicurean in all of us and if I didn’t work in the industry I would most likely buy the better looking more imposing bottle over a “regular” one.

    This is a tricky question that needs to be answered from several prospectives I think….

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    Bertrand,

    Very interesting perspectives.

    I didn’t know that about glass producers, becoming less and less in the world. Is this because the bigger companies are putting the smaller companies out of business? If yes, then we are moving toward an oligopoly world, versus how our own country operates. In our democracy, the big three of four companies end up owning/dominating their industry. (Think of the “Big Three” when it comes to car manufacturing in this country – GM, Ford, Chrysler.)

    That would be a very interesting phenomena, and one that is expected with world globalization, but not one I had thought about yet.

    As the world becomes more eco-conscious, and must ship in lighter bottles, and if we’re judging quality of product based on what’s inside a bottle, this is putting import brands coming into the US at a bit of a disadvantage, when it comes to perception of quality, if US citizens are so image conscious over eco-conscious. Hum…

    Your thought: “I personally think the consumer as been spoiled…” I agree with you on this one completely.

    It does need several perspectives… I hadn’t even thought about wine aging better in thinker bottles, which is an advantage.

    You’ve brought out several new concepts for me. Thanks for taking the time to answer this one. I appreciate all of your thoughts.

    May your harvest be bountiful… May your wines continue to be so voluptuous… unctuous… Who doesn’t love a great Burgundy!

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