What to know about wine bottle colors: Robert Russell

·4 min read

Recently, a longtime friend sent an article from The Economist, dated July 16, 2022. It began, wine drinkers “have noted a disturbing recent trend. Whites, hitherto normally sold like their red cousins, in green bottles, are now starting to appear in clear ones.” Therein lies the rub, as Hamlet once said: albeit in a much more serious contemplation. The industry has been moving towards lighter-weight wine bottles to reduce the industry's carbon footprint.

However, many worry that lighter bottles will have less ability to prevent ultraviolet light penetration causing damage to the wines. Of course, some light passes through the glass in all colors. WRAP, the Waste & Resources Action Program, is an interested English charity. It works with businesses to help reduce waste, develop sustainable products, and use resources efficiently. Their studies indicated the least protective glass is clear, with 90% of the light passing through at 350 nanometers.

Green glass allows less, but it does allow 70% at 370 nanometers. Amber glass is the most effective, less than 30% of the light passes, between 500 and 800 nanometers. Exposure of wine to light can quickly cause degradation of flavor and colors. The wine can become sulfurous. One of the most common sources of light occurs at the point of retail sales, with the bright fluorescent lights lining the ceiling.

Robert Russell
Robert Russell

There is a good argument for buying good quality box wines, or even those with the new technology in paper bottles, as is developing in Europe. Paper bottles came to the market in 2020, with brands like Absolut, Diageo, and Carlsberg developing them along with, manufacturers like Pulpex and Paboco. Another notable entrant in the paper bottle chase is the Frugalpac, Frugal Bottle, which this writer has mentioned a time or two. The 750-mL Frugal Bottle is made of recycled paper with an inner food-grade pouch to hold the wine made of polyethylene laminate, like those used in bag-in-box wines. Among wines, the most damage comes in white wines in clear bottles.

This is because white wine has less protection than red wine, processed with dark-colored grape skins, making the wine more resistant to damage. One should potentially avoid white wines in clear bottles on the top shelf exposed to fluorescent lighting. Bottle design too can affect the damage potential of the light. Bordeaux bottles provide less surface area in the bottle, thus less chance for damage. Burgundy bottles are less likely to be effective enclosures, especially for white wines.

Despite bottle types, rosé wine incorporates some of the colors from the grape skins, while not a red wine, some extra protection is implied. Many rosés are in clear bottles. In France, this damage, called Goût de Lumière: is an enemy of Champagne, and produces smells of boiled cabbage and wet dog. Dessert wines, sometimes called pudding wines in England, are sweet wines typically served with dessert, are unique, in that even though usually found in clear glass, it is known as a wine that generally does not show faults due to the rich heavy fragrances it throws off. In another case, it was determined that white wines with very different taste profiles can eventually become indistinguishable, from each other.

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This writer never gave much thought to the matter, however with a personal average bottle count of maybe 8-10 cases on average, and a propensity not to purchase many white or rosés, it typically does not affect us much. Nevertheless, a recent inventory showed we have four white wines, two rosés, and one sparkling wine from Italy- in clear glass. All of our wines are in a dark closet and the whites are mostly refrigerated. WRAP did come up with several solutions to this problem, with the most practical solution to bottle all wines in green and amber.

They also suggested oversized labels, or sleeves, to limit light exposure. Additionally suggested was the use of filters in wine display areas, to lessen the in-store lighting effect. In the big picture, the average bottle of wine in the world costs less than $10.00, with consumption within 6-10 hours. Is this problem earth-shattering? No! However, the possibility that wine damage caused by light is something preventable looms. Personally, this writer will probably avoid any clear bottle wines, in the future.

Stay healthy, and Cheers

Contact Robert Russell at rob@rlr-appraisals.com.

This article originally appeared on Shreveport Times: What to know about wine bottle colors: Robert Russell