Most of the wine sold in the U.S. is packaged in 750ml bottles with a cork closure. I would give an exact percentage, but once again Finn the black lab, my fact checker, is taking a nap (Finn is awake about 2 hours a day). Just take my word for it based on traveling around the country and spending an inordinate amount of time in retail stores selling wine.
There are plenty of other alternative packaging offerings in stores. This includes, but is not limited to the following: screw cap bottles, boxes, Tetra Paks, cans, paper bottles (weird, in my opinion) and, in some very limited areas, growlers (let’s pretend we are in a small French village). All of these “other” packages don’t add up to much compared to the 750ml/cork finished bottle.
Why is this the case? Is the 750ml cork bottle the best vessel for wine? Did you ever notice that nobody complains about wine being in the “metric” system? What other product does the American consumer accept in milliliters? How did that become the dominant bottle size? The wine world is locked into a 9-liter case of wine as the standard inventory carrying unit. I have no idea why it evolved this way for wine, other than it just did.
I remember as a kid in the 70’s there was a movement to get the US to accept the metric system. They even had a few Major League Baseball stadiums put the dimensions on the outfield fences in meters along with feet. I remember the outcry from my father. You would have thought the Russians invaded us like in the movie “Red Dawn” and only Patrick Swayze could save us from the evils of the metric system. Of course it could have been the fact that the last time my father dealt with the metric system, the Germans were shooting at him.
Depending on who you ask about glass and cork, you will get different answers about the quality compared to the various packaging alternatives. I have my own very subjective thoughts on the topic:
Screw Cap Bottles:
Just as good, if not better than cork. Most of the world is comfortable with screw caps. The United States is still suffering from screw cap-cheapitis. Just the other day I overheard a couple of 20 somethings at a checkout line talking about how, “the wine must be cheap, it’s in a screw cap.” Funny, I thought the next generation would be less susceptible to wives' tales than mine. I guess Google can’t solve all the problems in the world. Screw cap DOES NOT equal cheap. It basically means you don’t have to find a corkscrew when you want to open the bottle. Calm down wine guy… I agree there is a place for cork, particularly in high-end wine which you would lay down and age for years. I have an aversion to not drinking the wine quickly and buying more. Call it the capitalist in my soul.
Boxes are really plastic bladders with a valve surrounded by a box. Very, very efficient way to sell wine which due to the design, remains very fresh relative to a opened half bottles of wine. Unfortunately, a lot of the wine in boxes is in the low to average quality zone. However, don’t be afraid of your friends’ scorn. You can find and drink some really good wines out of a box and not become a hobo.
These are very limited in the U.S. wine market, but huge in Europe. We must be addicted to glass in the U.S. Europeans have been drinking wine longer than we have been a nation. They must know something we don’t. Oh, who am I kidding? We’re Americans, we must be right! Who wants to mistake a Tetra Pak of Chicken Broth with Chardonnay?
I have started to see wine popping up in cans at some retailers. I will admit I have never had wine out of a can. I make no judgment. I am for anything that increases wine consumption.
Sorry, I just don’t want liquid in a paper bottle.
I have seen this in a few stores across the country. Take your jug in and fill ‘er up. While I like the sustainability of re-using packaging, I question the practicality of making this work over a large store base. It will take a smarter person than me to figure it out.
The bottom line is there is life far beyond a 750ml bottle. I don’t think that the 750ml is going to be replaced as the dominant wine package in my lifetime. In fact, I happen to like glass. Although I have absolutely no data to support this, I think wine tastes better out of a bottle than any of the other vessels. I also have a really odd preference for wine to be poured from that bottle into quality stemware. It makes no sense whatsoever, but it just tastes better to me than in any other glass.
I hope I am not becoming one of “those” guys.