Walking into Tetra Pak‘s Buenos Aires office for my interview with Gabriel Fernandez Azzato, I was already pretty fixed in my opinion about boxed wine. Simply put: not that great. There is absolutely no way, I thought, of replacing centuries of bottling tradition with this kind of modern packaging, no way of substituting the delicate elegance of the curvy glass vessel for stiff rectangular cardboard. This opinion gradually faded away as we discussed the many pro’s and very few con’s of the boxes. Let’s consider them one by one…
PRO: Tetra Pak containers are made of reusable materials and are thus environmentally friendly. As a very forward-thinking company, Tetra Pak is also responsible for numerous recycling initiatives throughout the world, such as San Isidro Recicla in Argentina.
PRO: Tetra Pak containers are versatile in shape and size, making them more visually interesting. The prismatic “Tetra Prisma Aseptic” with its 8 faces, for example, actually appears rounded and bottle-like in shape. As it is the most expensive of the aseptic Tetra Pak containers to produce, however, there is only one wine brand, Zumuva, that uses it.
The flat surfaces of Tetra Pak containers make them ideal for marketing. Wineries design their own labels which are displayed on plane, large rectangular faces on which they are much more visible than on curved wine bottles. This may allow for cooler, more creative labels. Check out this video of Gabriel explaining the different Tetra Pak container shapes:
PRO: The existence of portion pack (which the Argentine market has recently put on its to-do list) allows one to get many different varietals within one liter. This may be useful in cases like a meal where the first course pairs more nicely with one varietal, the second course with another and dessert with yet another – no need to open, drink half of (and waste the other half of) an entire bottle. Restaurants could take advantage of this kind of packaging to keep track of portioning. Lonesome winos all over the world could pop open a portion pack and pour out a single portion of wine for themselves on those lonely nights instead of opening a bottle and consuming it all in fear of it “losing its essence” once left open. Check out Gabriel’s explanation of the progress of portion packs in Argentina here:
PRO: The containers are durable, making them ideal for transportation. Their stack-able shape also makes them very convenient for transport. According to Gabriel, one truck carrying wine in Tetra Pak can transport the same volume of wine as 36 trucks carrying wine in bottles. This may eventually reduce the price of imported wines (in Tetra Pak).
PRO: Tetra Pak containers or aseptic, made of materials which maintain and protect the quality of its contents. In the case of wine, which is, in a way, a “living” liquid, changing with its exposure to light and air, Tetra Pak helps keep the quality exactly as it was in the moment it was packaged.
(If you missed some of those, check out Gabriel’s explanation of the advantages of Tetra Pak here:)
CON: Lack of tradition around wines in Tetra Pak leads to the misconception that only poor quality wines can be encased in these containers.
The glass bottle has been used for storing wine ever since the Romans first decided to use this Syrian artifact for their beloved beverage back around 300 A.D. Since then it has become a fixed tradition, constantly evolving but within strict limits. Tetra Pak is a modern invention, and like all newcomers to the sometimes all-too-unwelcoming world of wine, it will take a while to fit in and be accepted and acknowledged for its remarkable advantages. It wasn’t until just a few years ago, after all, that the Stelvin (metal screw cap) gained wide acceptance as an alternative to the cork with the advantage of preventing cork stain and wine faults of oxidation associated with corked wine. It did so by gradually being adopted by well-known, successful wine companies such as Corbett Canyon and Domaine Laroche in Chablis, France (which has been using them instead of corks for their Chablis, Premier Crus and Grand Crus since 2001 vintage). As Gabriel explains (see video below), this is exactly what Tetra Pak needs to do – convince better-known, traditional wineries that change can be a good thing, a great thing even. Should be easy, they certainly convinced me!