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A summertime cookout might be served up best with a glass of wine, but knowing your clumsy friends, a glass bottle could lead to a disaster. After all, who wants to bother sweeping up bits and pieces of glass in between cannonballs in the pool? That might lead one to think that plastic wine is the way to go, but is it?
Why shouldn’t you store wine in plastic bottles? While you can keep the wine in plastic bottles for up to 6 months without losing flavor or aroma, anything longer than that will lead to oxidization of the wine. This causes the wine to lose much of its flavor and quality. Also, some plastic materials pose the risk of harmful BPAs.
If you’re interested in why your wine shouldn’t be stored in plastic, we have the answers. We are going to give you all the insight you need when it comes to wine and plastic, whether you’re choosing it for your party, fermenting, or trying to store for less (weight and cost). There’s a whole multitude of positives and negatives, and the result will shock you.
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Why Would You Choose Plastic Bottles for Wine?
The first question that might come to some wine aficionados is why anyone would ever even dream of storing their prized wines in a plastic bottle. Well, for the most part, the main reason why anyone would ever want to purchase or store wine in a plastic bottle is that there is no concern about breaking the glass.
This is why you will find a lot of people grabbing plastic wine, or boxed wine, off the shelves around the holiday season.
Plastic wines are great choices for when the temperatures are warm and you’re igniting the grill for some steak and corn, or when the family is gathering around for Thanksgiving.
There is no risk of breaking glass with plastic wine bottles, which is a major plus to this type of wine. Your Aunt Shirley can drink four glasses of her favorite wine, and when she goes for more, there isn’t a concern about broken glass ending up all over the floor. Ever stepped in broken glass? It doesn’t feel good.
Another reason why someone may opt to go the plastic route is that plastic wine bottles are lighter than regular glass bottles of wine.
While this isn’t a major issue for some people, a lot of consumers will find that the ease of holding, transporting, and even storing plastic wine bottles makes it the superior choice.
Think about it–have you had three or four bottles of wine in a grocery bag, worried the bag will break and that bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon ruin your carpet. Again, this is where weight becomes a significant factor in whether or not someone chooses plastic over glass.
Being easily portable and no worries of breakage sound great. But is plastic the superior choice? Is there a thing to this plastic wine bottle, or is it more a charade that leads to the destruction of your favorite wine? Well, let’s take a look at all the negatives to using plastic bottles, whether for drinking or storing.
Plastic Wine Bottles: Why You Should Never Store Wine in Them
Now, don’t get me wrong–if you are planning to drink wine from a plastic bottle right away, then more power to you. Plastic wine bottles don’t have a direct impact on wine, as long as it’s drunk within the first few days to weeks after purchasing. That is why you should never wait longer than 6 months to consume wine from a plastic bottle. Here’s why:
The plastic that is used in plastic wine bottles known as polyethylene terephthalate otherwise referred to simply as ‘PET,’ will let air into the bottle.
Why is this a bad thing? Well, any air that is allowed to seep into the wine will cause the wine to oxidize. This is a bad thing for your wine for a multitude of reasons, including:
- The wine will begin to have a stale smell, losing its exotic or fruity aroma that draws you to the wine.
- The wine will also have an off-putting color. Red wines may turn brown altogether or have more of a brick-red appearance, while lighter whines will begin to have a ghastly gold or off-white hue.
- Aside from smell and taste, you can rest assured that wine that has oxidized will lack in flavor quality. It won’t have the original taste you were craving, whether it was a rich, deep, and succulent red or something light in a glass of white wine.
To put it simply, any time a wine is stored in a plastic bottle for longer than 6 months, you risk the wine becoming oxidized, which leads to a multitude of issues listed above. It’s best to avoid plastic wine bottles if you’re planning to store them for a significant period.
A study by Dombre & colleagues (2015) confirms that PET plastic bottles age wine faster than glass bottles.
Plastic Wine Bottle Chemicals
Another thing that is cause for concern when it comes to storing wine in plastic bottles is that there may be a higher risk of consuming unwanted, unhealthy chemicals.
You see, many plastic wine bottles are designed with a barrier that is supposed to help block oxidization. Sounds great, right? Well, think again.
Once the diffusion of oxygen begins to take place in wine bottles, there is more room for certain chemicals from the plastic to release into the wine. And while these chemicals are not harmful for human consumption, a lot of consumers are still unsure about the overall safety.
Aside from safety, anything that is being released into the wine is certainly not doing your wine any favors. The chemicals and acids that are found in wine that’s been stored in plastic bottles for an extended period had a change in flavor and aroma.
Any wine lover knows how utterly important aroma is. When you open that new glass of wine you have been craving, you want to give it a good sniff before even thinking about drinking it. So what happens when you open a plastic wine bottle, only to be greeted with an ‘off’ odor? A recipe for disaster, truly.
Another thing to consider in terms of chemicals and plastic bottles is BPA. Now, in this day and age, most companies will make their products free of this harmful chemical. However, this isn’t true for all companies, and some may try and sneak it past consumers to save a buck or two.
The best thing to avoid this situation entirely is to always look for plastic wine bottles that say they are completely BPA free if you choose to consume or store wine in this type of bottle. While this may not protect you and your wine from certain chemicals, at least you won’t have to worry about the most daunting one.
Plastic Wine Bottles and Environmental Impact
One major concern some may have is the environmental impact that both plastic and glass wine bottles may have. Well, you can rest assured that both types of wine bottles, whether glass or PET plastic, are recyclable. They are simply just used in different ways:
- Glass wine bottles. As far as glass wine bottles are concerned, they can be recycled and reused into other glass products with ease. This means that they won’t lose their structure and can continue creating new glass products for the entirety of their existence, as long as they are recycled properly.
- Plastic wine bottles. Over time the type of plastic that is used to create plastic wine bottles will begin to ultimately lose their integrity. They will no longer be able to create more wine bottles, which is something that stands out from the glass bottles. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t get recycled. They simply get a downgrade, converted to something like carpet padding or fleece blanket material.
That is why someone who is generally concerned about the environment may refuse to use plastic wine bottles because they are not as reusable as glass wine bottles.
It all depends on how you look at things, but at least you can rest assured that each can be reused in one way or the other; glass is simply able to keep hold longer than PET.
In terms of the environment, though, recycling is not the only thing to consider. Another thing to think about is the carbon footprint that is necessary to transport glass wine bottles as compared to plastic wine bottles.
Since plastic wine bottles are exponentially less heavy than their glass wine bottle counterparts, it costs less fuel to transport them.
This is something to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to store your wine in glass or plastic, especially if you are planning to transport them shortly.
Plastic Wine Bottle Appearance
If there is one thing almost every wine drinker can agree on, it is that wine is considered a luxury. You want to open a glass of wine and feel like you are sitting on a Tuscan villa, enjoying the sunset as you dine with the people you love the most. It’s an overall classy experience when you open your favorite bottle of wine.
With the image of class in your mind, the last thing you probably think of is a wine that’s being poured out of a plastic bottle. It certainly does not conjure up images of that Tuscan villa.
Maybe that is why wine in plastic wine bottles is considered cheap and not classy versions of the same wine in a glass bottle.
While this may not be overly impactful for plenty of consumers, it’s a big deal to some, especially those who are wine aficionados and consider wine to be the classiest thing they do on a Friday night.
Indeed, appearance isn’t everything when it comes to wine, but it’s something that should be considered. If you want to surprise your friends with a lovely storage case of wines, they likely don’t want to see a bin of plastic containers. Give your wine the home it deserves in a classy, comforting wine bottle and watch it thrive.
Plastic Wine Bottles Overall Shelf Life
Some people may find that they want to go with plastic wine bottles because they are essentially easier to deal with.
After all, you don’t have to worry about excessive weight and potentially a glass mess all over your floor. But what they aren’t realizing is that wine stored in plastic bottles has an extremely short shelf life.
This means that after six months your wine is going to go bad in terms of flavor and aroma. This goes back to the whole air seeping into the plastic issue. And if you think that just because PET bottles have barriers built-in to help fight back against this problem, think again.
The shelf life of plastic wine bottles is only 6 months or less, so they should never be used in storage for longer periods.
If you are wanting to take up wine storage, simply avoid the plastic. It may be a bit more challenging to pick up and transport, but at least you can feel confident that your wine remains tasty and fragrant.
What About Plastic Wine Corks?
If you decide to opt for a glass wine bottle for storage, does that mean you should also stick to a real cork, not a plastic (synthetic) one? For the most part, you should always opt for a real cork as opposed to a synthetic or plastic cork.
This is due to the simple fact that cheaper plastic corks will likely let in too much or too little oxygen, which can ruin a wine.
You see, a wine that has too much oxygen will end up completely spoiling, while a wine that doesn’t have any oxygen reaching it won’t be able to mature and erupt in flavor and smell.
That is the reason that it is best to avoid using plastic corks as well as plastic bottles when storing wine.
Will Plastic Wine Bottles Ever Replace Glass Wine Bottles?
One thing that has become more and more talked about in the wine industry is whether or not plastic will ever be able to replace glass wine bottles.
After all, they are far easier to transport, and you and there is no worry about glass breaking and wreaking havoc wherever it lands, so what is the verdict?
Yes, there are many advantages to using plastic wine bottles, but those are only in the short term. The disadvantages of using this type of material greatly outweigh the positives, especially in the long term.
Therefore, as of right now, it’s highly unlikely that plastic will ever take the place of glass bottles until the oxidation issue is perfected.
Wine Storage Tips
Remember: if you are planning to consume wine in a plastic bottle before the 6 months have passed, then you won’t have to worry too much about oxidation and lack of flavor and aroma. However, if you are planning to store your wine away for several months or years, you should follow these simple tips and tricks:
- Never use plastic wine bottles. Again, this is due to the simple fact that the wine will oxidize and go bad prematurely. If storing for longer than six months, avoid plastic wine bottles entirely.
- Keep the wine cool. You never want your wine to be left in the heat, as this can destroy your wine rather quickly. Instead, aim for around 45 to 65 degrees. 55 degrees is the goal temperature for healthy, strong wine that tastes brand new.
- Don’t keep it too cool, either. Wine is kind of picky when it comes to temperatures. While it hates being in the heat, it also shouldn’t get so cold that the cork dries out, which ultimately leads to bad tasting wine. Make sure your storage area never falls below 45 degrees.
- Keep the wine stored on its side. This is another important factor to ensure your wine stays tasty and smelling beautiful. Always store your glass bottles of wine on the side to ensure that the cork stays moist and able to keep oxygen away from the wine.
- Humidity is important. Another way to keep wine looking, smelling, and tasting great is to always keep the right humidity level, which should be around 70 percent. If you can’t get the humidity right on your home, consider using a humidifier to help.
Plastic wine bottles might be a lifesaver for summer barbecues around the pool, but they should never be used for storing wine.
This is because the wine will oxidate quicker when stored in a plastic wine bottle, leading to a wine that’s ruined. When storing wine for a period longer than 6 months, always choose glass wine bottles complete with a real cork, not synthetic or plastic.
Scientific Literature Referenced:
Dombre, C., Rigou, P., Wirth, J., & Chalier, P. (2015). Aromatic evolution of wine packed in virgin and recycled PET bottles. Food Chemistry, 176, 376-387. DOI:10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.12.074