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Wine Packaging: Bag-in-box, Plastic Bottles, Cork Comeback?

In the past 12 years, France, the world's leading wine producer, has fostered just one revolution in the world of packaging -- the bag-in-box, or BIB. The slow pace of change has been offset however by the fact that French BIB wine tastes much better than that in Britain -- sometimes called the "scourge of the summer party" -- or in the United States.

Holding back innovations in both French packaging and branding has been the complexity of its wine classifications system, as opposed to the simplicity of new world producers such as Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and the US.

"Wine is very complex in France, the customer therefore wants reassurance, not novelty," said Olivier Mouchet, wine director at Auchan, a leading French supermarket chain, at this year's Vinexpo, the world?s biggest wine trade show. BIBs, introduced in France in the 1980s, were largely ignored until recently when sales grew as buyers switched from older non-airtight "cubies", which once opened had to be transferred to bottles at home or drunk as soon as possible. New-age BIBs, plastic air-tight containers with a self-sealing tap, allow wine-lovers to drink by the glass without spoiling the wine or altering its taste. Mouchet said the rise of BIBs, which now represent 15 per cent of French supermarket wine sales, has doubled Auchan?s sales in the last five years.

On the international wine scene, the future holds higher quality wine in BIBs, lighter glass bottles, and light plastic bottles made from PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, a compound developed in the 1970s that is now coming into its own due to its recyclability. "Even the finest Bordeaux and Burgundy will be seen in lighter glass, and or, plastic bottles," forecast Brian Howard of Britain-based consultancy group Wine Intelligence.

Howard predicted that packaging would be driven as much by external influences such as the environment as by the industry. "A new sun is ris
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