A recent move by Italy's Ministry of Agriculture to step up environmentally friendly initiatives in the nation's wine sector has met with scorn by some of Italy's most prestigious grape growers. For environmental and commercial reasons, the ministry has decided to allow the producers of the country's most renowned wines to sell their products in cardboard boxes.
Claiming that paper packaging better protects the wine and allows for more competitive pricing in international markets, agriculture minister Luca Zaia stated ‘We took act of market demands, especially in northern Europe, where wine boxes could be a useful way to promote Italian wines. At the same time, we tried to protect the more prestigious wines by restricting the use of wine boxes for certain types.'
According to the new initiative, wine boxes can now be used to package DOC wines that do not indicate sub-zones of origin. The country's more prestigious DOCG wines and reserves are exempt from the initiative. It will be up to wine consortiums to decide whether to adopt cardboard or plastic boxes.
In Europe's biggest wine producing countries, like France and Italy, wine boxes have been in use for years but usually for low-quality vintages. The idea of packaging quality-labelled wine in cardboard will be a tough sell to Brunello, Barolo and Prosecco producers.
Although some vintners agree that wine boxes may have certain environmental benefits (for example, less energy is used in producing and transporting cardboard and plastic boxes than for glass bottles), they also claim that ‘greener' packaging would inevitably damage the prestige and image of high-quality wines.