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Washington winery puts reds in recyclable pouches
WALLA WALLA, Wash. – One of Washington’s most exciting young wineries is putting some of its wines in a package that will reduce its environmental impact while also helping the wines stay fresh and delicious for consumers.
Victor Palencia, owner and winemaker of Palencia Wine Co. has begun packaging some of his Vino La Monarcha wines in the AstroPaq. It’s a fully recyclable, food-grade plastic that dispenses the wine through an easy-to-use spigot.
“I’ve been in the industry long enough to realize the impact we have on various resources, even with my own boutique winery,” Palencia told Great Northwest Wine. “I’ve seen first-hand how much waste can be generated with traditional bottlings.”
Palencia said that most of the wines under his La Monarcha label are consumed quickly – often within hours – after purchase.
“It’s really a waste to see all that glass go out,” he said. “So this new packaging is going to allow me to feel better about what I’m doing to our planet in general but also without reducing the enjoyment of the wines.”
In traditional bottles, a wine’s flavor can be affected by oxygen within three to four days after a bottle being opened. But the wine tote that Palencia is using can easily keep wine fresh for a month after it is first opened. The wine in a tote also could be aged for two years before being initially opened.
“The bag is filled with argon first, then filled with the wine,” Palencia said. “So there’s an inert environment with low oxygen levels.”
The totes hold the same as a bottle of wine – 750 milliliters – but it weighs half as much because there’s no glass.
“I can now pick up two cases of wine with one hand,” Palencia said with a chuckle.
The wine now costs less to ship, and the package can be recycled when it’s empty.
Appealing to younger wine drinkers
Palencia said the new packaging will undoubtedly appeal to younger wine drinkers, especially the all-important millennial generation.
“It’s a great way to provide wine for adventurous people,” he said.
And Palencia is going all in right way. He’s already committed to putting 500 cases of his wines into the wine totes this year, starting with his Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
“It’s ramping up quickly,” he said. “It doesn’t change the flavor of the wine. It’s the exact same wine that goes into the bottle.”
Palencia produces about 3,000 cases of wine for Palencia, which now is in its third year of operation. Palencia also is the head winemaker for Jones of Washington in Quincy and director of winemaking for J&S Crushing in Mattawa.
Don Corson, owner and winemaker for Camaraderie Cellars in Port Angeles, has been putting a red blend in a 1.5 liter tote for at least a couple of years. The blend, called “Storm King Red,” is named for a mountain in the Olympic range near his winery.
“It is really great for campers and picnickers,” he said. “We fill each individually under argon, so it is very stable.”
He said the wine has been quite popular and over-delivers for the price.
April Reddout, wine program director for the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser, plans to carry the La Monarcha wines, and she thinks it will be a big hit. She’s carried a similar product in the past, and it was a wild success, particularly with consumers who realized its environmental benefits.
“People from Seattle and Portland love it,” she said. “They get all excited about the eco-friendliness of it. They really respond to the value, the recyclability and the convenience. They can take this on a boat or on a hike. There’s no need for a bottle opener. They just love it.”
New Palencia package takes consumer coaching
Carol Sanford is at one of the first stores to carry the new La Monarcha packaging. She is the wine steward at the Yoke’s Fresh Market in Richland. She began carrying it in early February – all four Yoke’s groceries in the Tri-Cities are selling the totes – and said she became a true believer in quick order.
Sanford said Palencia challenged her to open the tote, pour a glass of wine, then stick it away for a few weeks and try it again. She opened her tote on Dec. 23, then didn’t touch it again until Jan. 9.
“It was amazing and fresh,” she said.
She believes it will be great for people who go camping. But she said sales have been tepid so far, primarily because the package is so unusual and nontraditional.
“It will pick up as people understand the benefits, no doubt,” she said. “I think white wines will fly off the shelves when the weather gets warmer. I wish all the wines were packaged this way.”
Reddout said she noticed the same thing the first time she carried wine totes.
“It takes a little coaching,” she said. “The consumer needs to be assured. There’s a generation that thinks it’s just a cheap wine. We’re still overcoming the perception of screw caps. They just need encouragement.”
Palencia said that in addition to groceries, he’s also receiving inquiries from restaurants that want to use the totes for more convenient by-the-glass pours. They can be particularly troublesome because if a bottle is opened to serve a glass, that wine will need to be discarded within three days if it isn’t empty. With the tote, there’s no waste.
In addition to the four Yoke’s stores, Palencia also has shipped the wine to markets in Oregon and Idaho and is getting ready to deliver it to Seattle merchants.
Palencia noted that the same wines also are available in bottles for consumers who prefer the traditional packaging.