Yellow + blue make green: a new organic malbec in TetraPak

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A new wine made from certified organic Malbec grapes will soon be available in the United States. But instead of a bottle, the wine will use lightweight packaging known as TetraPak, traditionally associated with juice boxes, in the name of lowering its carbon footprint.

Matthew Cain, regional sales director for fine wine importer Kermit Lynch for nine years, will be importing the wine through his new company, J. Soif. “Over a period of time I came to the realization that the wine business just doesn’t work,” he told me in a telephone interview last week. “Eighty percent of wine is drunk within a week. It doesn’t make sense to put nine liters of wine in a 40 pound box and ship it thousands of miles.”

So Cain, 38, looked to TetraPak. In other countries, he noted, “people are using alternative packaging to bring down the cost of wine. It’s not just for poor wine but for good wine. Here in the US, it’s only been used as a gimmick.” He added about his wine, “I’ve been in the fine wine trade my entire life and I have no interest in bad wine.”

Explaining his motivation, Cain said that he has seen wine prices go up, transportation prices go up, and that made him want to “bring a great wine to the market at a reasonable price.” His interest in environmental issues and research on this site about wine’s carbon footprint pushed him to make a sustainable wine from beginning to end.

yellowblueroute Used his contacts in the fine wine business, he went to Argentina to find a producer growing certified organic grapes. The grapes were destined for bottled wine, not bulk wine, but Cain bought them. Instead of bottling the wine in Mendoza, he put them in a 24,000 liter flexitank. The wine was trucked over the Andes, loaded onto a ship on the Chilean coast, then shipped through the Panama canal and up to Montreal below deck in an insulated container (but not refrigerated). There it was trucked to Toronto where the TetraPak packaging material was waiting. Click on the map to the right to see the route.

The facility in Toronto is also certified organic. The wine is put in the one liter boxes that weigh 40 grams each (compared to 500 – 750g for a bottle) and loaded onto a truck for a warehouse in New Jersey. The total amount of wine will be about 10,000 nine-liter cases.

Using my carbon calculator, I ran the numbers on this wine, called “Yellow + Blue” (makes green–get it?). I figure that each 750 ml of Yellow + Blue Malbec has about half the greenhouse gas emissions of a conventional bottle of wine from Argentina that followed the same route.

The price will follow a similar discount: Yellow + Blue will sell for $10.99 in stores and Cain suggests that the same wine in bottle would sell for about $20. But Yellow + Blue, weighing in at one liter, holds a third more wine than a regular bottle. I look forward to trying it. Are you?

find this wine (release about May 1)

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52 Responses to “Yellow + blue make green: a new organic malbec in TetraPak”


  1. Hello. I’m a little curious about your calculation. Are the reduced greenhouse gas emissions due to only a weight reduction? Or did you also factor in that the new boxes may pack more efficiently? Just curious.


  2. Michael, it makes a lot of sense to avoid unnecessarily shipping the wine containers over thousands of miles. A glass wine bottle weighs almost as much as the wine it contains, so you can easily figure on shipping about twice as much wine for the same cost as shipping wine that is already bottled. So, it makes sense that the greenhouse emissions from shipping would follow suit, emitting about half as much for the same amount of wine.

    This does not even consider the energy savings of the packaging itself, since it takes a tremendous amount of energy to make a glass bottle (even from recycled glass), compared to a paper/foil box.

    I’m looking forward to trying this wine.


  3. If the quote from the company:

    “The price will follow a similar discount: Yellow + Blue will sell for $10.99 in stores and Cain suggests that the same wine in bottle would sell for about $20.”

    was meant to suggest that 8$ of saving comes shipping savings, then that is demonstrably marketing bullshit. SEE: any under 8$ Argentinian non-tetra pack wine.


  4. What a great idea aside from the package’s graphics. It looks more like an industrial chemical or cleaning product. I hope that’s not the final design – I just can’t see consumers responding to it.


  5. Hey Michael,

    As Eric pointed out above, it’s based primarily on the weight. Instead of transporting glass around the world, a tetrapak of wine involves almost entirely transporting wine around the world. There’s a minor difference because of the organic viticulture and the fact that Yellow + Blue uses no oak barrels:

    Here are my calculations for the efficiencies:

    One liter Yellow + Blue = 1766g CO2e
    YB normalized to 750ml = 1324g CO2e
    reg 750 bottle from Arg = 2458g CO2e

    so 54% of the C02e per ounce (or mL).


  6. While I really don’t see myself switching to tetra pack wine anytime soon, I did have another question, if so much of wine sold really is in the value tier (or whatever the industry calls this bulk sector) and is really consumed so soon after purchase, then has it been considered or tried to have wine shipped in tanks and bottled here, I know even bordeaux wineries ship wine here for kosher processing. I don’t want my Lafite bottled in NJ, but what about Yellow Tail, et al.? I think that this would make the most sense and is currently practiced in the liquor and beer industries if I’m not mistaken. It might even benefit bulk wine to ship from California and bottle in a central Eastern hub which could then distribute throughout the East Coast and Europe. Or ship to Asia to meet the emerging demand of that market. We ship everything else in bulk, i.e. milk, petrol, etc. Once again, I really only wonder for the type of wine that sells massive amounts and is consumed quickly
    However, as to actual cost saved by this design, that is another question, as a separate bottling facility would have to be run. And as for actual cost saved, the cost can’t be that high when California wines at the bargain tier can hit the East Coast for three bucks while still maintaining any profit margin, though perhaps type of shipping and refrigerated transportation come into play at a higher price point, I don’t really know.


  7. I am so excited about alternative packaging for wines getting a bigger presence in the US market. I would be even more excited to see this wine in a box .. but even so I will pick this up the very first time I see it.

    We need more quality wines going into alternative packages. I’ve tried about every one I can find and have liked a couple of whites and 0 reds so far – and that is only because of what is *in* the package.


  8. My problem here, is that though cost and greenhouse emissions are higher, the packaging must now go into a landfill, creating more solid waste. While a glass bottle can be recycled efficiently, a tetra-pak container cannot–it’s cardboard, foil, and plastic which has been pressed together in a way that it can never be separated or recycled, so it must simply be discarded. It’s certainly not a perfect option. Why does this wine maker need to ship his bottles at all? What’s wrong with being a regional wine?


  9. As we’ve been seeing lately with much of the conventional wisdom regarding climate change, carbon footprints and green solutions, the easy answers are not always correct. The more you look at it the more complicated it all is.

    Glass bottles can be recycled, but use energy and produce greenhouse gasses in the process. TetraPaks are lighter, therefore have a smaller footprint when shipping, but are they recyclable, reusable, or biodegradabale, and what goes into making them? Shipping wine (at least “everyday” wines) in bulk makes a lot of sense, especially if the repackaging (can’t say bottling) occurs in an efficient, sustainable plant that’s centrally located for its market. Why is this particular wine being packed in Toronto and then trucked to a NJ warehouse? This certainly adds to its carbon footprint, and with the US $ now cheaper than the Canadian $, can’t be justified by lower costs either. Is the 24,000 liter flexitank refrigerated during its journey (a la Kermit Lynch)?

    My head is spinning! I need a glass of wine.

    Ultimately, if the wine is good, it will be successful. When do we get to taste it?


  10. Kate-

    Actually tetra can be recycled in certain regions like New York, but unfortunately not everywhere. Still, the overall impact of glass on the environment, from production to shipping, is still more severe. Look to emerging options like PET to make inroads into the wine trade for this reason (although as a petrochemical product, it is also flawed).

    Regional wine consumption is a great idea….provided you live in a region that is capable. Here in MD where I live, we have some passable things to drink, but I’m not sure what I’d do if I lived in Minnesota or Ohio. Or Alaska. Part of the resistance in my neck of the woods is that hybrids bred for our weather are unfamiliar to the consumer, who is unwilling to try them (Vidal, Chambourcin). The winery then feels complelled to make something familiar like Cabernet and Merlot, which generally tend to suck, thus turning off the consumer who DID take home a bottle.


  11. Mr. Taz-

    AS I understand it, here are only a few tetra-pak facilities in N. America, and the Canada one is the only one on the eastern seaboard that is certified organic. Hence the need to package there and ship to NJ, a major distribution hub for the rest of the country. Also, Canuckistan is major consumer of wine in tetra-pak, so I suspect that a portion of the production could be shipped straight to the state distribution facility from the packaging place.


  12. Errors in your shopped/fictional blog:
    1. most shipping is by volume, not weight,
    2. the carbon-balance advantage of tetrapak over glass not substantiated,
    3. Michael’s Lafitte is $500/bottle, might as well LearJet it in,
    4. glass-bottled wine (even screwcapped) is classy – cardboard wine is not ;
    5. Q: how to rid earth of carbon-footprint? A: nuke china and/or india or sumpin’…..


  13. Organic grapes, more environmentally friendly, 1/3 more wine than a regular liter–I’ll try it! This would make a good addition to my every day wine rotation.


  14. If you like this topic, check out the thread about this wine on BoingBoing Gadgets. Some worthwhile comments there, including a link to the current affairs of the TetraPak heirs!

    http://gadgets.boingboing.net/2008/04/21/selling-wine-in-tetr.html


  15. It just occurred to me that it would be great if producers or importers included the mass (weight) of the packaging in grams somewhere on the label, front or back. It would be more interesting than the sulfites warning!


  16. Alaalas:

    Shipping may be charged by volume and not weight, but the physics say that the energy required to move something is definitely by mass regardless of volume.

    If you are shipping 25,000 kg, it takes the same energy whether it’s 25,000 kg of wine or 12,500 kg of wine plus 12,500 kg of glass. It is therefore half as costly per liter of wine using this method.

    On your 3rd point, I’d probably go with a Gulfstream since it’s a much nicer plane for the same money.


  17. [...] before heading to Borders? Malbec and a movie? I wonder if they will have stemware. Or perhaps TetraPak wine so the bottle doesn’t break while being [...]


  18. A malbec in a box… I love it! Sounds intriguing. The other day I tried the Three Thieves Bandit Cabernet in a tetrapak and I was not impressed. I hope this one is better.


  19. [...] Story from Dr. Vino [...]


  20. [...] Dr.Vino, poi, è stato calcolato l’impatto sul trasporto. Stando ai calcoli dovrebbe essere di circa [...]


  21. [...] Dr.Vino, poi, è stato calcolato l’impatto sul trasporto. Stando ai calcoli dovrebbe essere di circa [...]


  22. Currently there is no Tetra Prisma machine capable of packaging wine in the United States. One of the perennial problems with shipping bulk wine is quality control at the termination point. Using an independent packing plant has many problems especially if you rely on the quality of your product overdelivering. I know of many problems with shipping bulk to find that the wina has been mis-handled.


  23. Hi Brian.
    Matthew Cain here, importer and owner of this Yellow + Blue Tetra project. I just read your reply, and I would like to respond to a few of your points.

    There is in fact a Tetra prisma packing facility in the U.S. I have chosen not to use them for several reasons, however the primary reason is that the focus of their business is in packaging other beverages in Tetra and not wine.

    Because of the popularity of wine packed in Tetra in Ontario, there is a facility there that only packages wine. This is the facility I use, and it is one of the best in the world with regard to Tetra packaging.

    Let me know if you have any other questions, and thanks for your reply.

    Best,
    MC


  24. [...] This is my first taste of the YB, an unoaked malbec from grapes grown organically in Mendoza that comes in a one-liter TetraPak. Unlike most box wines that have little to distinguish them other than the packaging, this wine has [...]


  25. I am impressed to see the wine industry hopping on the Green Train. I saw the TetraPak at Cost Plus World Market last weekend and I was very interested.

    Think I will have to try now. thanks for the great post.


  26. I just tried this wine, Wow! what an intense flavor, different that the many wines available in the in the Northwest US. I did have a question about Organic Wine in general. I have heard that using sulfites speed the fermentation process and prolong the life of the wine. I have not seen sulfites in organic wines in the past. Is this a common practice? Does it have a flavor? It seems to me that the headaches created by knowingly having a “few more glasses” of wine containing sulfites are more present. Is the addition of sulfites common to lower expenses and spoilage, and does it help to create this mysterious headache? Thanks. Great wine!


  27. Hi Rich. Matthew Cain here again, owner and importer of Yellow+Blue Malbec. I am happy you like the wine!

    Let me see if I can help you with your sulfites question…

    First, sulfur in the form of SO2 is a small byproduct of fermentation. A totally sulfite free wine is near impossible given this.

    Second, sulfur is used in viticulture and vinification throughout the world, at organic and conventional wineries.

    In viticulture, sulfur is used primarily in the form of Copper Sulfate in the infamous “Bordeaux mixture”, a vineyard spray that protects vines from fungal diseases.

    In the winery, sulfur is used in the form of SO2 as an antiseptic and antioxidant. There are many bacteria and strains of yeast that can lead to spoilage, off smells, color loss, etc. in finished wine. The addition of sulfur kills or renders these microorganisms inoperative, thereby helping to stabilize the finished wine Sulfur also binds with oxygen in the wine to help prevent oxidation.

    I do know personally a few winemakers that make wines without sulfur, but they are very few and far between. Given its importance in stabilization, sulfur is used in virtually every winery in the world, no matter the price category of the wines the winery produces.

    When the USDA came out with their “NOP” (National Organic Program), there was a very large debate concerning added sulfites and organic wine. In the end, they decided that there would be two categories or organic wine:

    100% Organic wine –
    Grapes grown organically and wine made without the addition of sulfites, and with total sulfur less than 20ppm.

    Wine “Made with organic grapes” -
    Grapes grown organically. Sulfite additions are allowed in the winemaking process.

    Given the importance of sulfites in preservation and stabilization, you will find that most organic wineries choose the “made with organic grapes” route. However, whether officially organic or not, most quality conscious wineries use the minimum amount of added sulfites needed to preserve the wine and its integrity.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions, and thank you again for your kind words about our wine.


  28. Hi Matthew. Thanks for your concise explanation of organic wines, there seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding them.

    Working in retail, I enjoy explaining to customers why tetra packs are the new, green thing to do. They have to do a little mental re-adjustment but they usually come around.

    Watch, soon Kermit Lynch and co. will get on the Tetra pack bandwagon. It is such practical, logical packaging. The Dr. already mentioned the weight factor but it’s also a space issue; think of all that wasted space when shipping cylindrical bottles.

    I look forward to trying your wine!


  29. Kayt -

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Your “space” comments are right on the money. Worldwide, the rate of recycling for glass and Tetra are almost equal, both being around 25-30%. For all of the bottles and Tetra Paks that don’t make it to recycling however, you can pack 30 Tetra Paks in to the space that one glass bottle takes up in a landfill. This is significant.

    For Tetra Pak, it’s a multi-faceted attack on glass.

    You haven’t mentioned what state you are in, but we are currently working in about 20 states, with a dozen more that we are talking to currently. I’ll hope to have the wine in your hands soon.

    Thanks again for writing.
    MC


  30. Economic woes and cost of shipping are good reasons to support this packing; knowing that it’s a decent product – priceless!


  31. [...] And the newest and perhaps brightest star is the $11 unoaked, organically grown malbec called Yellow + Blue sold in a 1-liter TetraPak (not bag-in-box; find this wine). There’s also the Three Bandits [...]


  32. [...] And the newest and perhaps brightest star is the $11 unoaked, organically grown malbec called Yellow + Blue sold in a 1-liter TetraPak (not bag-in-box; find this wine). There’s also the Bandit from [...]


  33. [...] organic grapes. But that’s not the only thing that makes this Yellow + Blue Malbec special. Dr. Vino reports that instead of a bottle, the wine will come in a TetraPak (think juice-box packaging). The [...]


  34. [...] Yellow + blue make green: a new organic malbec in TetraPak  By Dr. Vino A new wine made from certified organic Malbec grapes will soon be available in the United States. But instead of a bottle, the wine will use lightweight packaging known as TetraPak, traditionally associated with juice boxes, in the name of lowering its carbon footprint. http://www.drvino.com/2008/04/21/yellow-blue-make-green-a-new-organic-malbec-in-tetrapak/ [...]


  35. [...] is available with the Tetra Pak and Tetra Prisma.  French, American, and the eagerly awaited Yellow+Blue Argentine Malbec are on the way- I cannot wait until they are available in the Windy City.  These [...]


  36. love the concept. My wife told me about this project from MC’s wife last night.

    how can we get some in PA?

    thanks, BW


  37. Blaine,
    Matthew Cain here. Thanks for writing. My wife is a great PR person!

    I happen to be in Argentina currently, finalizing things for the 2008 version of Yellow+Blue Malbec, which will be available at the beginning of 2009.

    The 2007 that Tyler has written about will be available in PA in October. Similar to the LCB0, the PLCB will do a promotion of Yellow+Blue during the month.

    If you need more detailed information regarding store locations, or any other questions, just write me directly at matt@jsoifwines.com.

    Thanks again.
    MC


  38. [...] it is packaged into a Tetra Pak–think juice boxes for adults. I’ve poured this wine, introduced for the first time in 2008, many times to groups this year, often blind and from a decanter, and it has been almost [...]


  39. Love the Malbec as well Torrentes. My friend and I bought out Canal’s in Marlton, NJ. I toasted on a budget with the 1 Liter Malbec in my beautiful decanter, everyone was impressed with Malbec and could not believe it: that it came from a box and was priced at $9.99 for 1 Liter. Way to go Yellow + Blue!


  40. [...] and Torrontes grapes from Argentina and selected Tetra Pak for his wine containers. According to Dr. Vino, the use of Tetra Pak containers and bulk transportation of the wine for subsequent packaging in [...]


  41. Have tasted this wine and it is GREAT! Love the idea of the tetra pack! Try this wine, I think you will enjoy it!


  42. I had the pleasure of trying both the 2008 Torrontes and the 2007 Malbec.

    While I was waiting to be seated in a NY restaurant, the bartender suggested Yellow + Blue because I prefer sweet, fruity and crisp white wines and that was the sweetest on the menu (I think it was more tart than sweet). I was told this was an organic wine but I am happy that it’s made with organic grapes and uses green methods. When she pulled out a BOX to pour a glass, I hesitated because it was quite strange to even think of drinking wine from a box! Also, a glass was $7 which is pretty cheap for NY standards. After one sip, I felt like I was in heaven! I could NOT believe the flavors of this inexpensive white wine. My fiance had the Malbec which I tried. I thought it was tasty but not as good as the Torrontes (as did my fiance). I don’t like Malbec’s but this one is good.

    My only gripe is that I wish there were stores in NJ close to me that carried them. Regardless, thank you for this lovely wine and I hope it does well!


  43. [...] here for a great article by Dr. Vino detailing the shipping process and carbon footprint of Yellow + [...]


  44. Dear Matthew,

    Congratulations on a great new wine brand!
    So glad you’ve put a high quality wine in an alternative packaging. We create and produce innovative wine brands; Wild Pelican is our latest brand and comes in 187ml slim-line cans (www.wildpelican.com). An aluminium can is the most recycled drink package in the world and also very efficient in transport.

    We hope more wine producers will use alternative green packaging for their wines so these forms of packaging become more accepted by the consumer. We find however, that the few wine producers that do adopt tetra or cans tend to put poor quality wine, which is a real shame since the consumer associates this with the packaging.

    Is your brand available in Europe yet? We’re based in Netherlands, and have many distributors in Europe focused on bio / organic and / or alternative packaging, if you’re interested I can put you into touch with some of them.

    Good luck with your brand and my best regards,

    Caroline Ruijg


  45. Caroline -

    Thanks for writing your kind note. I dig your brand and concept! I would enjoy communicating with you further about Europe. I can be reached at matt@jsoifwines.com. Please write when you find a moment.

    Thanks again.
    MC


  46. Mr.Cain,
    I have a question regarding your shipping to Cananda from Argentina….
    Are you paying for customs and taxes in Canada as well as New Jersey after it has been packaged..
    I am looking to do something similar and just wondered…
    Thank you
    Gianna Gregin-Modugno


  47. Mr.Cain
    I have a question regarding shipping your bulk wine from argentina to canada…are you paying customs and taxes in canada as well as New Jersey after it has been packaged…and if you are do you need to be licensed in canada or does the packager take care of that..
    I am looking at doing something similar..
    By the way… I love your wine and your green concept…
    Thank you
    Gianna Gregin-Modugno
    Sorry if you received this twice…didn’t know if the first was sent.


  48. [...] Yellow + blue make green: a new organic malbec in TetraPak [Dr Vino] posted in: Food ,  Green [...]


  49. Dear Matthew

    Hope this message finds you well, I very interested in your product for the North of Africa (Algeria), I would like to reached you in order see if is possible

    Regards and looking forward to hear from you


  50. Hello. I have seen Yellow and Blue wines advertised quite a lot in the US lately and I have some concerns about a comparison to bottled wine. The Yellow and Blue wines are not being marketed as an eco alternative to Argentinean wines, which are not plentiful in North America, but rather as an alternative to bottled wines produced and shipped in North America, which is where the vast majority of all wine consumed in the the region originates.

    So if you factor in the difference in the shipping costs/emissions of wine shipped from the tip of South America, as well as the fact that glass is one of the best materials for recycling and platic coated Tetra Paks cannot be recycled at all in most places and will end up in landfills, you end up with a product that is maybe not as eco-friendly as one would like.


  51. [...] Pale Ale (yum). – Read everything man has ever written on the Internet. – Learned what a Tetra Pak container was (Thank you “How It’s Made”) – Cleaned the cat box… ugggh – [...]


  52. In the winery, sulfur is used in the form of SO2 as an antiseptic and antioxidant. There are many bacteria and strains of yeast that can lead to spoilage, off smells, color loss, etc. in finished wine. The addition of sulfur kills or renders these microorganisms inoperative, thereby helping to stabilize the finished wine Sulfur also binds with oxygen in the wine to help prevent oxidation.


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