30 Second Wine Advisor: Plastic wine bottle?

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Plastic wine bottle?

Fine wine in a plastic bottle? The very idea probably gags most wine geeks.

Wine-in-plastic seems so wrong in so many ways, from the practical ("Oxygen will leak in!" "Chemical nasties will leach into our beautiful wine!") to the purely emotional ("It's got no class!" It just isn't 'natural'!")

For fine wines in particular - the better-quality, artisanal wines that serious enthusiasts acclaim - the idea of packaging in the PET plastic bottles used for bottled water and soft drinks makes most of us want to laugh ... or cry.

But don't be so sure it couldn't happen. It has been only about 15 years since I wrote in November 1999 about the then still-novel idea of wine under screw caps and artificial corks, wondering aloud if this newfangled idea would ever go anyplace.

Now the industry is taking a close look at PET. Polyethylene terephthalate is a thermoplastic polymer resin, a form of polyester. Yes, I said polyester. It is extruded or molded into plastic bottles and containers. Manufacturing trade associations point out that it is recyclable (bearing the recycling number "1"), and assure us that it does not leach plastic molecules into the liquids that it contains.

Is there any good reason to shift from glass bottles? Well, there's an environmental argument for it: Because PET plastic is much lighter in weight than glass, an industry-wide shift could yield a substantial reduction in the "carbon footprint" that international wine distribution stomps down on the earth. That seems like a good thing.

On the other hand, other environmentalists would just as quickly point out that, even if PET is somehow guaranteed safe, disposal of the empties poses a major recycling problem. The world is awash in discarded plastic, including "trash vortexes" like the notorious "garbage island" the size of a small continent floating in the Pacific.

For the wine industry, the vision of reduced transportation costs translating into profits, with the opportunity to claim an enfironmental good, may be compelling. I wouldn't bet against wine-in-PET becoming at least as commonplace as screw-capped bottles in coming years.

Here's a good look at the issue from the business and science perspective, posted recently on the first-rate Academic Wino blog: Storing Wine in Glass Versus New and Recycled PET Packaging: A Chemical Analysis.

What do you think? Are you ready to drink wine - even modest table wines - from Coke-style PET bottles? Drop by our WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG) or visit our WineLovers Facebook Page and post your comments!

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Today's Tasting Report

Lamole di Lamole 2009 Chianti Classico ($15.99)

Lamole di Lamole

Dark ruby with a clear bronze edge. Black cherries and earth, becomes a little more black-fruit focused with time in the glass. Mouth-filling, tart and dry, good black fruit and dried fruit and spice, benchmark Chianti Classico with ample, food-friendly acidity and substantial tannins; its claimed 13.5% alcohol is appropriate to the style. Good Sangiovese-based Tuscan red, shows its best with food. U.S. importer: Fine Italian Wines and Estates, Manhasset, N.Y. (Jan. 19, 2015)

FOOD MATCH: As discussed in our last edition with the fine La Spinetta Sangiovese, Chianti and other Sangiovese-based wines go reliably with red meat or tomato-based pasta. These versatile wines needn't be limited to these stereotypical uses, though: This one was fine with Italian sausage served on roasted fennel, onions, carrots and garlic and black beluga lentils. It was also made a first-rate match with thin-sliced Parmigiano-Reggiano.

WHEN TO DRINK: This 2009 bottle turned up at local retail despite being several years behind the current vintage, but it's still drinking well and should have several years of cellar time remaining. No rush, especially if you find more recent vintages.

VALUE: Well worth the mid-teens price; Wine-Searcher.com shows an $18 U.S. average.

Here's a link to the winery's fact sheet on this wine in English.

Find vendors and compare prices for Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico on Wine-Searcher.com.

Remember, our Wine Focus discussion for January is World Sangiovese, Tuscan reds. We're tasting and talking about Sangiovese from anywhere in the world this month, and also zeroing in on all the reds of Tuscany, whether they're Sangiovese-based, full Sangiovese or non-traditional Super Tuscans and Baby Tuscans. Click to join the WineLovers forum discussion, with easy Facebook login.

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