The trial is being run with its own brand ‘Loved & Found’, which features lesser known grape varieties and wine regions: initially covering four lines and extending to the full range of 10 wines by the end of the year.
Better storage conditions
Cutting and tearing off the sleeve adds a certain ritual to opening a bottle of wine; however, these sleeves no longer serve any functional purpose in today's wine industry.
“Bottle neck sleeves were introduced many years ago to prevent pests such as moths and weevils from ruining wines kept in dark, damp cellars," explained Barry Dick, MW and Beer, Wine and Spirit Sourcing Manager for Waitrose.
"The caterpillars of this moth species would bore into the wine corks, causing the wine to leak, or taste musty. Nowadays few people have wine cellars and those who do tend to keep them in much better conditions. This has meant that the sleeves have remained for purely aesthetic reasons and are no longer needed to protect wine."
Furthermore, the quality of corks used by winemakers today has ‘dramatically improved’: reducing the risk of cork taint caused by compounds such as TCA.
"The bottles in our trial will be corked with a new FSC cork which has been extensively tried and tested for its ability to resist being contaminated with TCA, which makes corks smell and taste mouldy and ruins wine," continued Dick. "TCA is the reason why cork fell out of favour, but cork has great sustainability credentials which is why it’s making a comeback.”
Waitrose estimates that removing the capsules on its range of ten Loved and Found wines alone will save half a tonne of unnecessary packaging per year.
“The bottles look quite different as the neck appears naked, so it will be interesting to see how our customers react to us removing these familiar sleeves. I for one am looking forward to not having to wrestle with the packaging.”
Waitrose is also in the process of converting as many of their small wine bottles as possible to cans, reporting that this halves the carbon footprint per drink.