Agent Triple P was en route from Houston to Bogota last month with his particular friend, the lovely S, in tow and we thought it might be a good plan to grab a bottle of red wine for a nightcap, given that we weren't arriving at our hotel until around 11.00pm. The selection of red wine at George Bush International was, frankly, pathetic but there was a likely looking generic Australian shiraz which would act as a suitable relaxant. Anyway Triple P grabbed the bottle and, shockingly, it deformed under our fingers. It was a plastic bottle! Or rather, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), to be exact.
Now Triple P well remembers plastic wine bottles from his childhood, which you could get in hypermarkets like Mammouth in the south of France in the late sixties and early seventies (the chain disappeared in 2009). One litre for 50 centimes in a strangely industrial looking square bottle, with a flip off cap, which looked like it should contain bleach instead of wine. Indeed, the taste of this wine was fairly indistinguishable from household cleaner and Triple P's father only used it for cooking. Even at the age of ten our palate was sufficiently developed that we realised that this stuff was to be avoided. We didn't have any again until a holiday Triple P had in the Loire valley with our best friend, our girlfriend and our immediate ex-girlfriend. (only slightly difficult). Triple P can't remember which of them bought the litre plastic bottle of red but after a twelve year gap, it was just as bad as we remembered it.
Well, S and Triple P were in a hurry and there wasn't much choice so we paid the (no doubt exorbitant) $12 and picked it up at the gate in that strange way that Houston airport handles duty free. Incidentally, why is it that wine drinkers are penalised by duty free shops? There are big savings on spirits but wine always seems to be more expensive than it would be in the shops. In the end it was worth it financially, as the 18.75 cl bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon in the minibar worked out at about £10, or £40 a bottle. More importantly 18.75 centilitres wouldn't have gone very far between the two of us.
So what was it like, our plastic-clad wine? Actually rather good. Not that it lasted very long. Fortunately S had bought one too. The key issue for producers and shippers is that a PET bottle only weighs 54g as against up to 500g for a glass bottle (although some producers are now using lighter glass bottles of around 300g). Cutting down weight means less fuel expended in moving it around. All good news for the environment and the bottles are recyclable (although not as recyclable as glass). There have, inevitably, been questions about plasticides leaking into the wine but this is not the sort of wine you are going to lay down in your cellar.
The Russians have a rafting race with their blow-up women!
What with plastic bottles of wine Triple P wondered to S how soon it would be before we got plastic women too and not just those who are partially plastic like a lot of the women guests at the wedding reception which was taking place at our hotel in Houston. S pointed out that you can already buy very realistic plastic women, not just those inflatable ones beloved of bad comedy films. They don't complain, nag and you don't have to buy them expensive lingerie (actually some of the "collectors" do, I gather) but then Triple P has always preferred an active rather than a passive woman so that would be one plastic product too far.
Deluxe plastic woman
It will be interesting to see if they catch on in supermarkets over here. Wolf Blass have already put a couple of their Green Label wines in these plastic bottles and I believe that some Sainsbury supermarkets have a couple as well. The squeezy bottle is coming!