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Murray Almond's "From the Left Island"
In the previous article - Moving Around with Wine and Glasses - I discussed carriers for transporting wine and glasses around the place securely and safely. In this follow up I’ll look at packaging for shipping wine around.
The criterion here is more rigid than just lugging it around. The packaging has to keep the wine bottle safe from damage or breakage in transport, provide a degree of insulation from heat damage and provide a space for name and address of sender and recipient.
This shouldn’t be too hard.
The vast majority of wine transported around the place is shipped in boxes with the manufacturer’s name on it. These boxes are good for shipping wine, if not the manufacturers wouldn’t get their wine shipped safely, which would be their loss. Having said that there is enormous variety in boxes. Here’s some that randomly pop up on a doorstep somewhere in the neighbourhood.
The Mitchelton box on the right is good for re-use as the cardboard inserts are suited to a wide range of bottle shapes and the inserts are made out of recycled cardboard which provides some degree of cushioning for the bottles.
While the wooden boxes look really classy and provide good bragging rights, they are often not the best for shipping wine due to the rigid nature of the wood that holds the wine. Some wineries use "wood-wool" which provides the cushioning required.
The manufacturer’s boxes are good for shipping wines around in case lots, either the half dozen or dozen, but often you want to ship a smaller or odd number of bottles. Here the main top of packaging used is the foam shipper. These shippers are generally available from liquor stores, either for sale, or you might be able to wangle a used one or five out of them if you’re a regular.
Here are a few examples that I had lying around:
The first photo above shows a couple of single bottle shippers and the second shows a three-bottle shipper. There are also single-layer two and four bottle shippers available as well. The 3 bottle shipper is a modular setup when you can also buy a centre layer to ship six bottles by stacking the layers up. The next photo shows the shipper with six bottles.
I have a number of Foam Wine Shippers I have never thrown one out. They’ve been reused for mailing a number of times and also provide excellent additional insulation in the cellar for those very special bottles.
The Saga of the WINEpak
The Saga of the WINEpak
Australia Post sell all sorts of containers and packs for shipping things and sometime in the last year or so they went to replace the foam wine shipper with the WINEpak.
This red plastic number was introduced to address concerns of the disposal issues inherent with the styrofoam shipper, so I decided to give it a go.
Inside the WINEpak
The inside the WINEpak hold the bottle with a number of stiff plastic tags designed to hold the bottle suspended within the outer casing as shown in the photo. These tags bend to a various extent depending on the bottle shape.
Getting the Bottle In
Having checked out the design I grabbed a bottle of shippingworthy wine and put it in the case. Here’s where the challenges started.
In order to get the wine packed (pak’d?) the bottle is placed into the WINEpak and the top half folded over. After this is done there are a series of clips that clipped together to seal the WINEpak.
Firstly it takes a fair bit of force to get the lid closed, particularly with a Burgundy-shaped bottle such as the delicious Yalumba Virgilius Viognier used in the photos. Six plastic tabs need to be bent simultaneously to get the thing closed. You can see that my wife needed a lot of pressure for the photos in getting the lid down.
After this the six tabs need to be lined up and the ends tuck in, this was another sizeable bit of work in itself. I’d say that a person with any wrist or arm affliction at all would not be able to close the thing.
Anyway, it’s closed and ready to ship.
Getting the Bottle Out
Getting the bottle out of the WINEpak as a whole different story. The WINEpak is a single use device, in order to get the WINEpak open you need to lift a tab to then open a perforated section This process is shown in the next couple of photos
One end was straightforward but the other end was a real battle. I couldn’t get to end-tab broken at all with putting a finger through the loop. So I tried a wooden spoon for leverage. The result is shown below. Also shown is the subsequent failure of the perforations to tear where they should.
So finally the tabs are open the last step was to snip the part between the two perforations with the scissors as noted by the little graphic and get access to the bottle. Mind you, you open the back of the pack, so get to see the back label first. It was clear on opening that the action of the tabs could easily tear the label, which would appreciably devalue the wine on the resale market.
Finished, done! Phew!!!.
Conclusions on the WINEpak
After having checked out the WINEpak I’d say they only thing going for it is that it holds wine securely for shipment through Australia Post.
On the downside:
You need quite a bit of strength to get the WINEpak closed, and also quite a deal of manual dexterity, on top of the strength, to get the six clips and two end tabs in their correct slots.
The interior tabs risk tearing the label when the WINEpak is being closed.
Getting the WINEpak open requires scissors and a fairly robust wooden spoon.
It’s single use, you need to buy a new one for each one shipped. This is claimed to be better than the Styrofoam single bottle shipper as it can be recycled and doesn’t end up in landfill. On close inspection my wife noted that it’s recycled plastic Class 5. My city only recycles Class 1 to 3. It’s ending up as landfill. All the styrofoam shippers I’ve handled have either been reused to ship elsewhere I sit in my cellar. None ended up as Landfill.
My recommendation on the WINEpak? Avoid at any cost.
© Murray Almond
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