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Moving Wine Around and the WINEpak Saga

Murray Almond ©

In the previous article 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.

Manufacturer’s Boxes

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 neighborhood.

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 right, they are often no 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.

Foam Shippers

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 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 and 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

Australia Post sells 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 shipping worthy 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. Sixteen 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 close, 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.

Its 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 or sit in my cellar. None ended up as Landfill.

My recommendation on the WINEpak? Avoid at any cost.

 

A 2007 Update.

A new Australia Post Mailer

The above article was written a couple of years ago, seemingly the only action from then was that Australian Post gracefully allowed the WinePak to fall out of service, which is a good thing given the experiences above.

 

From my occasional visits to Australia Post since that time the wine mailers had reverted to foam shippers, which, as noted above, work well, insulate the wine and are readily reusable. The lack of being able readily recycle remains an issue, particularly for those of us who receive a significant number on the front doorstep, however seemed to be the best approach around.

 

In more recent times Australia Post has come forward with a new mailer that, in initial trials to and from the front doorstep, appears to fulfil the role well, and what’s more it’s made of fully recyclable cardboard. It consists of an inner section that holds the wine and will expand to suit a wide range of bottle shapes, including tall and wide bottles. This sits within an outer cardboard shell that completes the bottle packaging. A nice feature of the design is that the top and bottom extend a bit to provide additional protection during shipping.

There’s also a companion two-bottle mailer that applies the same principles, with the matching result of a good secure package to ship a bottle or two around the place.

 

All in all a nice design which is practical, reusable and recycleable. Nice one Australia Post.

 

and one more little update:

 

Today I also received a 3-pack of tall Riesling-shaped bottles from Delatite, simply shipped in a sturdy cardboard box. A nice solution when you’re sure about the shape of the bottles. Being aromatic whites it’s a fair bet not many of these 3-packs will be landing on Ric’s doorstep, but it works for me!

 

 

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