YOUNTVILLE, Calif. -- The next big thing for the wine industry could be small, screw-capped, and shatterproof.
Single-serve plastic bottles are starting to show up on shelves in a bid to win new customers by moving wine beyond posh white-tablecloth dinners to the informal ease of a picnic.
If one of these green bottles should accidentally fall, no problem.
''There's a more active lifestyle people are living; they'd like wine to be a part of it and it just was not convenient in the 750 milliliter typical wine glass bottle where you have to bring corkscrews, glasses, and so forth," says Tom Slone, brand manager for Stone Cellars by Beringer, which has been selling four-packs of unbreakable, single-serve bottles since summer. The new, 187 milliliter (about six fluid ounces) bottles are part of a larger trend in the industry that includes boxed wine and cans.
There isn't much sales data available yet on the plastic bottles. But overall, domestic wine sales were up about 9 percent to $3.9 billion.
The Stone Cellars mini bottles are made of a durable plastic designed to be tasteless and odorless. They look like regular bottles in miniature, right down to the little indentation on the bottom, and are filled with the same award-winning varietals Stone Cellars puts in full-sized bottles. Four-packs cost about $8.
Consumer research ''indicated that even though people were looking at a smaller size, they wanted a package that looked sophisticated," says Slone. ''We didn't do anything trendy or quirky."