New generation, sustainable, reusable, ice-bucket resistant, bottle-hugging paper case instead of the usual gift box for Ruinart Champagne
Forget whether you like the look of it for a moment. Instead, consider the planet. Ruinart's 'second-skin eco case' is nine times lighter than the current gift box, its carbon footprint is 60% less than its predecessor's, it's 100% recyclable and uses no plastic. It also gives complete protection against the damaging effects of light on Champagne (light-strike) and, despite being made of paper, you can put it in an ice bucket and reuse it three or four times. As for the paper, it's pulped paper (aka cellulose fibres) made from wood sourced from sustainably managed European forests and it's compostible.
At present the second-skin eco pack is only available on bottles of the Blanc de Blancs and Rosé (both £69.99, Selfridges), but once you have one you could reuse it on another Ruinart bottle. It can't be used on other brands because it's moulded to the distinctive shape of Ruinart bottles (a case of one size doesn't fit all), but the house hasn't patented the design and techniques involved. "We want other players and other industries, such as perfume, to use it," said chef de cave Frédéric Panaïotis, revealing the new packaging at the end of July after two years of development and seven prototypes.
"Packaging alone produces 38% of Ruinart Champagne's greenhouse emissions, compare with 5–6% for viticulture"
Ruinart started looking at eco design in 2012 as part of its commitment to sustainability and a holistic approach to respecting the environment, which now includes zero use of herbicides, 100% green energy, installing solar panels on the roof of their HQ and winery and changing to LED lights in the cellars.
"We don't have the luxury to wait. It's about reducing greenhouse emissions," said Frédéric. And it's packaging and shipping that produce the bulk of their emissions. Packaging alone produces 38%, compared with 5–6% for viticulture and 13% for the whole journey from viticulture to labelling. "So this is where you can get more results," he said. Almost half of Ruinart's packaging (48%) is from Champagne, 87% comes from France and the rest is from Western Europe, except for 1%, which comes from China because it's the only country to make stoppers for re-sealing an opened bottle to retain the fizz.
Unsurprisingly, the cost of development, with manufacturing partners James Cropper of the Lake District and Pusterla, was considerable, but the cost of manufacturing each eco case is substantially lower than for the current gift boxes. Currently, they're made in the Lake District but Ruinart hopes to have another production site in Champagne in future.
The light-blocking eco case wraps around the bottle and clips on and off for reuse
Two particular challenges were making the paper completely impermeable to light and making sure that the pack was resistant to refrigerated storage and to a bucket of ice for several hours. To filter out all the light waves, a new technique had to be developed: enriching the cellulose mix with a natural metallic oxide.
Now to the appearance and to the inspiration for the textured effect that reminds me a little of elephant skin. In fact, it was inspired by Ruinart's UNESCO-listed crayères (chalk cellars). What do you think of it? I ask because there were a couple of choice comments about it on my original instagram post. Personally I like it, but would I if it wasn't so environmentally friendly, sustainable and innovative? I honestly don't know, but I couldn't but love the little clip-button on the back that allows you to take it off to reuse it.
As for the Champagne, the Ruinart Blanc de Blancs style is all about freshness, drinkability and creamy soft texture. The Chardonnay grapes are sourced from the Montagne de Reims as well as the Côtes de Blancs, and the fruit is very pure in style, with citrus, apple and peach, a floral note, a touch of ginger and a refreshing, lightly mineral finish.
Photographs by Joanna Simon