Waitrose has become the first UK supermarket to test selling wine bottles without the familiar plastic and foil sleeves around the neck of wine bottles. The change will put an end to the need to cut and tear off this packaging, an act which wine drinkers are used to performing as part of the ritual of opening a bottle of wine.

The removal of sleeves, which form no functional purpose, is being trialled on Waitrose’s own brand Loved & Found wine range of lesser known grape varieties and wine regions. Initially four bottles will be sold without neck sleeves, which are officially known as ‘capsules’, and by the end of the year the packaging will be removed from the full range of ten Loved & Found wines as part of Waitrose’s plans to reduce unnecessary packaging.

Barry Dick, MW and Beer, Wine and Spirit Sourcing Manager for Waitrose said; “Bottle neck sleeves were introduced many years ago to prevent pests such as moths and weevils from ruining wines kept in dark, damp cellars. The caterpillars of this moth species would bore into the wine corks, causing the wine to leak, or taste musty.  Nowadays few people have wine cellars and those who do tend to keep them in much better conditions. This has meant that the sleeves have remained for purely aesthetic reasons and are no longer needed to protect wine.

“The quality of corks used by the wine industry has also been dramatically improved.  The bottles in our trial will be corked with a new FSC cork which has been extensively tried and tested for its ability to resist being contaminated with TCA, which makes corks smell and taste mouldy and ruins wine. TCA is the reason why cork fell out of favour, but cork has great sustainability credentials which is why it’s making a comeback.

“The bottles look quite different as the neck appears naked, so it will be interesting to see how our customers react to us removing these familiar sleeves.  I for one am looking forward to not having to wrestle with the packaging.”

Waitrose estimates that removing the capsules on its range of ten Loved and Found wines alone will save half a tonne of unnecessary packaging per year.

The first four Loved & Found new Waitrose wines to be sold in the sleeveless bottles from 24 April are:

Trincadeira – Alentejo – Portugal – 2021 vintage – £8.99

Zibbibo – Sicily – 2022 vintage – £8.99

Mascalese – Sicily 2022 vintage – £8.99

Lacrima, Marche Italy – 2021 vintage – £8.99

In another sustainability move, this year Waitrose converted as many of their small wine bottles as possible to cans, halving the carbon footprint per drink.