Champagne Telmont, a Damery-based house that is part of the Rémy Cointreau group, has recently finished trials of an 800g Champagne bottle, made in partnership with glass manufacturer Verallia, that pushes the very lower weight limits of what is technologically possible for bottle-fermented wines. The lightest standard bottles currently available are 835g.
Does shaving off a further 35g really make much difference to carbon emissions? Ludovic du Plessis, president of Champagne Telmont, thinks so: ‘Our goal is to become net positive by 2050….when we looked at our carbon footprint, 24% of it is from the bottle. We need to tackle the product,’ he said.
The 35g reduction saves a further 4% on production alone. It wasn’t easy to come by, though. ‘We couldn’t play with the bottom of the bottle as it receives too much shock,’ du Plessis addwd, so the weight loss ended up coming from the shoulders.
Telmont’s findings mirror that of Champagne’s pioneering efforts to measure its carbon footprint in 2003, which found that only about 15% of the region’s carbon emissions come from the vineyard and winemaking activities. Combine that with packaging and freight, though, and the figure is almost 50%. Since 2011, bottle weight has been reduced from 900g to 835g, already saving 8,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Telmont’s new bottles, made from 87% recycled glass, underwent a rigorous crash test regime that involved 3,000 units undergoing not only a full second fermentation, but also disgorgement, labelling, freighting, temperature tests and even a trial shipment to Singapore. After six months, only one bottle had broken.
Explosions were common in the 19th century, even though Champagne bottles weighed well over 1kg. Manufacturing irregularity and winemaking imprecision meant that around 5% of Champagne bottles did not survive the pressure created during the in-bottle fermentation (a number which was regularly between 20%-80% until 1836 when Champenois chemist Jean-Baptiste François invented a scale that allowed winemakers to precisely measure the amount of sugar required). Visitors to Champagne’s cellars will still see some (strategically-placed) exploded bottles, reminders of the somewhat hazardous work of the past.
A return to such risky times is clearly something the Champenois want to avoid, but Telmont’s lighter bottle is an example of how the Damery-based house appears prepared to go further than most in its ecological pledges. Its 46-page sustainability guide of January 2023 includes a commitment to ensure not only its own 25ha vineyards are organic, but the 55ha of bought-in grapes are, too; a move no other major house in Champagne has made. ‘Some of the growers don’t want to be organic, so we cannot renew their contracts. But there is a new generation in Champagne coming to us, asking to join,’ said Du Plessis.
He also pointed out that, unlike organics, Telmont sees no real benefit from the lighter bottle other than for its carbon footprint. ‘There are no patents, no exclusivity. If only Telmont end up using it, the whole exercise is pointless’, he said. Telmont’s commitment to use the bottles for all of its wines means there can be no clear glass (which uses no recycled glass, unlike the 87% used in the green bottle) and no special bottle shapes, either.
Following the trial, Telmont will be making 30,000 bottles in the new 800g shape, and the organic cuvée Réserve de la Terre will be available in these bottles from 2026.