Sixty-six wine professionals from around the world judged the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and later visited award-winning Finger Lakes wineries and attended a lunch at Waterloo Container in Waterloo, N.Y. The lunch-and-learn event featured three of the top beverage packaging manufacturers in the U.S. introducing new packaging innovations. These are innovations that can be expected on the shelves next to wines – or maybe holding wines – in the very near future.

Speakers at the luncheon included Ted Ramsey, Amcor Stelvin; Walter Schaefer, Ardagh and Wes Ward, Nomacorc. Waterloo’s new training facility made its debut during the education session, which included screw top closures, new wine bottles and a zero-carbon footprint cork made from sugar cane.
Stelvin is introducing a wine screw cap closure, the Stelvin P, for sparkling beverages. The new closure withstands up to six bars of internal pressure, effectively protecting carbonated beverages while controlling the OTR levels in the bottle, the company says. 

Waterloo Container has designed a champagne-type bottle to coordinate with the Stelvin P for sparkling wines. The pressurized bottle is used for sparkling wines, hard ciders and other lightly carbonated products, which are often limited to high-end bottles with high pressurization, even though they only give out a low pressure. The bottle holds up to three volumes of carbonation with a reinforced heel plate and walls.

The Select Bio cork unveiled by Nomacorc is the first zero-carbon footprint cork. Made from sugar cane, the cork is recyclable, sensory neutral and made in factories that run on solar and wind power. The new cork also allows for a high level of oxygen control, the company says.

Ardagh introduced two new types of bottles and a new manufacturing process. These 3D printed bottles are made at their headquarters in Muncie, Indiana. Using this new, up-and-coming technology allows them to print a bottle in 24 hours. New bottles are a hexagonal-shaped stackable bottle, which makes for an interesting shelf display, and bottles with a pour spout finish to eliminate drip.

“We hope to continue events like this in the years to come,” said Togo DeBellis, executive vice president at Waterloo Container, in a statement. “Our goal in creating this training facility is to offer educational and training opportunities like this one to professionals and our customers in the industry.”

In other news, The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, hosted each March, is the single largest fundraiser for Camp Good Days and Special Times, an organization supporting kids battling cancer. A new award introduced by sponsor Waterloo Container further contributes to the cause. The new award recognizes excellence in packaging among the competition’s top wines in seven categories. 

“Packaging is arguably the most important aspect of a wine on a shelf,” said DeBellis, in a statement. “How a wine looks on the outside is the only information a customer has when buying a wine for the first time. Our judges looked for innovation and package design, including container, label, closure and shelf impact while evaluating for these awards.”

Johnson Estate Winery received a Double Gold for their Vidal Ice Wine package in the Ice Wine category. “Packaging should speak to how much effort you put into making the wine,” said Jeff Murphy, winemaker at Johnson Estate Winery, in a statement. “So this especially holds true for our ice wines. The most important elements of a good package, for us, are that it is eye-catching, shows off the product inside and is simple enough to show off the bottle as well. Our logo is also an important part of our packaging because it tells the story of the winery. Since the winery started 50 years ago, we’ve had the same logo showing the vineyards and the estate. We are proud to grow, produce and bottle everything right here. Our logo carries that estate brand through all four different labels that we use on our wines.”

Ventosa Vineyards received a Gold medal for their Cabernet Franc package. “We make big, bold, drier red wines and prefer higher-end wine bottles closing with traditional corks,” said Danielle Pezzuti, marketing director at Ventosa Vineyards, in a statement. “Customers see that the bottle is high-end and know that the wine inside must be of premium quality. Our label and packaging is simple and powerful yet sleek and clean. Our Oak tree logo, which is a representation of the oak that sits in the middle of our vineyards, makes a powerful statement. And we keep this theme throughout all label designs, keeping it simple so as not to overwhelm or confuse the consumer. We just make sure to have the essential information you need to purchase a wine.”

Winners of the Packaging Award:
Category: Merlot
Double Gold: Romeo Vineyards & Cellars, Sempre Vive Sauvignon Blanc
Gold: Pollak Vineyards, Merlot

Category: Riesling
Double Gold: Colloca Estate Winery, Riesling
Gold: Wagner Vineyards, Semi Dry Riesling

Category: Cabernet
Double Gold: Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon
Gold: Wallis Family Estate, Little Sister Cabernet Sauvignon

Category: Ice Wine
Double Gold: Johnson Estate Winery, Vidal Ice Wine
Gold: Idol Ridge Winery, Vidal Blanc Ice Wine

Category: Cab Franc
Double Gold: Atwater Estate Vineyards, Cabernet Franc - North Block Six
Gold: Ventosa Vineyards, Cabernet Franc

Category: Fruit Wine
Double Gold: Domaine Labranche, Maple Wine Labranche
Gold: 21 Brix Winery, Raspberry

Category: Chardonnay
Double Gold: Oliver Winery, Vine Series Chardonnay
Gold: Pollak Vineyards, Chardonnay

To be eligible for the award, packaging must have been manufactured in the U.S. or Canada. Judging was based on innovation and package design, including container, label, closure and shelf impact. Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing Togo DeBellis, of Waterloo Container, assembled a team of judges that included marketing professionals, packaging manufacturers and Waterloo Container employees.

The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition was held at the Rochester Plaza Hotel & Conference Center and is the world’s largest charitable wine competition, benefiting Camp Good Days. On March 21-22 the competition hosted 72 judges from around the world who evaluated 3,700 wines, with awards given in 8 categories.