Waitrose is to test selling wine without plastic and foil sleeves around bottle necks, in what it claims is a first for UK supermarkets.

The removal of sleeves, which the company said form no functional purpose, is being trialled on Waitrose’s Loved & Found wine range of lesser-known grape varieties and wine regions.

Initially four bottles will be sold without neck capsules, and by the end of the year, Waitrose said the packaging will be removed from the full range of ten Loved & Found wines.

Barry Dick MW, 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.”

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 Waitrose wines to be sold in the sleeveless bottles from today are: Trincadeira – Alentejo – Portugal – 2021 vintage – £8.99; Zibbibo – Sicily – 2022 vintage – £8.99; Mascalese – Sicily 2022 vintage – £8.99; and Lacrima, Marche Italy – 2021 vintage – £8.99.