Most common from what I have seen in Washington is the molded fiber shipper, often made out of post-consumer recycled paper. These shippers come in a variety of different shapes and sizes for one bottle, two, or three bottles. The three bottle ones can be combined to make six and twelve bottle boxes.
The bottles are generally laying on their side, although there is a six and twelve bottle variant with the bottles standing upright. There are also ones that come in a clamshell design for one and two bottles. My personal favorite in this style is the two bottle shippers that have what look like hearts by the neck of the bottle – perfect for Valentine’s Day wine shipments (or that bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape).
One of the benefits of this type of shipping material from a winery perspective is that they are easily stackable. They are also recyclable and biodegradable. There are a couple different companies that provide this style, which probably accounts for two thirds or more of the shippers that I see.
A distant second in terms of popularity is similar except that the shippers are made of plastic instead of paper. These also come in a similar range of sizes and are also stackable. They are recyclable but not biodegradable.
After this there are a limited number of other shippers that I see used here. There are ones entirely made of cardboard where you can pull tabs out to secure the wine bottles. I see these pretty rarely. I’ve received the occasional bottle in bubble wrap (!) and in a box of peanuts. I’ve received some free floating in a box!
Less frequently these days I see various forms of Styrofoam containers. These have the advantage that they offer insulation. This can be especially important when shipping during warmer parts of the year (many wineries do not ship during the warmest and coldest parts of the year). However, they have the disadvantage of being difficult to recycle. Seattle, for example, does not recycle Styrofoam, although there are private businesses with drop off centers located in various places outside of the city.
The recyclability of shippers certainly is important. Whenever I receive a large number of wine shipments and break down the boxes, pile them up, and stack up all of the shipping material, it is impossible not to think about the environmental impact of it all – not to mention the glass bottles themselves and other impacts associated with shipping.
No idea on the various costs associated with each of the various options. Feel free to chime in if you do or if you have thoughts on shippers from a winery or consumer perspective.