Saturday, September 30, 2006
This rule should work well for 750 ml bottles, but I suspect doesn't work so well for a boxed wine. The mass is too great, and the carboard box insulates too much for the temperature to change enough. But this brings me back to decanting, which I touched on two days ago in the Breathe Easy post. If I pour enough out of the box for the occasion at hand, and then put the decanter of red into the refrigerator (or the decanter of white onto the counter) for 10-15 minutes, I should get the desired result.
This is a nice excuse to buy more pretty decanters. This one pictured is spectacular! I think I'll go shopping!
Friday, September 29, 2006
Like the market around it, the wine industry’s supply chain is evolving rapidly. David Skalli of the Paris and London-based Skalli & Rein Consulting Firm talks to just-drinks about the changes and the pressures they are bringing to bear on everyone from logistics companies to wine producers.
And what role does alternative packaging play in the supply chain picture? Mr. Skalli says:
Wineries have to start thinking about the whole supply chain from the vineyard to the consumer. They have to use labels that will support high humidity and corks that won’t become dry in high temperatures during freight forwarding. Bag-in-box, screwcap and synthetic corks are sometimes a way for wineries to reduce that kind of risk. At the end of the day, customers buy a branded wine with a certificate of guarantee linked to it. If your wine is tainted it’s the winery that you’ll blame.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
... but how do you let it breathe???????????????????
Now, I've heard that before many times, from other people's mouths, and, I must admit, in my own head. This excellent response to the question came from "Chef":
Young reds usually benefit from breathing but only if they have been decanted. Don't expect much "evolution" of bouquet and taste if you merely draw the cork an hour before dinner. But decanting really does help. The agitation and aeration of the pouring releases previously closed aromas and has an "opening" effect on the flavour. As a general rule, the younger the wine the more breathing it needs.
And then "Wineaux" had this comment to add:
Yeah...sometimes, if a young wine is really weird tasting, I'll pour it into 2 glass pitchers and pour it violently back and forth between the 2 pitchers. Suprisingly effective for changing the taste...sometimes even for the better!
COOL!!! All this started to clear up some questions for me, so I dug deeper. I found a great article on About.com, entitled Tips for Letting Your Wine Breathe, :
How to Let Your Wine Breathe
Some erroneously believe that merely uncorking a bottle of wine and allowing it to sit for a bit is all it takes to aerate. This method is futile, as there is simply not enough room (read: surface area) at the top of the bottle to permit adequate amounts of air to make contact with the wine. So what's a Wine Lover to do? You have two options: Decanter or Wine Glass
Decanter - use a decanter,a flower vase, an orange juice pitcher, whatever - any large liquid container with a wide opening at the top to pour your bottle of wine into. The increased surface area is the key to allowing more air to make contact with your wine. Keep this in mind while setting up proper "breathing" techniques for your favorite wine.
The Wine Glass - Pour your wine into wine glasses and let it aerate in situ. This is certainly the low-maintenance method and typically works quite well. Just be sure to keep the glass away from the kitchen commotion, while it breathes in peace. * Tip, for pouring wine into glasses make sure that you pour into the center of the glass with a good 10-12 inches of "fall" from bottle to glass to allow for further aeration during the actual pour.
In general, the Aeration Rule of Thumb: the more tannins a wine has the more time it will need to aerate. Lighter-bodied red wines (Pinot Noir for example)that have lower tannin levels, will need little if any time to breathe.
Great advice! I particularly like the tip on 10-12 inches of "fall" into the glass; very easy to do from a box!
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Dear Jorge Ordonez, importer of wine from Spain, Bring us a good bag-in-a-box. Robert Parker may have just sung your praises in his most recent newsletter. He may have lauded some of your top wines such as El Nido with 97 points. But you have many great value wines ranging from Tres Picos, to Naia, to Juan Gil. Borsao is great juice for $6 a bottle. You need to put it--or something like it--in a bag in a box. There's certainly no lack of old vine grenache in Spain that rolls in at value pricing. Tap that wine glut. Boxed wine sales are the fastest segment with 204 percent growth over the past three years according to this story in August's Wine Business Monthly. They eliminate the need for glass so can make a claim to being better for the environment. And they are certainly more convenient for consumers who just want to squeeze off a glass or two every night for a couple of weeks. While in France this summer, Mrs. Vino and I -- and practically anyone who walked within 100 yards of the fridge for that matter -- enjoyed glasses of wine from a 5L box of rose that we bought for 12 euros.
HERE, HERE! The amount and variety of great wine available in bag-in-box in Europe is staggering. It's true, the growth of the 3L segment has taken a great leap in the last year, and we are seeing some excellent California wines, Pacific Northwest wines, and Australian wines in boxes, but scant availability from the Continent. There is still an amazing bias against the box, more prevailing among those who have not travelled overseas.
Dr. Vino, I hope Jorge gets your message!
The bulk of the class was dedicated to "component tasting." Did you ever do that thing in elementary school where you have to make a map of your tongue based on dipping cuetips into sugar water and salt water and bitter water and swabbing it in your mouth? It was like that, but with wine and no little kids going, ewwwwww. We were given a simple base wine (Almaden Mountain Chablis, a white box wine) which had been enhanced with six different flavors. The components were acidity (citric acid), sugar (sucrose), sweetness (glycerine), tannin (... grape tannin), oak (soaked oak chips in the wine), and simulated oxidation (adding dry Fino sherry). Most of the tastes were fairly subtle, but the tannin and the oak were quite strong. Apparently, by the way, if a wine smells like sherry (and thus not like "wine"), it is probably due to an overabundance of acetaldehyde, and means the wine has "gone bad."
So the Chablis was the starting point for training the nose to identify the six "tweaks". I've heard about this, but have never done it. Fascinating; I'd like to find a class like that!
Monday, September 25, 2006
Bag-in-the-box containers can keep wines fresh for four to six weeks after they're opened, thanks to the vacuum-sealed bag inside that collapses as the wine is consumed, making it difficult for oxygen to get in and spoil what's left. Although box wines often come in 3-L sizes, equivalent to four bottles of wine, more convenient 1.5-L boxes are becoming available.
The article concedes that bag-in-box has a certain advantage over the "juice box":
Juice box--style cartons don't offer that extra shelf life once opened, but they are more eco-friendly than bottles.
Thanks Sharon Kapnick and Time Magazine
The 2003 Cuvee de Pena, Vin de Pays Pyrenees Orientales ($10) is a medium-bodied red wine from the south of France. It's an uncomplicated delight that bursts with bright flavors of blueberry, cherries, earth and herbs. It's an outstanding wine for current drinking. It's also available in bag-in-a-box format - an especially good value.
Sounds yummy! Thanks Michael Dresser for bringing this find to our attention. Nice to see a recommendation of a really nice wine in a box getting out to readers .
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Perhaps it's unfair to Peter Vella Wines to start here. I do buy Peter Vella wines for cooking, and I have been known to slurp a little while preparing dinner, and some are not that bad. I'm sure there are people who love White Grenache, but I am not one. As a rule however, I do not present my own opinions here. Perhaps I can do better by Peter Vella Wines in the future, but today, this is what I put before you.
First, the description from the Peter Vella website:
The delicate salmon hue of Peter Vella® White Grenache comes from leaving the juice on its skins for just the right amount of time. Our White Grenache has a lighter body with enticing flavors of fresh, red berry fruit. The clean, crisp finish makes this wine a real winner on hot summer days.
Now, the only review I have ever seen in the press. In December 2003, Carol Emert of the San Francisco Chronicle tasted 31 boxed wines, including five in 5-liter packaging.
The traditional, 5-liter box wines ranged from surprisingly good to shockingly bad. ... The worst was Peter Vella's white Grenache, a wine that I will not taste again without hazard pay. My tasting notes say it best: "Ick. Skunky odor with port underneath. Cat food and gasoline. Cloying flavors. Oooooh, icky cat food finish. I MUST BRUSH."The San Francisco Chronicle
Thank you Carol Emert, for all your many excellent boxed wine reviews. Readers, you have been warned. There is nothing more I can add.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Wine by the box or by the bottle
The biggest wine-industry news focuses on wine in a box.
There are many good reasons for this type of packaging, among them: Wine in a box doesn't take up refrigerator space because the airtight sack inside the box preserves the wine fresh for weeks at room temperature.
This puts an end to the cork-vs.-cap controversy because wine in a box needs neither cork nor cap; instead, a small plastic spigot attached to the sack draws a glass or decanter whenever desired without replacing it with air, which in a few days would age the wine in a recorked bottle.
Thank you to Robert Kirtland for embracing the box!
Monday, September 18, 2006
As I have stated, I will not exclude plonk from this blog, nor will I draw the line at stupid human tricks involving plonk. I am not surprised that 5 liter boxed wine is required equipment for at least one drinking game. I am however surprised that 5 liter boxed wine has become the THEME of an apparently widely known drinking game. The game is called Slap the Bag, and I have found a number of descriptions of the "rules", but I like this particular version; it treats the topic with the dignity it does not deserve:
Slap-the-Bag plays an important role in all awesome parties, blackouts, and festivities. To set the record straight, and to clarify for everyone who wishes to partake in this wonderful competition, we are laying out the "official rules" of Slap-the-bag.
1- Play is limited to 8 persons per bag of wine. One bag of wine shall be required for every 8 persons or part thereof.
2- Play shall include only Franzia brand boxed wine. Other brands have been known to leak or burst with repeated impact.
3- Slap-the-Bag may commence with a "practice-round." If you are a late joiner, you are not entitled to a "practice-round."
Rules of Play:
1- A game of slap-the-bag will commence with a chilled bag of wine being removed from the box. The player who purchased the wine is entitled to begin the competition, but is not obligated to do so. He may give the bag to a person of his choosing, who in turn must accept.
2- A player begins his turn by consuming a quantity of the wine. He then proceeds to slap the bag, hoping to make a valid "smack."
3- The rest of the players vote, gladiator style, on the volume/resonance of the players smack, to determine whether it was valid. If there is a majority "thumbs-up" the player will pass the bag by pitching or heaving towards the next player. The bag may not be handed off. Once passed, the next player shall begin his turn; see Rules of Play item 2.
4- Slap-the-Bag game is complete when the bag of wine is emptied. When consuming, you are not allowed to pause, or come up for air, or take a break. This will result in the end of your turn and play will proceed to the slapping and voting stage.
Pretty stoopid ... I was about to say "as far as drinking games go". But then I realized that I have no experience with drinking games, and there may be no such thing as a smart one. Thank goodness the rules prohibit use of decent quality boxed wine.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
The English Farm was purchased in 1903 by winemaker Carl English’s grandfather and great-grandfather, Carl S. and Jude English. Its 200 acres first grew potatoes and 8 children and then the property’s buildings served as a dairy farm until the early 1970's. Now, the more manageable 20 acres sit amidst a growing suburbia. The buildings have been renovated since Carl returned to the farm in 1977 and today make the perfect spot for a winery and tasting room.English Estate Winery News
In 1979 Carl began research on the Clark County, Washington soil, microclimate and general grapegrowing viability, culminating in a report titled, Winegrowing in Clark County Washington. Carl's research revealed that the Clark County soils and climate are equal to, or better than, any other winegrowing area in the world. Carl began planting wine grapes in 1980, then planted almost 4 acres of pinot noir vines in 1983, producing his first vintage for personal use in 1987. His wines were lauded by family and friends for many years, and in 2001, English Estate finally opened its doors, and Carl began offering his wine to the public. Carl’s winemaking philosophy has always been to promote the fruitiness of the grape, and in the various styles of wine he produces, the fruitiness is very prominent. He also believes in the great versatility of the pinot noir grape and thus produces pinot noir wine in many ways, to include pinot noir reds, nouveaux, and his Nectar, or sweet pinot noir sipping wine. The wines are currently available at the winery tasting room, online and in various Washington restaurants and wine shops, but if you get the chance to experience the character of English Estate and sip wine there, the charming setting of quaint, Classic American early-1900 farm buildings, towering sequoia and oak trees, seasonal flowers and burgeoning vines will transport you to another time. Located only 20 minutes from downtown Portland, Oregon, English Estate and its wonderful pinot noir wines are a necessary trip for the wine lover.
English Estate Winery's Purple Thistle Wine Club offers members 20% off on wines, and a free wood "Beautiful Box" for 3-liter wines. Membership is free with a minimum commitment of 3 bottles or one 3-liter box per quarter.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
In A Loaf of Bread, a Box of Wine?, subhead Good wine in strange containers, wine writer Mike Steinberger attributes the appeal to "the call of the gutter: the proclivity of highbrow purveyors (of food, art, couture, etc.) to seek edginess by embracing the lowbrow." He then concedes there are other reasons beyond simple "slumming". Unfortunately, his explanation of volume for outdoor activities completely misses the point as well. Wine in a box provides good value to the me, the wine consumer, and not just because I can buy a larger container, but also because:
- the wine is more economical for the winery to package;
- more economical for the distributor to ship;
- more economical for the merchant to store;
- more economical for the merchant to display on a shelf;
- and once I've opened it, the wine keeps for weeks, or months. I can enjoy a glass a day, and the last glass is as enjoyable as the first.
Dtour 2004 Mâcon-Villages (France), $37 (3-liter tube)
Very assertive aromas, with a big whiff of honeysuckle, and some pineapple and verbena thrown in. Crisp and clean in the mouth, with more honeysuckle and a pronounced grapefruit note. Gently spicy across the palate. Nice.
Dtour 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône (France), $37 (3-liter tube)
A spicy, inviting nose, redolent of cherries and with a subtle note of Provençal herbs. Warm, ripe, cherry fruit in the mouth with a not-unpleasant medicinal edge. Depth and persistence here, as well. An apples-and-oranges comparison, but I like this slightly better than the Mâcon.
Three Thieves 2005 Chardonnay (California), $10.99 (1-liter jug)
A nice tropical nose of figs, melon, and lemon. Unoaked, which is pleasant. A little too sweet for my taste, but clean flavors, good concentration, and a nice lemony finish. As California chardonnays go, I've had a lot worse for a lot more.
Three Thieves 2003 Zinfandel (California), $10.99 (1-liter jug)
Spicy, brambly red berry aromas—the sort sometimes referred to as "zinberry"—along with a distinct medicinal note. A warm, fairly rich wine, with good structure and a decent finish. The classic American barbecue wine in a barbecue-friendly format.
Banrock Station 2005 Chardonnay (Australia), $18 (3-liter box)
Full-bodied, somewhat creamy wine, with peach, lemon, and marzipan flavors and a lick of honey. Some heft to the wine, but not at all heavy; best of all, lacks the sweetness that mars so many chardonnays, particularly at this price point. Surprisingly pleasant.
Black Box 2004 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon (California), $18 (3-liter box)
Hello, roadkill—a blast of animal fur greets the nose, and then quickly, mercifully gives way to red berries, smoke, and clay. A cabernet light in color and light on the palate—more East Coast in style than California. That said, not bad—sprightly red fruit with a nice dash of spice and good structure.
Thank you Mike Steinberger, for getting the word out that good wine can indeed come from a box, and drinking it shouldn't brand one a rube. But really Mike, being able to take it to the beach without a corkscrew is just a bonus.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Compelling case for increasing bulk wine imports
15 September 2006| Source: Sally Easton
There are sound environmental and commercial reasons for increasing the bulk importation of wine into the UK, and producing wine bottles from lighter weight glass. And contrary to some misconceptions, writes Sally Easton, importing wine in bulk need not mean a drop in quality or even a lower image with the consumer.
One need only look at the advances in quality control of bag-in-box wine sold in the UK, much of which is imported in bulk.
Consider the costs of packaging, of shipping, of warehousing. From a global environmental perspective, the efficiency of boxed wine is clearly a plus.
includes "Bag in a Box" wine cask packaging along with eight other items that have made a significant contribution to South Australia's cultural identity.
The National Trust has placed "Chateau Cardboard" on a pedestal along with other such cultural icons as Bickford's Lime Juice Cordial and the Victor Harbor Horse-Drawn Tram.
So, why is the humble wine cask a part of South Australian heritage? It is yet another example of local innovation, continuous improvement and highly successful commercialisation. ... Fortunately for the wine makers who continue to provide the value-for-money product, and the millions of consumers who appreciate that and the convenience of the cask, the bag-in-a-box is still a ubiquitous symbol of Australian egalitarianism. It’s also a standard bearer for South Australian inventiveness and deserves recognition by being placed on a pedestal and in the spotlight as a BankSA Heritage Icon.
The article credits Angrove winemakers with invention of the "wine cask," introducing it to the public in 1965. Angrove is reported to be the first winemaker to put wine into bag-in-box packaging. However Scholle's invention of bag-in-box packaging for battery acid in 1955 most certainly predates Angrove's invention. (Please, no snide remarks involving the words "wine" and "battery acid" in the same sentence).
Whoever may be credited with the invention of bag-in-box packaging, Australia has most certainly brought it into the wine mainstream, and introduced to the world the concept of premium wine in a box. Chateau Cardboard - it's not just for "plonk" anymore.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
TV news is taking note of boxed wine in this recent report on CNBC's "On the Money". Julia Boorstin reports on the trend in premium boxed wines and how consumers are drinking them in. The report features shoppers' comments, and remarks from Black Box's Ryan Sproule. Boorstin reports that this year Constellation brands expects sell 2 million boxes of wine, which represents $40 million in retail sales.
See the video at Box Wine: Not for frat parties anymore.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Fruit-forward with flavors of ripe berries, black currant and spice. Enjoy it with hearty beef, pork or Italian dishes.Brutocao Cellars
In 2005 Carol Emert of the San Francisco Chronicle tasted this wine in a group of 30 boxed wines, and included it among 24 worthy of mention:
the San Francisco Chronicle
I enjoyed the bright and fruity 2002 Bliss Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon ($32), with its red raspberry, strawberry and sweet watermelon flavors and soft tannins. It's not a terribly varietally correct Cab, but it is pleasant and drinks easily.
The Brutocao family were winemakers in Venice, Italy. The Bliss family were farmers in the United States. So it was only natural that—when the Brutocao family came to America and married into the Bliss family—they would combine their two passions and become grape growers and winemakers. And the result was Brutocao Cellars. The winery is located on 475 acres of vineyards in southern Mendocino County. The family opened their winery in 1991. The 3L Bliss Box 2002 vintage is at present available on the Brutacao Cellars website, specially priced at $20 through the end of the year.
Thank you to Carol Emert for the review. If any other wine lovers out there have tasted the Bliss Box Cabernet Sauvignon, we would love to hear from you
"Cork-taint" is an issue that has been getting plenty of discussion lately, as synthetic corks have been making their way into the market. The synthetic corks are a good way to reduce the risk of taint. But the truth is that natural cork is not the only source of taint. The flavor of "taint" comes from a chemical called TCA. And the TCA can be present in the wine before it even goes into the bottle. The presence of TCA may be perceptable to the trained palate at levels as low as 1 ppt, and the acceptable threshold may vary by the wine, and the individual taster.
An excellent article in the 12/01/2003 edition of Wine Business Monthtly discusses taint, what it is, where it comes from, and suggests to me an answer to the question with which I started this post. Find the article at www.winebusiness.com
Some high points:
The chemical 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) is produced by the metabolism of trichlorophenol (TCP) by a broad range of molds. These molds are pervasive and ubiquitous. They can grow in and on any wood or paper product. Like most fungi, they require a fairly moist environment like a winery.
Now here's the kicker:
...plastic absorbs TCA, though the TTB does not permit putting plastic into wine to remove it (it does allow bag-in-the-box containers). Even the plastic liners on screwcaps can absorb TCA.
So, if there are low levels of TCA in a wine before packaging, possibly bag-in-box packaging reduces the concentration of TCA in wine by absorption into the plastic. And the same thing may be happening to a lesser degree in wines finished with screwcaps. This could explain why boxed wine would be preferred 2 to 1over cork-finished, and screwcapped wine preferred to a lesser degree. And this make a case for storing all bottled wines lying on their sides, even those finished under screwcaps and synthetic corks .
Experts Indicate Personal Preference for 3L Premium Cask Wine Over the Exact Same Wine in Bottles in a Blind Tasting at Society of Wine Educators’ 30th Annual Conference
A comparative blind tasting of innovative and cork‐ finished premium wines by a panel of experts at the Society of Wine Educators’ Conference held on July 13th revealed that wine in 3L premium cask holds its own against the exact same wine in 750ML glass bottles. In a blind tasting of Underdog Wine Merchants’ Killer Juice Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in both 3L premium cask and 750ML packaging, experts indicated a preference for the cask over the bottle by a margin of 2 to 1. Results for Kunde Estate Winery & Vineyards 2005 Estate Series Chardonnay finished in both screwcap and natural cork showed a slight preference for screwcap. Beyond taste, the experts cited excitement with the convenience factor so important to today’s consumers.
The blind tastings were held as The Alliance for Innovative Wine Packaging (AIWP) presented the “Market Building, Innovative Wine Packaging” panel at the Society of Wine Educators: Wine, Wit and Wisdom Conference in Eugene, Oregon. The panel explored market trends in innovative packaging. Joel Quigley, AIWP Director and Senior Director of Creative Services for Paige Poulos Communications moderated the panel, which included Tim Bell, Director of Winemaking for Kunde Estate Winery & Vineyards, Brendan Eliason, Proprietor and Winemaker for Periscope Cellars, and Adam Richardson, International Winemaker at Underdog Wine Merchants. All three panelists have moved into the use of innovative packaging and closures on part or all of their production for premium, super‐premium and ultra‐premium wines.
ʺAs a winemaker, Iʹm very excited by the outcome of the blind tasting,ʺ said Adam Richardson. ʺThis once again proves that 3L premium cask wines offer consumers yet another choice without sacrificing quality. The bonus for the consumer is that we pass on the savings in packaging and freight costs directly to them.”
“The results here – and other market trends – show that wines in innovative packaging are poised to lead the growth of the wine market in the U.S.,” said Paige M. Poulos, APR, President of Paige Poulos Communications. “There will always be a place on the table for fine wines in glass bottles—innovation will take wine to new places, safely and affordably, with no sacrifice in quality or style.”
It's interesting and, I believe, telling, that the 3L box was preferred 2 to 1, and the screwcap was "slightly" preferred. Next time I'm back, I will post a link which may help to explain this