Monday, September 11, 2006

Featured Wine -- Brutocao Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

The "Bliss Box" Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon in a 3 liter box is from Brutocao Cellars. According to the Brutocao Cellars website, this wine is:

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:

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 San Francisco Chronicle

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

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About "Cork-Taint" and Plastic

So why was boxed wine preferred 2 to 1 over cork-finished bottles in a blind tasting by a group with very refine palates (see the previous post)? And why was wine in screw-cap finished bottles slightly preferred?

"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

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 .

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Boxed Wine Holds Its Own in Blind Tasting

For years wine afficionados have claimed the ability to detect a flavor of plastic, or a chemical flavor in boxed wine. Finally we have the results of a blind tasting comparing premium wine out of 3L box packaging to the exact same wine out of cork-finished 750ML glass bottles. The tasting was held at the Society of Wine Educators' Conference on July 13, 2006. The results appear to be very clear cut.

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

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