February 20, 2007
Wine in a Box
Ryan Sproulee sauntered into the New Times office Friday afternoon, yet another vendor in town for the boat show.
The chipper, silver haired man produced three black milk-carton sized boxes containing the equivalent of 12 bottles of wine –the finest box wine, Sproulee conteded, in the country.
Sproulee began his venture in 2003, selling high-end bulk wine in vacu-sealed bladders. The wine would stay fresh for up to four months after opening and, at $22 dollars a box, it worked out to roughly $5.50 a bottle. Today his product, “Black Box Wines, ranks number seventeen in wine sales nationwide.
The second largest market, outside of northern California, is South Florida. The reason? Mainly boaters. “They just love the stuff,” Sproulee giggled, as he shot a foamy stream of decidedly drinkable Cabernet into a small glass. “It’s just a major part of the culture… boating and drinking.” The boxes, he says, are selling like hot cakes.
So the next time you’re out on the water and some yacht comes careening towards you –keep a lookour for that little black box. It may not help much with the wreck, but it’ll sure get you drunk while you wait for the Coast Guard. –Calvin Godfrey
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Premium boxed wine maker starts $4.5 million ad campaign
East Bay Business Times
February 26, 2007
by Chris Rauber
Fisheye Wines, a unit of the Wine Group specializing in wines packaged in 3 liter casks, rolled out a $4.5 million national TV ad campaign on Oscar night, aimed at 25- to 40-year-old wine drinkers.
The campaign premiered last week, airing during E! Channel's Academy Awards' Red Carpet shows on Sunday and on ABC's Grey's Anatomy and Boston Legal earlier in the week, said David Kase, president of San Francisco-based Kase Media Solutions, which plans for and purchases media time and space for its clients.
It features "hip" 30-second spots targeting young wine drinkers. The ads will run throughout the first half of the year on prime-time first-run episodes of ABC's Desperate Housewives, Lost, Grey's Anatomy, Brothers and Sisters and Boston Legal.
The new ads are meant to reinforce the growing popularity of both Fisheye Wines and "premium cask" or boxed packaging, say officials at Fisheye and its marketing partners. AC Nielsen data, for example, shows the category is the fastest growing segment of the wine business, up 44 percent over the past year, compared to just 3 percent growth in overall table wine sales.
According to Fisheye, each of its three-liter casks -- which are cardboard packages holding a collapsible bag holding the wine -- store the equivalent of four bottles of wine in a package that fits neatly into a refrigerator. That's slightly less than other boxed wines in 5-liter containers, which hold the equivalent of seven bottles. "Clearly the focus is, as the tag line says, 'Better wine, better idea,' " said John Randazzo, president of San Francisco's B.A.R.C. Communications, the marketing agency that developed the campaign, noting that "casks" sounds better than "boxes" when describing the product, and that Fisheye came to his agency looking for a way to link its packaging to the industry's traditional casks.
The Wine Group, based in San Francisco, is one of the nation's largest wine producers -- it sold about 42 million cases in 2005, according to Wine Business Monthly. Fisheye's brands include six premium vintage-dated varietals -- shiraz, chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. Its Fisheye 2005 pinot grigio in a 3-liter cask was recently awarded a Gold Medal at the 2007 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
Fisheye used B.A.R.C. to produce computer-enhanced imagery linking Fisheyes' contemporary-looking cardboard casks with the heavy-duty wooden casks used for centuries to store fine wines. One spot opens on a painting in the William Hogarth tradition, depicting 18th century revelers tapping into a cask of wine. Using stop-motion animation, the Hogarth era characters come alive and move into a modern-day pop art gathering.
"As screw caps replace corks, wine aficionados are increasingly looking for alternative ways to keep wine fresh longer," Alan Blavins, B.A.R.C.'s creative director, said in a statement. "Smarter-designed casks can maintain optimal taste for as long as six weeks. This campaign helps convey both the quality inside the cask and the quality of the cask itself."
Rauber is a reporter for the San Francisco Business Times.
Monday, February 26, 2007
- Trove 2005 Chardonnay - Bronze
- FishEye 2005 Pinot Grigio - Gold
- Black Box 2005 Pinot Grigio - Silver
- Delicato 2005 Pinot Grigio - Bronze
- Trove 2005 Pinot Grigio - Bronze
- Delicato 2005 Shiraz - Gold
- Glen Ellen 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon - Bronze
- Killer Juice 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon - Bronze
No Glassthe strong buzz, by andrea strong
Wine in a Box Is No Longer a Joke
by Andrea Strong
May 7, 2006
DO you know the satisfying "pop" you hear when you pull a cork out of a bottle of wine? Savor that memory, because with a slew of new wine packages - from jug to box, tub and even tetra pak - bottled wine may soon be obsolete.
The packaging revolution started in July 2003 when three men in the biz - Charles Bieler (Chateau Routas), Joel Gott (A Napa Valley winemaker) and Roger Scommegna (a Mendocino county vineyard owner) - got together to make wine more accessible to the masses. The trio launched Three Thieves, high-quality wine sold in a rogue glass container: a squat, screw-top jug. What started with just a zinfandel now includes cabernet sauvignon, syrah, pinot noir and an un-oaked chardonnay that will debut in New York City next month.
"Three Thieves was our opportunity to be free of the rules and kick the industry in the ass a little bit," says Bieler. "We wanted solid quality wine at about $10, and consumers realy love it."
Bouyed by the success of the Three Thieves jugs, the trio took things one step further with Bandits - a line of wine sold in 250-milliliter tetra paks, the laminated paperboard containers often used for soy milk. Priced at $8.9 for a four-pack, the wines debuted just over a year ago and feature merlot, pinot grigio and California cabernet.
"The paks are not bulky, heavy or breakable; they're an enviromentally renewable resource; and they're inexpensive," say Bieler. "The entire carton costs less than a wine cork, and the interior lining is a neutral and consistent way of packaging the wine so there's no concern about off flavors."
The tetra-pak Bandits are part of an even bigger trend toward 3-liter premium bag-in-a-box wines. Forget those 5-liter boxes you (justifiably) scoffed at in the 70s. This is actually stuff you're going to want to drink. The wines are fresh, vibrant, dry and refreshing - perfect for summer picnics or lazy evenings of grilling. And you can chose from among nearly a dozen premium boxed wines for your next summer bash.
From California, there's Black Box ($19.99 to $21.99 for 3 liters), Wine Block ($11.99 for 1.5 liters) and Delicato Bota Box ($16.99 for 3 liters); and from Australia, Banrock Station ($16 for 3 liters) and Hardy's Stamp of Australia ($16 for 3 liters). From France comes Cuvee de Pena 2003 vin de pays ($17.99 for 3 liters) and Dtour's "wine in a tube," a 2004 Macon-Villages chardonnay ($17.99 for 3 liters) created by chef Daniel Boulud, Sommelier Daniel Johnnes and winemaker Dominique Lafon.
"These wines have that Pabst Blue Ribbon effect," says Bieler. "This isn't wine to impress your mother-in-law. This is wine for watching 'Deadwood' and eating pizza."
While you gain the cachet of being on the cutting edge of a new trend, you won't be sacrificing quality. These premium bag-in-a-box wines are made the same way as bottled wines, but have the advantage of being kept in an air-free zone without the risk of being ruined by a faulty cork.
Sure, some of the romance is lost. But for easy-to-drink wines that you might sip at home, use for cooking or take to a party, you'll save money (because the packaging is so inexpensive) and help the environment (glass bottles take much more energy to recycle than paper), and the wine will last longer (four to six weeks after opening, thanks to the vacuum-sealed bags).
And you can be sure that the retro-chic packaging does not sacrifice quality.
"There's enough technology out there now that the boxes are not harming the wine at all," says Kym Apotas, assistant wine buyer at Astor Wines. "It's best for easy-drinking wines that you won't store for a long time."
These arguments go a long way to explain why premium boxed wine sales have grown 70 percent over 2005. But the question remains: Would you order a box of wine at dinner?
They guys behind Dtour are betting your answer is yes. DTour is now poured at DB Bistro, where it is decanted and served by the carafe for $17.
"It's and ideal wine for by-the-glass programs," says Daniel Johnnes, "because it alleviates the problems of corkiness and oxidation that are common with wines by the glass."
But not everyone agrees boxed wine should grace the inside of a restaurant.
"I know DB is serving boxed wine, but he wouldn't be selling it unless it was his own product," says Jamie Pollak, wine director of the Carlyle Hotel. "Idon't think you will see bag-in-a-box wines in restaurants."
Her fellow wine wags agree: "I don't see it unless it's part of wine-by-the-glass service," says Fred Dexheimer, beverage director for BLT restaurants. "Wine service at a restaurant is all about bringing a bottle over and the ritual of beautiful wine. I don't mind it, but it's best for home use."
"It depends on the situation," says Sheri de Borchgrave, wine columnist for Hamptons Cottages & Gardens. "When you are outside in the summer serving wine, it's perfect. The quality is not lessened by a more pedestrian enclosure."
I do agree that boxed wine in restaurants will only really have a place in by-the-glass (or carafe) programs. Avec restaurant in Chicago sells the Cuvee de Pena 3L box for over $80. I would only spend that much on wine in a restaurant to serve a large party. And in a group large enough to consume that much, I would prefer a variety of several bottles, rather than a single selection.
Many diners don't realize that the Inglenook house wine they slurp by the glass at the neighborhood restaurant comes out of a 10 liter box. The trend in premium boxed wines now makes possible by-the-glass offerings of vastly better quality. A few restaurants are taking advantage of this now, and most certainly this will become more and more common.
Of course for home glass-a-day consumption, and active outdoor life, the box is the bomb!
TABORGA Chilean Wines Introduce First 3L Bag-in-Box Wine From Chile
TABORGA Chilean wines, produced by award-winning, FLO Fair Trade and IMO Organic certified vineyard, Lomas de Cauquenes from the Maule Valley of Chile, are offering the first available 3L Bag-in-Box wine for the US market.
Coral Gables, FL (PRWEB) February 13, 2007 -- TABORGA Chilean wines will begin offering the 3L Bag-in-Box to the US market as one of the first entrants from Chile in this segment.
TABORGA Chilean wines are the entry level line offered by Viña Lomas de Cauquenes and C&C Imports, LLC. They are estate bottled and produced by the first Organic Certified vineyard and 1 of only 2 FLO Fair Trade certified producers in Chile. TABORGA wines recently received Silver and Bronze medals from the Beverage Testing Institute in the World Value Wine Challenge in the under $8 category. TABORGA wines decided to offer the 3L Bag-in-Box to the US market after researching the success in Northern Europe of the size, the lack of a Chilean offering in the US and the current segment success since 2003 which has made it the leading packaging segment in terms of growth.
TABORGA table wines offer incomparable value, artistically designed labels and explosive point of sale advertisements in the $5 retail range. The labels were painted by a young Chilean artist, of which the wine also bears her name, who uses her unique yet traditional style to accentuate the contents of these incredible wines. TABORGA wines began with the sale of Red (Cabernet/Pais blend) and White (Moscatel/Semillon blend) table wines characterized by their corresponding colored labels. The brand is expected to grow at the national level and accomplish a top market presence within the year.
About C & C Imports, LLC
C&C Imports, LLC, (www.candcimports.com) the U.S. importer, was founded in January 2005 in Miami, Florida and is based on a cooperative agreement with Viña Lomas de Cauquenes located in the Maule Valley of Chile who is producing and estate bottling Melania, Melania "Coleccion Especial", Melania "O" and Taborga brands, Fair Trade (FLO) certified Chilean wines.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Wine in a box?Wine in a box?
Premium wines can come in surprising packages. Read about the trend and see our top picks.
by Kate Chynoweth
When winery owner Jill Beaven hosts a dinner party, she fills two carafes — one for each end of the table — from a cardboard box of her own Cabernet Sauvignon that she keeps on the countertop. “It looks pretty, and pouring the Cabernet in advance lets it breathe a little bit and open up,” she says.
You know things have changed in the world of wine when you have to let boxed wine breathe.
Jill and her husband, Andrew, source their vines from a producer on South Australia’s Limestone Coast, an area comparable to California’s Central Valley. Last fall, the bicontinental couple, who split their time between Seattle and Adelaide, launched Tindindi Cellars in the Northwest, selling their 2001 Cab and 2004 Chardonnay all over Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, building on the hottest trend these days in the once-snobby wine world: premium boxed wines.
Aussies have actually been drinking decent wine out of a box for years — more than 50 percent of all wine sold Down Under is square. (Ironically, they call it “cask wine,” even though the boxes look like anything but casks.) The States, on the other hand, have traditionally snubbed anything but the cork.
Technological advances in the last five years or so, though, have made boxed wines much better than the cheapo jug-style schlock of the past. And Americans are drinking up these newer options — as illustrated by the more than 75 percent increase in sales of premium 3-liter boxed wines last year.
“People are starting to realize that the box is just a package,” Jill says. “It’s what’s on the inside that matters. And in Seattle especially, you get a very wine-savvy audience — Northwesterners aren’t afraid to try something new.”
Info: Tindindi Cellars’ wines ($20; www.tindindi.com) are available in the Northwest at QFC as well as some grocery stores and specialty wine shops.
Five reasons to buy boxed wine:
1. You get more bang for your buck. Premium wines come in 3-liter boxes (the equivalent of about four bottles) and sell anywhere from $15 to $25 a pop. Do the math — you’re getting a good deal on a good wine.
2. There’s no pressure to polish it off in one night. Unlike a bottle, which goes bad within a day or two of uncorking, boxed wine lasts about four to six weeks.
3. You can drink it now. Forget about the whole let-it-age thing — boxed wines are meant to be drunk within a year of being made.
4. It’s transportable. Because it won’t shatter, boxed wine is perfect for picnics, the beach, and tailgates. Take the oxygen-tight bag out of the box and bring it backcountry camping.
5. You have a reason to use that carafe. A pretty decanter filled with red wine looks so good on your table.
When shopping, look for:
3-liter boxes. These hold the good stuff. Avoid the old-school 5-liter cartons.
The vintage date and the varietal printed on the box. You want more information than simply “delicious red wine.” More recent vintages are generally better — boxed wine is not meant for the cellar.
The region. Check for familiar winemaking regions such as southeastern Australia or the Napa Valley.
Sunset staff picks
Reviews on Tindindi’s Cabernet Sauvignon were mixed, but the Chardonnay was deemed passable, especially by those who like a big, oaky style. Of the 25 boxed wines tasted by 10 of our staff, including wine editor Sara Schneider and our food editors, five rose to the top. Most of these are available at Beverages & More, except for Wine Cube, which is manufactured by Target and available only at Target stores.
Black Box Chardonnay 2005 (Monterey County, CA; $18). Creamy, buttery nose (with hints of Golden Delicious apple) meets zippy citrus flavors on the palate.
Delicato Merlot Bota Box 2004 (California; $18). Earthy nose with dried cherries. Smooth tannins and a long finish make it pleasant.
Stonehaven Chardonnay 2005 (Southeastern Australia; $18). Minerals and acid keep it from being flabby, despite its buttery nose.
Wine Cube Pinot Grigio 2004 (California; $16). Who knew you could get good wine at Target? Crisp citrus with melon and stone fruit. Great food wine.
Wine Cube Shiraz 2004 (South Australia; $16). Bacony, leathery, earthy, with dark plums and berries.
Prime Time for Premium ''Boxed'' Wine TV Campaign Launches Fisheye Premium Wine Casks
Fisheye Wines, the innovative California premium winery offering award-winning Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Shiraz in 3-liter cask packaging, will roll out a $4.5 million national Television advertising campaign that premieres Oscar Week.
The hip 30-second spots, targeting influential 25-40 year old wine drinkers, will run on E! Channel's Live from the 2007 Academy Awards Red Carpet shows. Channel surfers may also catch the spot on prime-time ABC during first-run episodes of Desperate Housewives, Lost, Grey's Anatomy, Brothers and Sisters and Boston Legal throughout the first half of 2007.
The ads will reinforce the growing popularity of both Fisheye Wines and Premium Cask packaging. AC Nielsen data shows that Premium Cask is the fastest growing segment of the wine business, up 44 percent for the past 12 months, compared to just 3 percent increase in the total table wine category.
To convey the quality of Fisheye's award-winning wines, San Francisco integrated marketing agency B.A.R.C. Communications links the "new" casks to traditional ones used for centuries to store fine wines. One spot opens on a masterly painting in the William Hogarth tradition, depicting 18th century revelers tapping into a cask of wine. Through the magic of stop-motion animation, the old-world characters come alive and move into a modern-day pop art gathering.
Classic cell and computer-generated animation tells the rest of the story, including how each Fisheye cask stores the equivalent of four bottles of premium wine in a compact package that fits nicely in the fridge.
"Winemaking is an art, and so, increasingly, is its packaging," said B.A.R.C. Creative Director Alan Blavins. "As screw caps replace corks, wine aficionados are increasingly looking for alternative ways to keep wine fresh longer. Smarter-designed casks can maintain optimal taste for as long as six weeks. This campaign helps convey both the quality inside the cask and the quality of the cask itself."
"It's all about offering choices, but once premium wine consumers discover that ah-ha moment and that the exact same vintage-dated, bottled quality wine is available in both packages, there may be no turning back," says Fisheye spokeswoman, Laurie Lewis Jones. "It's simply a better way to enjoy a glass of fine wine a day."
Fisheye 2005 Pinot Grigio in the 3L cask was recently awarded a Gold Medal at the prestigious 2007 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Fisheye Wines offer five premium vintage dated varietals--Shiraz, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc in addition to the award-winning Pinot Grigio--sold in Premium Wine sections nationwide. www.fisheyewines.com
Saturday, February 24, 2007
For those lucky enough to live in thr wine regions of France, boxed wine is a normal part of life. I was surprised to see this scene at Domaine Rabassee-Charavin. Note the firehose at the side of the tank. While I was there, winemaker Corinne Couturier filled up one of the 5 litre boxes of her excellent Cotes du Rhone Villages - Cairanne for a local neighbor.
I however find very interesting the bag-in-box market penetration figures indicating percentage of wine market share by value.
- France - 9%
- Norway - 42%
- Sweden - 33%
- Finland - 25%
- Denmark - 12%
- Australia - 50%
- US - 6%
France's wine market is described as "traditionally conservative" regarding alternative packaging, and certainly the French lag way behind the Aussies and Scandinavians in that regard. But I think the pot's calling the kettle black, because US wine drinkers clearly take the cake for being "sticks in the mud" regarding bag-in-box.
Traditional French begin switch to bag-in-box wine
By Ahmed ElAmin
The bag-in-box is finally making inroads into France's traditionally conservative wine market, according to experts who gathered here in Montpellier for a seminar this month.
Worldwide, wine packaged in bag-in-box containers has been one of the fastest growing segments of the market, catering to consumers who want the convenience and longer shelf life it offers.
However France has been slow on the takeup compared to other countries, as consumers here prefer their wine in the more socially-acceptable bottle.
Bag-in-box must also compete with the personal plastic jug. The French always have the option of buying wine in en vrac. They show up at a merchant or chateau with a plastic jug and have it filled by tap from a large vat.
Producers have also shied away from the down-market image of the bag-in-box packaging, also known as casks.
But now the French are discovering the convenience of wine packaged in the format and producers are loosening their principles in an attempt to cash in on the only growing segment in a generally stagnant market.
Françoise Brugière of Viniflhor, France's national wine industry board, said a 2006 survey by the organisation found that 12.5 per cent of consumers said they had bought wine in bag-in-box packaging, a two percentage points rise over 2005.
The survey also found that 68 per cent said they would serve wine in the packaging to invited guests. Another 30 per cent said they would not.
Meanwhile a total of 74 per cent said the bag-in-box format was good for conserving wine. About 39 per cent of daily drinkers said the format was useful in helping them to control their wine consumption.
As a result of the increasing acceptance growth rates for the packaging segment are beginning to match those of other countries said Frédérique Vimont, a marketing consultant with Vitop.
Bag-in-box packaging now has a 9 per cent share by value of France's wine market, about the same as the UK. The figures do not include use by restaurants and other food service sector businesses.
Meanwhile the market penetration rate is up to 42 per cent in Norway, 33 per cent in Sweden, 25 per cent in Finland, and 12 per cent in Denmark, according to various statistics compiled by IRI France, ACNielsen Infoscan and TNS WorldPanel.
In Australia, which was one of the first countries to use the packaging for wine, the market penetration is about 50 per cent. In the US the market penetration is six per cent.
Vitop is an Italy-based subsidiary of the Jefferson Smurfit Group devoted to making taps, connectors and handles for the bag-in-box segment.
Meanwhile, Alan Dufrêne, an independent consultant to the industry, noted that bag-in-box wine is the only growth segment in the country's generally stagnant wine market.
The French are beginning to appreciate the cheaper price to volume value associated with the packaging segment, he said. The fact that this type of packaging helps extends the shelf life of even the most expensive wines, has helped boost the growth.
Unlike bottles, which once opened allow air to contact the wine, the bag-in-box bag contracts due to gravity as the volume of wine decreases.
Because the bag-in-box prevents the liquid inside from having any contact with the air on the outside, the quality of the taste of the product is retained and oxidation is prevented.
For consumers the container is also convenient as they do not require a corkscrew to open and can be easily transported.
For producers the packaging offers cost savings as more wine can be loaded for transport compared to bottles.
The packaging type can hold volumes from two to 20 litres. The interior is composed of a flexible bag made up of multilayer oxygen barrier films. A gland, which is also called a 'spout' or 'flange', is welded to the film.
The gland connects to a top through which the wine is poured. The whole is enclosed in a cardboard box.
Dufrêne noted that many of France's small wine producers are relying on companies who provide travelling packaging lines at their operations rather than investing in one themselves.
This trend piggybacks on the tradition of contracting travelling packaging companies to fill their wines on site, often from a rollout line in a truck. This service allows winemakers to put the coveted description that it was bottled at the place of orgin.
Only big producers can afford the €1m investment it takes to buy a full bag-in-box packaging line, one that can fill several million bags, he said.
Keeping quality high and standarding the packaging type and the filling proceedures is important to the continued growth of the segment, he said.
There are is growing body of international standards being forged by associations around the world, he said.
Dufrêne and two other experts are the authors of one of the industry's first guides to filling standards for the packaging segment.
The "Guide to Good Practices", in both English and French, was published this January by Performance BIB, an industry association formed to set standards for the sector.
It is aimed at helping small and large producers raise the quality of the final product, he said.
Such standards are helping to change the attitudes of consumers who previously associated bag-in-box packaging with cheap wines.
That perception is also changing as more upscale wine producers have accepted the concept for their more expensive wines, said Dufrêne.
The trend mirrors the general consumer shift worldwide away from the cheaper plonk towards more premium, high-quality wines.
"Don't put low quality wine in bag-in-box packaging," Dufrêne told wine makers at the one-day seminar. "It will only reduce its appeal."
A total of 57 companies and organisations are members Performance BIB, many of them suppliers to the wine and beverage industry.
Bag-in-box packaging, also known as casks, was originally invented 50 years ago by William Scholle as a disposable package for battery acid. Once the US military began using it during the 1970s and Scholle Corp. began expanded its uses into the beverage sector.
Once the barbeque mad Austrialians discovered the easy drinking joys of bag-in-box wine, the segment took off.
Since then bag-in-box has revolutionized the wine industry where it has increasingly replaced traditional bottles and corks. According to Scholl Corp. the soft drink industry now uses it as a delivery system for fountain syrup. In the dairy industry it is the standard container for bulk milk for dispensers.
In the food sector it is being used for packing tomatoes, bananas, pineapple, and other processed fruits and vegetables. These are aseptically packed in bags in either drums or totes.
Scholle remains the largest global supplier of the packaging, manufacturing bags in 15 factories located in Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.
The seminar in Montpellier, held on 1 February, was attended by about 150 industry representatives. It was hosted by the Association des Oenologues de Montpellier.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Wine's new bag
Pick of the week
Baldivis Estate Merlot 2004 ($13.95, No. 669069) is remarkably complex for something in a bag. The plum-like fruit and chocolate flavours are lifted by an earth-tobacco layer and juicy acidity. ****
Al Gore, your wine has arrived. Actually, I have no clue what the former U.S. vice-president and environmental guru likes to drink, or whether he drinks at all. (Though, judging by his expanded girth since losing the 2000 election, I can't help but think beer is involved.) What I can say is that the quality of wine going into environmentally friendly alternative containers has just taken a big leap forward.
Palandri, a producer based in remote Western Australia, near Perth, has chosen Ontario as its first market for a newfangled pouch technology called the Cheer Pack. You may have noticed one or two other squeezable bladders on the shelves of your liquor store lately, but this one is different. Exclusively licensed from a company in China that caters to the juice and soup sectors, the new pouch looks more like a hospital IV drip (only with a more colourful exterior) than something you would tuck into a child's lunch box. Square-sided and flat-bottomed, it stands up straight just like a Tetra Pak or bottle. And no, there's no pointy straw for piercing; the wine pours out of a resealable twist-off dispenser on top.
What's not new is the material. It's a sheet of sturdy aluminum foil sandwiched between two layers of plastic, just like the bladders in those big bag-in-box cartons used by Canadian jug-wine producers. It's a bag without a box, so to speak.
Cheer Packs have three distinct convenience advantages over Tetra Paks. They chill faster, are more flexible (so you can squeeze every gasp of air out of an opened container) and boast dripless spouts.
Best of all, the wines inside are remarkably good. In fact, they're not custom Tetra Pak cuvées at all. Palandri has bravely filled the Cheer Packs with its entry-level Baldivis Estate series previously released in bottles. These are premium wines with elegance, polish and admirable balance for the money. One white and two reds began hitting Ontario stores this week, and will eventually be offered at about 200 locations in the province, or roughly one in three Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores. Other provinces are expected to follow later this year and next.
Baldivis Estate Chardonnay 2005 ($13.95, product No. 669051) is medium-bodied and silky, with a floral bouquet and clean, fresh fruit flavours of pear, green apple and pineapple, with just a hint of oak. It's a versatile white that would pair well with fish or chicken.
Baldivis Estate Merlot 2004 ($13.95, No. 669069) is remarkably complex for something in a bag. Australia's main wine regions in the south are too hot for merlot, yielding wonky, cooked-tasting reds. But this merlot has the fresh backbone typical of reds from cool Western Australia. The rich, plum-like fruit and chocolate flavours are lifted by an earth-tobacco layer and juicy acidity. It would be nice for pork loin, duck, lamb or roast beef.
Baldivis Estate Shiraz 2003 ($13.95, No. 669077) is also excellent. The fruit in this wine comes from vineyards that normally supply Palandri's $25 glass-bottle reds; it was diverted into the Baldivis line because the 2003 harvest wasn't good enough for the premium line. It's almost zinfandel-like in richness, balanced by crisp acidity and a hint of cracked pepper.
I know Tetra Pak detractors (and there are many, and they have good points) will have their reservations about Cheer Packs. They'll justifiably complain about overstuffed landfills (although Palandri says the Cheer Packs are totally recyclable and qualify for the new 20-cent bottle refund at Ontario Beer Stores). They will also cite the dastardly evils of plastic, a material that refuses to decompose and chokes unsuspecting seagulls and what have you.
I am no plastic fan, but glass has its own ugly underbelly, and Cheer Packs have at least one compelling advantage on the greenhouse-gas front. A typical 12-bottle case of bottled wine weighs 16 to 20 kilograms, depending on the thickness of the glass. Remarkably, the same volume of wine stored in Cheer Packs weighs about half that, or 9.8 kilograms, and the carton is smaller. Think about it. Container ships, trucks and trains run on carbon-spewing fossil fuels. The heavier the load, the harder those engines have to work, and the route from Perth, Australia, to Perth, Ont., is a long one.
The way I see it, if you're not going to drink locally produced wine, you can try to curb fuel use from the outset, or you can be a glass guzzler, piously returning empties to the Beer Store (presumably in a car), after which they'll be shipped (by truck) to a recycling depot, where they'll be processed into an ingredient for asphalt (paving the way for even more carbon-spewing traffic). For us wine lovers, it is, as Gore might say, an inconvenient truth.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I'm sure many wine bloggers are scratching their heads in puzzlement, wondering what sort of noxious plonk they will find inside the dreaded box. But I say "Woo-Hoooo!" This sounds like fun! Decisions, decisions....
Domestic or import? There are a number of very good domestic boxed wines, and Australia is of course very well represented. European imports are a little more difficult to find, as they are generally distributed by small importers, rather than the wine giants. I believe I'll make a serious effort to obtain some wines less readily available (in my neck of the woods anyway).
High end or economy? There is a great deal of perfectly slurpable boxed wine available for the equivalent of $4.00 to $8.00 per bottle. At the extremes, one can spend as much as over $21.75 (per bottle equivalent), or as little as $0.25 (per bottle equivalent). I think I'll view this WBW as a great excuse to splurge!
Bag-in-box or Tetrapak (or even cans!)? That's easy. I don't even care for beer in cans. I'm not a fan of Tetra. I do not like the Tetra "glug." I believe Tetra's recyclability is questionable. I prefer the way the bag-in-box excludes air over weeks of dispensing. And as a sailor and camper, I like to eliminate the cardboard box altogether and drop the bag into a specially made soft tote (the bag-sans-box is the goatskin of the future).
I'm sure I won't be able to stop at just one selection. That means enlisting the help of a number of friends. Wine shared is the best wine, and with a least six liters to try, that's a lot of sharing. I can't think of a better way to spend what could otherwise be the most dismal four weeks of winter! WBW #31 culminates on March 14.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
We love boxed wine because we don't want to risk the hazards of glass on our boat, in our backpacks, on the beach, or at poolside. Now we can serve that boxed wine in a gracious manner; no need to settle for dixie cups!
I need to buy a set of these wine glasses for our sailboat! They're unbreakable Lexan, and the base unscrews for easy space saving storage