Tag Archives: wine packaging

wine news

Winebits 438: Regional wine, wine bottles, Total Wine

regional wine• Even in Nova Scotia: The government in the Canadian province will spend C$3.5 (about US$2.7) to help vineyards and wineries, an almost unprecedented investment in a part of the world where one doesn’t think of wine. But the provincial government sees wine as a way to create create jobs and boost economic development, which is something progressive and far-sighted governments do (right, Texas?). In fact, there are 11 wineries in the province, and the modern Nova Scotia wine industry is 25 years old.

• More than just a bottle: Will wine drinkers ever accept anything other than wine in a 750-ml bottle? Can the wine industry meet that demand? This is a chicken and egg question, and particularly since experts and consultants insist wine drinkers want something else and consumers keep buying wine in the traditional bottle. The Wine Intelligence consultancy parses the issue, and realizes that “part of the issue remains one of cost. One [750-ml] bottle incurs less dry goods cost than four mini [187.5-ml] bottles, and price sensitive consumers have historically been reluctant to pay more (relatively) for less.” In other words, wine drinkers don’t want to pay more for convenience, and this doesn’t take into account that smaller sized bottles (as well as cans, boxes, and what have you) have usually been used for inferior wine.

• Total Wine changes: The man who runs the country’s biggest liquor chain is stepping down to go into politics. David Trone, who started Total Wine with his brother Robert and led it to almost $2 billion in sales and some 120 stores, is leaving to go into politics. He was an unsuccessful congressional candidate in Maryland this spring, and says he wants pursue a career in public service, which may include another congressional run or a presidential appointment. This is intriguing news, and not just because of politics. Trone, whom I have interviewed, is one of the smartest retailers I have met, and Total’s success owes much to he and his brother’s vision. If he isn’t there, can Total continue to grow?

wine news

Winebits 399: Wine packaging, craft wine, vinho verde

wine packaging

? Stack those bottles: The Wine Curmudgeon rarely gets to offer advice to big-time financial reporters, but Charles Passy at the MarketWatch website should check out this post about wine packaging. Or this one. Consumers aren’t much interested in wine that comes in containers that aren’t 750-milliliter bottles. That should temper his enthusiasm for something called XO G wines, four 187-milliliter bottles that come stacked on top of each other. He waxes poetic about the packaging, even though there has traditionally been little interest in this kind of bottle. Interestingly, Passy says it doesn’t matter that XO G can best be described as “not horribly offensive,” since wine drinkers will buy the product because the packaging is clever. I wonder: Would he have written that sentence about any other consumer packaged good, advising us to buy not horribly offensive ketchup because the bottle was cute?

? Do grapes matter? A Tennessee craft spirits producer whose motto is “booze for badasses” will expand into wine, so perhaps they should read Friday’s post about craft wine. It’s one thing to buy grain to make whiskey; it’s something completely different to buy grapes from California to make wine in Tennessee (to say nothing of the difference in production techniques). As the line gets blurred between craft products, expect to see more of this happen. How successful these endeavors will be will depend on whether the companies are serious about it, or whether they see it as as nothing more than marketing. In which case they’ll be stuck with a lot of unsold Tennessee chardonnay made with California grapes.

? Lots of green wine: Vinho verde, the cheap and simple and often satisfying Portuguese wine, sold more than one-half million cases in the U.S. last year, an amazing total for a product with no marketing, little brand recognition, and limited distribution. The story doesn’t seem to know why this is happening, though it does make an effort to include premiumization in the explanation even though most vinho verde costs less than $10. That people are buying vinho verde because it isn’t expensive, tastes slightly different from white wine at that price, and is fun to drink has apparently escaped them.

winerant

Why don’t these wines have screwcaps?

scewcapsThe Wine Curmudgeon has been tasting mostly red wine this month, and especially cabernet sauvignon, in an effort to get more wines that I don’t normally drink on the blog. Quality, even around $10, has been surprisingly good, but there has been one major disappointment. Not only do most of the wines have corks instead of screwcaps, but they come in heavy, old-fashioned bottles.

Which raises the question, which I’ve raised before and which is worth raising again: Why don’t these popularly-priced wines use screwcaps and come in lighter bottles? That would make the wines less expensive to produce, lower their carbon footprint, increase profit, and even possibly lower cost. And neither would affect quality.

Consider: The bottle for a 2003 white Burgundy — about as high end as wine gets — weighs 22 ounces and is closed with a cork. The bottle for the $5 Rene Barbier wines, closed with a screwcap, weighs 14 ounces. Yet most of the producers whose wines I’ve tasted use some kind of cork and unnecessarily heavy bottles, often closer to the white Burgundy than the Barbier. Some examples:

? The $11 Pigmentum malbec from France, 19 ounces, artificial cork.

? The $12 Errazauriz cabernet sauvignon from Chile, 15 ounces, screwcap. Ironically, the producer recently changed bottles, cutting the weight by 12 1/2 percent. Otherwise, it would be 17 ounces.

? The $12 Josh Cellars cabernet sauvignon from California, 22 ounces, natural cork.

? The $16 Bonterra zinfandel from California, 23 ounces, artificial cork. The irony? That Bonterra is one of the best selling green wine brands in the country.

? The $17 Downton Abbey claret from France, 19 ounces, natural cork.

In these cases, sadly, appearance is all. The Downton Abbey is the most obvious example, but even the others work from the assumption that consumers expect quality wine to come in heavy bottles with some kind of cork. We can argue forever about screwcaps vs. corks, but the one thing that isn’t in debate is that screwcaps are perfectly acceptable for most of the wine we drink. And there is absolutely no debate about the bottle. This isn’t 1890, when bottle weight mattered, protecting the wine from the perils of 19th century shipping. Lighter weight, given today’s bottle technology, is just as effective. Fifty million cases of Two-buck Chuck are proof of that.

Obviously, what’s in the bottle matters most. At some point, though, the bottle and closure itself is going to matter, whether producers believe it or not.

wine news

Winebits 317: Kickstarter, cheap wine, wine packaging

Winebits 317: Kickstarter, cheap wine, wine packaging

How would this look in your back yard?

? Don’t we all need a tasting room? Kickstarter is one of the good things the Internet made possible, and I’d say that even if I didn’t raise money for the cheap wine book that way. Consider this: The WinePort portable tasting room for your back yard, devised by Annette Orban of Phoenix. She needs to raise $5,248 by the end of the month, but isn’t very far along despite the idea’s genius (and my $25 pledge). The WinePort measures 200 square feet and is made of recycled materials. Her target audience is wineries, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for wine drinkers who live in more hospitable summer climates than mine. Click on the link to pledge; you won’t be charged unless she reaches her goal.

? A toast to Korbel: The California winery’s sparkling rose that is, which was a sweepstakes winner in the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, one of the most prestigious in the country. The cost? $11, which means it will be showing up a review here sooner rather than later. A $12 rose, from Washington’s Barnard Griffin, was also a sweepstakes winner, though I doubt there is much availability. Korbel isn’t always a favorite of the Winestream Media; I wonder if there will be a backlash against it, as there was for Two-buck Chuck when it won double golds at another big-time California competition.

? Bring on the wine in a box: The always curious Mike Veseth at The Wine Economist visits Kroger to see if wine in something other than bottles is making any headway. His conclusion? There was an alternative packages section in the wine department, which “makes sense generally, I think, because wine has moved beyond the standard 750-milliliter and 1.5-liter glass bottles to include many other containers. The fact that there is a separate wall of these wines suggests that the customer who comes shopping for alternatives is a bit different from the glass bottle buyer.” In this, Veseth has almost certainly identified one of the biggest — and least understood — changes in the wine business: the growing divide between older and more typical wine drinkers and younger and less traditional wine drinkers.

Winebits 293: Wine packaging edition

? The Coravin 1000: How big a deal is the Coravin, which lets consumers drink wine from a bottle with a cork without removing the cork? It has not only been a hit on Twitter and the wine blogs, but made CNET, which is usually reserved for flashy electronics. The system uses a thin hollow needle to pierce the cork, which makes an opening for pouring the wine, and the cork reseals after the needle is pulled out. Meanwhile, argon is inserted into the bottle through the needle so oxygen never touches the wine, and so the wine won ?t oxidize. The words magical have been thrown around a lot, though the $299 price tag may speak to its efficiency as much as magic. The Wine Curmudgeon ?s antipathy for wine gadgets is well known; is the Coravin worth $30 bottles of great $10 wine?

? Anything but glass: My old pal Tina Danze at The Dallas Morning News did herself proud with this effort, in which the newspaper ?s tasting panel searched for summer wine that came in something other than a traditional bottle. The result? 10 wines that passed master with a very exacting panel, most of whom I have judged or tasted with. No surprise that Yellow + Blue made the cut, as did Black Box, but so did wine in a can, wine in a pouch, and several plastic bottles.

? The romance of cork: The Wine Curmudgeon has had his disagreements with wine corks and cork supporters (who can forget when the cork marketing type canceled his email version of the blog after this?), but I try to be fair. Cork does a nice job for 18th century technology. And it is so romantic, as this slideshow from the drinks business trade magazine demonstrates. It ?s really romantic. Of course, if wine was only about romance, we ?d still be making it the way they did in the 18th century.

Winebits 276: Packaging, climate change, Paul Draper

? Fetzer goes small: Ever wanted a glass of wine at a baseball game, but weren ?t able to buy one? That changed this month when Fetzer introduced what it ?s calling Zipz packs ? 100 percent recyclable 187ml PET containers (a form of plastic) of wine at several big league baseball stadiums. The Zipz will be available in stores later this year. ?Alternative venues ? are one of the hot topics in the wine business these days, as producers look for ways to sell wine in places where it hasn ?t been sold. I ?m skeptical, though, of wine at ball games, and I ?m as big a baseball fan as I am a wine drinker. It just doesn ?t seem like a good match.

? Weather and wine: This piece, from The Raw Story web site, doesn ?t mince words: ?Can any region continue to grow the exact same varieties and make the exact same style of wines? If what we know today is correct, that is highly unlikely. ? The reason is climate change, and it goes into great detail explaining what ?s going to happen and why. Grapes, say the experts, are important in understanding how climate change will affect other crops, since the wines are more sensitive to climate than rice, corn and soybeans, which could help researchers figure out how to better adapt these crops to warmer weather.

? Well-earned award: Paul Draper, the man behind California ?s Ridge Vineyards, has been named the 2013 Winemakers ? Winemaker by the Institute of Masters of Wine and the drinks business trade magazine. Ridge has long been one of the world ?s great wineries, and has continued to make honest wine when so many others were chasing scores and critical acclaim. Which, not surprisingly, is why he was honored: ?an approach that has been characterised by an emphasis on traditional winemaking practices, sustainable agriculture and a sense of place. ?

Winebits 235: Wine packaging

The glass bottle may not be endangered, but more producers are opting for different formats than ever before:

? Paper bottles: The world ?s first paper wine bottle will likely be on British supermarket shelves in the fall, reports the drinks business trade magazine.  GreenBottle, which makes the paper product, is finalizing negotiations with a top UK grocer to sell one or two wines in the new container later this year. The bottle has a plastic coating on the inside of the box, which gives it a 9- to 12-month shelf life. GreenBottle founder Martin Myerscough says he has seen ?huge interest ? from retailers in Australia, California and France, and plans to expand outside of Britain in 2013.

? Airline wine: Increasingly, those single-portion bottles served on airlines are made of plastic, says BeverageDaily.com. Cost-conscious U.S airlines are driving demand for the bottles, which are made from lighter, cheaper PET ? an oil-based plastic called polyethylene terephthalate. PET bottles not only cost less, but are 100 percent recyclable and easier to dispose of in a cramped airplane galley.

? Box wine growth: It ?s impressive, reports Shanken News Daily. Two of the biggest brands, Black Box and Bota Box, sold almost 4 million cases between them in 2011. And, though overall sales for boxed wine are still only 2 percent of the U.S. market, it ?s growing rapidly ? 27 percent in the 52 weeks through mid-March. What makes this even more impressive is that many retailers don ?t like to sell box wine, since it doesn ?t fit easily on their shelves, which are designed for bottles. That ?s why, in so many stores, the box wine is off in a corner.