After the bottle: Trends in wine packaging

This is the first of a two-partimage look at what's new with wine packaging. On Monday, I'll look in more detail about what might replace glass bottles.

Be prepared for some big changes in the way wine is packaged, and that doesn't mean more screwtops. 

Yes, most wine is still sold in a traditional glass bottle with a traditional cork. But more wines are going to be packaged in more ways, odd though they may seem, over next couple or years ? single-serve bottles, juice boxes, and even plastic and aluminum bottles.

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Wine of the week: Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Rose 2007

image I’ll do my annual rose preview and review at the end of May, but no time is a bad time to write about rose. It’s cheap, it’s food friendly, and it’s versatile. Plus, the weekend forecast for Dallas says gorgeous spring weather, so the Wine Curmudgeon will be able to break out a bottle and sip it on the back porch.

The Santa Digna (about $10) has a little more body than many roses, thanks to the cabernet. But this Chilean wine from one of the country’s best known producers is still light and refreshing, and still pairs with everything from grilled chicken to hamburgers to pizza.

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A peek at the 2006 white Burgundies

image And they’re not bad. They’re probably not as good as the 2002 vintage, which was the best in at least a decade. In fact, tasting the 2006s Monday at a Louis Latour event in Dallas reminded me of just how terrific the 2002s were, and I’m going see if I can still find some.

The 2006s are probably closer to the 2005s in quality, and all we know for certain about 2005 is that the wines are drinking well despite being very young. This is not all that common for the best white Burgundy, which really needs to age for at least 5 to 8 years before it starts showing how good it is.

Ordinarily, wine that needs age is tight when it is young — think of a grapefruit that isn’t quite ready, when it isn’t sweet enough or acidic enough, but just sort of in between. You can tell, if you’ve eaten enough grapefruit, just how good it will be when it is ripe.

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Tuesday tidbits 21

? No champagne for Switzerland: Or, rather, a village in Switzerland can’t call its wine champagne, even though that’s the name of the village — and has been so 885. The prohibition is part of a European Union trade agreement which restricts others from using product names for well-known items like Champagne, Parma ham, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Products can only use those names if they’re made in that region. “In this village we no longer have the right to use our own name,” said a spokesman for the Swiss town.

? Wine sales in the U.S. increase again: They were up 3.9 percent in 2007, according to figures from the Wine Institute trade group. This is consistent with the last three increases. Interestingly, the dollar volume of sales (which includes all wine sold in the sold, including imports) increased 7.9 percent, as consumers traded up to more expensive wine and the weak U.S. dollar raised import prices.

? Robert Parker movie in the works: And Javier Bardem, he of the haircut in No Country for Old Men, is rumored to be interested in playing the most important man in the world of wine. Hey, I don’t make the news up. I just report it. Though this tidbit from Decanter is a bit hard to believe: “Casting is underway with Sideways star Paul Giamatti as Michel Rolland, British star Dame Helen Mirren as Jancis Robinson, and Hugh Grant taking the role of Leoville Barton proprietor Anthony Barton.” That’s an A-list cast for a movie that not a lot of people are going to care a whole lot about.

How much difference does blind tasting make?

Quite a bit, actually, if a book called The Wine Trials is to be believed. Robin Goldstein, a very personable fellow, put together tasting panels last spring in several cities, including Austin. At the various panels, 500 volunteers tasted 540 wines blind, ranging from $1.50 to $150.

Blind means they didn’t know what they were tasting. This, says Goldstein, explains why a $10 Washington state sparkling wine outscored a $150 Dom Perignon.This is what happens when you “get past the jargon and pomposity of wine writing,” says Goldstein. “People shouldn’t have to apologize for serving cheap wine.”

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Texas wines worth trying

This is the third of three parts about the state of the Texas wine business. To see part I, an overview of current trends, go here. Part II, a Texas wine of the week, is here.

Is there still Texas wine that doesn’t taste like it is supposed to? Yes. But, increasingly, wine makers are doing the right things and producing products that are varietally correct. This means cabernet sauvignon tastes like cabernet sauvignon, and not a poor imitation.

I tasted a couple of dozen wines at this week’s event, and these were among the most impressive:

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Wine of the week: Llano Estacado Cabernet Sauvignon Cellar Reserve 2005

imageThis is the second of three parts about the state of the Texas wine business. To see part I, an overview of current trends, go here. Part III on Friday will look at some of the state’s best wine.

Texas, as a general rule, doesn’t do cabernet well. It’s too hot in most of the state to grow quality cabernet grapes, and the wine making has been uneven in West Texas, where the climate is more accommodating.

Which is why this cabernet was such a treat when I tasted it this week, at an event hosted by the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas and the state’s Texas wine program.

I didn’t expect what I got. At $17, it offered value, which is not always the case for Texas cabernets. Plus, it was very Texas in style — not as fruity, alcoholic or tannic as a Napa or Sonoma cabernet, but more fruit forward than a red Bordeaux. Serve this at room temperature with grilled steaks or barbecue.

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