|Posted by bruce-bradley on March 10, 2015 at 12:35 AM|
People sometimes ask me about Box Wine—wine that comes in a box. Well, Box Wine is really wine in a bag, and the bag fits in a box, and the idea isn’t new. In the 1800’s Bill Harrison’s (Wm. Harrison Winery) great-grandfather, Giuseppe Perelli-Minetti, patented a collapsible leather bladder for transporting wine in rail cars and selling to taverns and pubs across the Italian countryside. The tavern owners would bring their barrels to the railroad station and Perelli-Minetti would fill them. As the wine was dispensed the bladder would collapse, allowing no air to get in. No air meant the wine did not oxidize and go bad, so the idea worked.
Today’s wine bags operate in the same way, except that the bags are smaller and made of plastic. These bags are specifically made for wine and do not affect the flavor or chemistry of the wine. There are some good deals out there if you aren’t too particular (Franzia sells several of their wines in 5.5 Liter boxes—roughly seven bottles of wine—for around $12.00). The problem with storing wine in bags is the same as in screw caps or synthetic corks—the wine doesn’t develop after it’s placed in them. If you want your wines to age properly, you need a bottle with a real cork.
There is a prejudice against putting wine in plastic, even though the bags were created just for wine and don’t alter the character of the wine in any way. Some years back I had the idea of developing a system for wineries, to be used for barrel topping and using wine bags to help eliminate partial containers. Partial containers are a problem that every winery has to deal with and they are a major contributor to wine spoilage. Most wineries use beer kegs or glass to store their leftover wine. Glass breaks and partial containers still occur. No matter what you do, you still end up with losses, especially in larger wineries.
I felt I could put an end to much of that. My system was coming along nicely and I was just about to start using it at the winery I worked at. One of my custom clients saw what I was attempting and insisted that I NEVER put their wine in plastic. That was the beginning of the end of my system. No one wanted their wine put into plastic, even temporarily. Oh, well… One day wineries will store their topping wine in collapsible bags—it makes too much sense. Until then, they’ll go on using beer kegs and glass.
Here are some of the wines I tried this week:
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
$7.99 at Bonanza Market in Nevada City, CA
Blackberry-vanilla nose. A mouthful of berry flavors. Nicely balanced with a good mouth feel and pleasant finish… This wine has a hint of sweetness to it that I tend to associate with “Mega Red”, an additive that goes in right at bottling. The label reads “vented”, so that would make sense if they bought the wine on the bulk market. “Mega Red” adds color and an almost imperceptible amount of sugar that helps to brighten a dull wine up a bit.
Russian River Valley
Top Block – Estate Grown
$5.99 at Grocery Outlet/Farmers Market, in Grass Valley, CA
Diminished fruit and a little thin. A little long in the tooth—it tastes like they used old barrels with little or no new oak. Slightly acidic.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
$5.99 at SPD Market in Nevada City, CA
Another “Vinted” wine. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. Very few wineries have the hundreds or thousands of acres of grapes required to mass-produce a wine. If the grapes were grown in a premium growing area, the price of them would be too high to put them into a wine that would sell for $5.99. Still, this wine was not bad… Good color, hints of vanilla perfume in the nose. A little thin at first on the palate, then it got better. Descent acid balance, black cherry and ripe berries and an okay finish. Considering the price…