Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bottled Up

There's a significant movement in our industry with regards to innovative packaging.  A lot of it is driven by the desire for a smaller carbon-footprint with regards to wine consumption.  A lot is also influenced  by the desire to have a unique package out there, and sell a little more wine.  Let's remember that it took the milk industry years to figure out that the shape of their cartons and the shape of the cupholders in cars meant that no one bought their product at convenience stores and instead bought other beverages.  They probably lost marketshare permanently.

I know that there are lots of different types of ways to bottle wines, including funky-style bottles and pop-top cans.  As a small winery, I'm probably never going to be able to afford the equipment for a lot of the different "bottles" out there, but I've seriously considered screwcaps and box wines.  Keep in mind, this is not for our premium wines.  Our vinifera-based wines (dry reds and whites) will never see any container other than a bottle with a natural cork.  It's traditional, yes, but that's not a bad thing.  It works for us.

Boxes and caps are probably the wave of the future for everyday wines in the under $15 range.   They come with their own issues, because people seem to think that they signify bad wines.  Now, there's no doubt in mind that the majority of wine throughout history that was bottled in these two methods was probably pretty bad.  But these days we are in the midst of the best time in  the history of humanity to drink wine.  Best values are found here and now.  Not only that, there's an oversupply of wine coming out of California's existing vineyards.  The bulk wine market--on which the river of wine flows--is full of millions of gallons of alcoholic juice that's way better than Wild Irish Rose and MD 20/20. 

Most winemakers are pretty clear on this.  The container is a means to an end.  It's the method that allows us to have a transportable product that we can sell today to a consumer who can consume it at leisure.  Yes, there's still a snobbery against caps and boxes.  I think it's like Allegro was fifteen years ago.  When you used to drive up to our place, you saw a plain box winery with some run-down old trailers out front.  The place looked pretty low-end.  But if you went inside and braved the 50F tasting room in the winter and could see past the anatomically-correct deer made from grapevines, you would find some of the finest wines ever made on the East Coast.  There were a few people who didn't let the superficialities dictate against what their palates were telling them.

Hopefully people give boxes and caps the same kind of chance Allegro got.


  1. I'm perfectly fine with boxes and caps, but to paraphrase what you said, not for the 'good stuff'. If I'm having a nice bottle of wine with a good meal, I want the act of uncorking the bottle to be a part of the experience, but if I'm sitting around doing nothing special, and a simple 'table wine' will work, go ahead and 'pour' me a glass out of the box!

  2. We were just having this conversation tonight over dinner. One man absolutely refused to drink wine out of box. I say, time to jump on the green train and go for a ride. Juice box for adults...there's and idea!

  3. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's wine snobs. It's about good wine. I'm not saying that there's only good wine in boxes. I am saying that not all boxes have bad wine. It's about trusting yourself to make decisions about what you like and don't like, and not letting a marketing person influence your ideas.

    I heard a guy say once, that if you put Cheval Blanc in a box--although he didn't know why anyone would--it would still be one of the greatest wines in the world.


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