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may suggest, the enjoyment of wine is really the wine, and if it is “gone”, no
popping cork is going to make things better. It is classic “all sizzle, no steak”.
Wineries are going for the steak, and educated consumers have followed
them in droves, although the mystique of the cork still prevails in some
markets, as Wine Enthusiast’s Christina Pickard observes:
At Penfolds, one of Australia’s most well-known wine brands, the bottling
line is an elaborate operation, especially its final stage: the seal. While its
white wine range is closed with screw caps, the reds receive different
stoppers based on where they are exported.
In Australia, the majority of Penfolds’s red wines, which include offerings
priced well into triple digits, are sealed by screw cap. In the U.S. market,
however, those same wines are sealed under natural cork. Why? Because
many Americans still believe screw caps signify low-quality wine.
As the saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.3
But wines with screwcaps are only the beginning. Revolutions abound.
How about wine closed with a crown cap, just like your favourite bottled
brew? It is happening. Certain Prosecco producers from Italy are favouring
this method, as are a number of local wineries with Prosecco-style or other
carbonated wines. In fact, nearly all fine sparkling wines are closed with a
crown cap while they are going through their second fermentation and “riddling”
process in the winery, with the cork and metal cage and foil being
added at “dosage” and final bottling. But for carbonated or “natural” wines
where that process does not occur, many producers are proudly capping their
wines as they head out the winery door. Again, if properly sealed, crown caps
are hermetically sound and keep the wine fresh until consumption.
The main issue with all these alternatives is their contribution to environmental
degradation as they head off to landfills, where they will (with
the exception of composite corks) never break down.
Now back to “bag-in-a-box”. I predict an increasing trend will be to more
high-end cask or bladder wines, especially for the restaurant trade. Some
local wineries are already taking that leap, including my winemaker friend
and Hester Creek in Oliver, which has had a 3L size Pinot Gris white and
Cabernet/Merlot red on the market for years.
There are a couple of strong advantages to this use of a plastic bladder to
store the wine with a handy box to carry it and a tap or spigot that allows
you to pour out a glass without letting any air into the wine to oxidize it. For
restaurants that do not sell a lot of wine, this packaging means they can
keep the wine for weeks instead of a day or two, as with an opened bottle.
During these COVID-19 times, when people are encouraged to shop less frequently,
this alterative to storing wine at home has some appeal as well, so
long as the wine itself is at least decent. Decanter’s James Button offers the
following remarks on the longevity of “bag-in-box” wines: