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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.

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