Do You Really Care What Contains It?

Going back 150 years or so, it was generally accepted truth that “form follows function.” A thing needs to look like, and be designed for, what it is supposed to do.

The “form follows function” dogma was expressed at about the same time it was challenged by the arrival of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, a blend of function, such as furniture and architecture, with art and ornamentation. There was also the opportunity to make raw materials behave differently, such as bending woods, or creating curves with manmade concrete, or imbuing special color-schemes into the very fabric of the creation.

In some circles this was called “progress,” and in others there were references to “the devil’s work.”

I bring up these points only to demonstrate that design change is often difficult to accept and assimilate into daily patterns. Particularly when change occurs to an old, known product. Like wine packaging, for instance. (I thought he would never get around to speaking about wine. This is a wine column, isn’t it?)

More than just a few years ago, some of our winemaking friends “tinkered” with the presentation and ceremony of opening a bottle of wine, introducing the screw-cap closure.

For more than 300 years the cork stopper was a perfectly accepted seal for a bottle. It kept, for the most part, air on one side and wine on the other. That was its job and it did it.

Along came the consumer, who brought out a special tool, and proceeded to, with dexterity everyone hoped, pull the cork from the bottle, or break the damn thing off requiring other skills to complete the task and not have the wine full of bits of tree bark. Chewy but not correct.

Corks had another downside, and that was a failure rate estimated at between 5% and 8%. Is there any other product that you buy where almost 1 in 10 is not going to be good and you find that acceptable?

Anyway, these winemakers who found their wines ruined due to a problem with the stopper said “enough.” I am certain they said a lot of other things, but because we are a Family Service, and we fear that your two year-old may get a hold of this, we’ll not note the quotes. (Incidentally, if your two-year-old can read this well, then congratulations. I think that places the child into the upper percentile of everyone who reads this, including me.)

So screw cap closures are now used by a bunch of winemakers to resolve the problem of spoiled wine due to bad corks. No air, no leakage and the wine is served as the winemaker desired it to be when it left the winery.

Now we are seeing another idea whose time has also come. But there is resistance from the consuming public, and I find myself puzzled, confused, asking why. All of which happen about nine times a day, so it’s not that big a deal.
Bag-in-a-box wines are here again. Yes, we’ve seen them before and they were sort of okay. But the wines weren’t so okay. Actually if it was not for the novelty of the package, no one would give them a second glance, er, taste.

What we are experiencing now, however, is something completely different. There are actually some very good wines being served in these boxes. And the wines come in all sorts of flavors from Sauvignon Blanc to Riesling, and Chardonnay. In the red range, the usual Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, and Zinfandel. Good stuff.

Bota Box is one brand of wines, mostly from Napa Valley, that has really thought this effort through. The packaging is environmentally-friendly. That means it easily breaks down in the dump. Yes, you are correct, “environmentally friendly” sounds a whole lot better than “it breaks down in the dump” – a clear example of marketing types earning their keep.

What Bota Box brings to your table are a couple of things. First of all, as the wine is dispensed, the bag holding the wine collapses, keeping the wine-to-air ratio small. And make no mistake; air is the enemy of wine storage. The benefit of air not affecting undispensed wine is that the wine does not deteriorate. The folks at Bota Box claim the wine in their package can last 45 days after opening. I honestly can’t comment on that as I 1) have not tried the experiment, and 2) cannot fathom any opened wine in New Orleans lasting 45 days without being consumed within a quarter of that time, at the most.

Another advantage of Bota Box is that there’s a lot of wine in a compact package. Four bottles in the space of two at a greatly discounted price, usually under $20.

A further consideration is that for parties, Carnival balls, parades, festivals and gatherings, this is a great way to dispense wine to a lot of consumers. I took wine-in-a-bag-in-a-box to a Super Bowl party and it was big hit. Folks loved to just walk up, press the button on the dispenser, and fill’er up.

“Bota” is the name of the wine receptacle, a goatskin, which the Spanish would carry with them. The name fits here, too.

I go through all of this explanation as a way to convince you to set aside prior conceptions and give this package, and the wine, a chance. The package is excellent, and the wine is agreeable. After all, just 15 years ago, would you have believed you would read wine articles with no paper or printing process involved at all?

Another Opportunity     

 Do You Really Care What Contains It?

While we are on the topic of design, no country has led the modern revolution like Italy. The Italians are stylish while maintaining a base-look rooted in classic lines. From automobiles to fashion, the designs that come out of Italy never fail to turn heads.

I guess the shoulders of a garment, which are often well-defined, and the shoulder of a wine bottle, that curved part near the top, are viewed by the Italians as two separate issues. They like the coat, not so enamored with the glass package.

A new line of wines, Voga, has taken the curve out of the bottle. Looking something like a high-end drinking water bottle in a top-of-the-line restaurant, Voga still has a cork, but also includes a screw cap. Make no enemies.

The wines contained in the modern, slender glass package are Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Quattro (a blend of Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir) and a Sparkling Pinot Grigio. The wines, as you would expect, are varietally specific, fresh, easily enjoyed, and not expensive, about $13.

Again, it’s your call as to whether to enjoy a good wine at a good cost. The package is a bit of lagniappe and is certain to create discussion. But, in all honesty, Voga’s presentation is going to look pretty good alongside your Ferrari.


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