Wine in a bottle, wine in a box, wine inside a bag inside a box. Just when you think the bagged wine market is over saturated, the AstraPouch makes its U.S. debut. New York's Glenora Wine Cellars was the first American wine producer to pouch its Riesling and Chardonnay last summer in the eco-friendly (or in the least, shipping-friendly) packaging. Santa Barbara County-based Indulge Wine, the first California winery to pouch its wines, recently released a Central Coast Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Turn the page for more.
The South African company behind the 1.5 liter (2 bottles) pouches is playing up the carbon footprint-friendly aspect of the bags, which use fewer resources than bottles to produce, qualify for that carbon footprint marketing plan (shipping-wise, they weigh substantially less and take up less space), and can be slipped directly into a box, no Styrofoam wine holders required. The wines can be chilled quickly, and a special one-way valve keeps oxygen out so the wine reportedly stays fresh for several weeks after opening. Winemakers also have the entire pouch to use as their marketing canvas rather than a small bottle label. Get ready for the cheesy Bud Naked (really?) of the wine world with labels that look like billboard ads to grace your local wine shop shelves soon.
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But as you're serving wine from what is essentially a giant Capri Sun container, presumably this isn't a Royal Family wedding toast moment -- though we'd pay to see someone squeeze out the last glass of Bud Naked for the Queen to go with Prince William's groom's cake (that you do have to literally squeeze out the last glass is our one beef with the pouch). It all comes down to how that wine tastes for the price.
Considering that there are two bottles worth of wine in each, we thought the Indulge Central Coast Pinot Noir (2009) was a pretty great bargain for $20, even if it oddly lacked many of the mesmerizing aromas that are exactly what Pinot Noir is all about. An oxymoron? Perhaps. But as Pinot Noir is a fussy grape, and therefore expensive to grow/often sold at higher prices, this wine drove home what a remarkably decent (though far from outstanding) wine Pinot Noir can be at a low price point. By comparison, we tend to run from bargain basement Chardonnay as it is so often drowned in oak, or worse, a cheap, fat Merlot. Sure, Bibiana Gonzalez Rave's Pinots are going to win that taste-off by a landslide, but Lynmar is hardly within our everyday sipping realm.
But the real taste - and bargain - winner among the Indulge wines was the 2009 North Coast Sauvignon Blanc, a crisp, fruity white with real green apple palate appeal for the $20 per 1.5 liters price tag. The sort of wine we'd actually look forward to packing in our Hollywood Bowl picnic basket, and not just because it leaves so much more room for those homemade pies than space-hoarding bottles. OK, fine, maybe we really just wanted an excuse to bake a pie.
Indulge is currently available online (shipping to California only) for $20 per 1.5 liter pouch, with more shipping options and local retail shops availability in May or June.