As I write this, I am sipping a glass of white wine that came out of an unusual container. The tipoff when it arrived the other morning was on the shipping box – a big red sticker that warned, “Do not open with sharp object.” Inside, I found what immediately reminded me of an I-V drip bag. In fact, it was a liter and a half of 2009 California North Coast sauvignon blanc from a company called Indulge. The bag or pouch or whatever it was appeared to be the grownup equivalent of the ubiquitous little juice containers known as “Tetra Paks.” But instead of inserting a straw in a hole at the top, you break off a hunk of plastic and remove a piece of foil on the spout at the bottom of the bag to dispense yourself a glass of wine. Now let’s take a look at what this is all about.
The bag is called the Astrapouch, or AP. It came out of South Africa a couple of years ago and seems to be a sturdier variation of the bags, or bladders, in boxed wines. It caught the attention of Pierre LaBarge IV, who wanted to market a line of varietally correct wines in an alternative package that could travel easily – to the beach or an outdoor concert, let’s say -- and was environmentally responsible (the Astrapouch’s weight is said to be 98 percent wine and just two percent packaging). The bag, which purportedly keeps wine fresh for up to 30 days once opened, stands up so it can fit upright in the refrigerator (or on its side if you prefer). It has two sets of holes at the top so it can be carried like the bag that it is or perhaps placed on a pole and left to hang (I can’t help but think of that I-V image again).
“There’s a paradigm shift occurring in the wine business right now,” LaBarge declares in a press release and then states rather obviously: “Consumers and their taste are increasingly relevant. Scores may still matter, but what matters more is what the consumer enjoys. They want good wine at good prices. It’s that simple.” On that last point, he is absolutely right.
As for his sauvignon blanc, he is right about that is well. It is good wine, though not outstanding. It’s quite racy with green apple and lime tastes and some minerals on the long finish, though a bit leafy as well. At $20 for a liter and a half (the equivalent of two conventional wine bottles), the price should be a draw. The sauvignon and a pinot noir at the same price, which I haven’t received yet, are the first two offerings and are available only in California at this point but will be distributed nationally this summer. Cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and syrah are also in the works. It will be interesting to see whether they rise above so many inexpensive, generic California wines being marketed these days in colorful clothing.