My Round: Think inside the box

If the boom in screwcap wine bottles makes you cringe, wait until you get your fine vintage in a carton (ie, any day now)
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Indy Lifestyle Online

You're probably going to hate me for saying this, but one of these days - or years, perhaps - you will be buying wine sold in Tetra Pak. You know, the squeezable cardboard-faced, hollow bricks that normally house fruit juice and the like. This clever technology has made a fortune for the Swedish company that invented it, and I applaud their ingenuity. The TP three-layer construction provides a completely inert, non-reactive container for whatever liquid you put in it. It allows no air contact until opened, so shelf life is long, and it uses space efficiently.

You're probably going to hate me for saying this, but one of these days - or years, perhaps - you will be buying wine sold in Tetra Pak. You know, the squeezable cardboard-faced, hollow bricks that normally house fruit juice and the like. This clever technology has made a fortune for the Swedish company that invented it, and I applaud their ingenuity. The TP three-layer construction provides a completely inert, non-reactive container for whatever liquid you put in it. It allows no air contact until opened, so shelf life is long, and it uses space efficiently.

I knew that Tetra-Pak has been used already for low-priced wines in Scandinavia for some time now, but it came as a shock to discover that 1.6 billion units of wine have been shifted in TP. There's been much talk of putting somewhat better wine into the bricks among Anglophones too, especially in North America, and two mass-market products from a company called Three Thieves have followed that route. One is an Italian-produced white called Bandit Bianco, recently followed by an all-American Cabernet blend called (don't faint) Bandit Cabernet. Neither is sold in the UK; neither is likely to be; neither will be missed. But other wines are sure to find their way into TP, and perhaps - as happened with screwcaps - not just for cheapo material but for higher-priced wines as well. Not Château Latour, but not just Château Lamentable, either.

You're probably cringing. I am not. First of all, Tetra Pak offers the possibility of packaging wine in a range of convenient sizes, from a glass-worth to a few litres. Second, it is perfect if you value ease of storage over elegance of presentation: a litre of wine in a Tetra-Brik uses its space much more efficiently than a litre of wine in a bottle. Third, it's a pleasure to open if you don't require the popping of a cork or even the turning of a screw-cap: turn the cap, pop the ring-pull, and you're away. Third, it makes it easy to store leftovers without exposure to oxygen: just squeeze the air out of the partially-emptied brick before you pop it into the fridge.

Fourth, and perhaps most pertinent at the moment, is ease of transport. As you may have noticed, one does not always drink wine at the dinner table. Sometimes it's consumed out of doors, even on, for instance, a picnic. If you're trekking a mile or so to get to a picnic site, and you have a litre or two of vino to consume on-site, which would you rather be carrying: 100g of Tetra Pak or a couple of kilos of glass? I know how I'd answer that question. And I take even more seriously the viewpoint of Nora Sperling-Thiel, marketing director of the excellent Delheim winery in Stellenbosch. "When I go backpacking with my family, we decant a lot of wine into a big plastic bag and take turns carrying it. Carrying it in a Tetra Pak would be much easier."

It's easy to sniff, sneer and perhaps do a little well-judged wringing of hands when presented with the idea of wine in Tetra Pak. For me, it's just another phase in the democratisation of wine. If more people think they can enjoy a single glass with dinner on their own because they can open a 125ml Tetra Brik, aren't they seeing a small but material improvement in their quality of life? I think so.

Tetra Pak as the picnic solution is especially pertinent now because we should - in theory anyway - be planning those al fresco meals. And the wines below are perfect candidates for the first foray into pastures green. For now, you'll have to pour them from a bottle. In a few years time, who knows? We may all be dancing - occasionally, at any rate - down the Tetra Brik Road.

Top Corks: Aromatic whites

Tesco Finest Great Southern Riesling (£5.99) A stunning example of Antipodean Riesling at its purest, simplest, and cheapest: classic liveliness in both acidity and in citrus flavours.

Anakena Single Vineyard Viognier 2003 (£7.99, Thresher; or three for the price of two) Restrained example of a grape that's often vinified to OTT richness; great at the sale price.

Three Choirs Variations Aromatic 2004 (£4.98, Asda) An English blend. Fragrant, full and lingering on the palate, and well balanced by acidity. A surprise to me, and maybe to you too.

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