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Randall Murray: Wine to go, minus the bottle, a plus for picnics
Alternative packaging makes it easier to take modest wines for a ride
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Wine by the box or can might seem nontraditional, but the convenience is a must for picnics, and helps you keep your wines cool without carrying bulky glass bottles.

Wine of the Month

Ferraton Pere & Fils Cotes Du Rhone Samorens Blanc 2016

The wine: Dry, medium-bodied white table wine.

The grapes: 35% Rousanne, 30% Viognier, 25% Grenache Blanc, 5% Clairette, 5% Marsanne.

The source: Northern Rhone Valley of France.

The verdict: What a great blend of classic Rhone Valley grapes. There’s a bit of legerdemain here: Each of these grapes brings a distinctive characteristic to the wine. But in the end it’s the blend that dominates. You’ll find a lot of floral scent in the nose, and an apple-pear touch in the mouth. It’s dry and is a wonderful food wine. But if you’re curious about what something other than Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio taste like by themselves, chill a bottle of this and sip it unaccompanied ... by food, that is. Your company is up to you. The reward is terrific. And so is the price.

The price: About $16.

It’s summer! And we’re all prepped to enjoy the glory of the season in Northeast Georgia. Let’s give a big cheer for heat, humidity and thunderstorms.

And wine in lightweight, unbreakable containers.

The summer picnic is not what it was just a few years ago. You still have to pack up the chicken salad in a cold container to ward off the joys of food poisoning. Lock up the chips and pretzels and crackers in airtight, sealed bags in hopes they won’t emerge with all the crisp crunchiness of lunchmeat.

But you won’t have to lug glass bottles of wine along because packaging technology has given us boxes of wine, tetra-paks of wine, even cans of wine. And all these handy, easy-to-carry and easy-to-open containers can go right into the cooler.

A few weeks back, I received a large box from the good folks at E&J Gallo, the world’s largest wine producer. I have come to like Gallo wines because, across the board, they represent quality and value. Gallo produces good wines at every price point, from a $7 bottle of Barefoot to a big-bucks bottle of estate-bottled Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. In between are highly popular wines such as La Marca Prosecco, Dark Horse, Dancing Bull and Louis Martini from Napa Valley.

What caught my eye with this large box is the innovative way in which the wines are packaged; not a bottle in the bunch.

According to the PR folks at Gallo these wines are “...  perfectly suited for active lifestyles and for those who like to enjoy wines with ease in the summertime. These wines live up to the motto: No glass, no problem.”

Of course Gallo is not the only producer to shift from glass containers. Check out your wine shop or supermarket, where shelves are packed with alternative packaging.

One cautionary note: For the most part these are not top-shelf wines you would serve with a fine meal. The Barefoot cans, holding 187 milliliters, one-quarter of a standard bottle, are fun, fizzy, semi-sweet wines perfect for slurping on a hot, humid day. The white is Moscato-based, with a splash of carbonated water and a touch of fruit juice. The other carries a distinctive raspberry flavor. Wine in a can is following on the success of wine in a box.

The tetra-paks are relatively new to the wine scene. Hermetically sealed, these plastic lined containers hold 500 milliliters of wine, about three-quarters the amount in a standard bottle. These wines are better quality, approaching my standard for table wines – wines to be served with food – but are still reasonably priced.

After all, folks, it’s a picnic, not a five-star meal.

The box wines are a higher step up. These are not quite so convenient on a picnic, especially if you haul them around in a cooler full of ice. If the cardboard boxes get wet, it’s a bit of a mess. It will not harm the quality of the wine, which is in an airtight sealed bag inside the box. But soggy cardboard is not fun to deal with.

Gallo offers two box wines, Naked Grape and Vin Vault, both of which are pretty much available on supermarket shelves for prices from $18-$20. The Vin Vault Cabernet Sauvignon is a very nice red, dry with a hint of tannin and some dark fruit flavors. The Naked Grape Pinot Grigio is a friendly, warm-puppy kind of white that just about everyone will enjoy. It’s off-dry but with a crispness that makes it enjoyable with picnic fare.

Great wines? Nah. But overall these are good quality wines ranging from party sippers to decent food wines. Think about these when you begin to load up your picnic basket and cooler.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.

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