To some people, wine is a destination, a place to experience multitudes of exotic taste treats, an elixir, a hedonistic beverage that makes food taste better and acts as a social lubricant.
Such people take everything about wine almost too seriously: grape varieties, vintages, vineyard locations, even the names of barrel makers.
Healdsburg cartoonist Bob Johnson and writer Mike Lynch parodied (skewered is a better term) “very serious” wine people in several hilarious one-panel cartoons that illustrate the most snobbish of wine fanatics loose in (high?) society: “Have I told you about my collection of 1953 Bordeaux half-bottles?”
This aspect of fine wine culture fascinates me — and I have experienced some of the most profound wines in such settings. For me, older wines can be tantalizing, but often problems arise, such as poor storage, which can create disappointment.
Then I remember that there are many different kinds of wine lovers, including those who delight in a glass of fresh, young white or red, caring not in the least which grape or even which country it came from.
Most people don’t care if a wine is dry, medium or sweet. The vast majority, if they told the truth, would lean in the direction of the latter.
In such company, no one brings up grape clones or yeast strains. Even wine glasses are optional.
It is for just such a crowd that there is Frico. It is a light, sweet sparkling Italian wine with 10 percent alcohol that is made with a pop-top for consuming direct from the can.
A wine purist might wince at the thought. Fine wine is usually poured into a glass for swirling, to smell the attractive bouquet. In the case of Frico, the aroma is almost not an issue at all. Indeed, a bit like most U.S. beers, it has very little aroma and the colder it is, the easier it goes down. It’s sold in quick-chilling aluminum cans. Made by a company called Scarpetta, 10-ounce cans sell for about $4 each in Italy.
Over the decades, the wine industry has gone through several marketing and winemaking fads, including one of the more amazing ones — the white zinfandel craze of the 1980s. (And woe to anyone who made it “white.” White zin had to be pinkish.)
Today we are seeing the aluminum can invade wine. It mirrors trends from decades ago.
About 40 years ago a clever. single-serve packaging idea was developed in which a 187 ml plastic bottle was shrink-wrapped around an inverted, form-fitting plastic cup that could be used for sipping.
Beringer Vineyards in the Napa Valley and other wineries used them, and they appeared to be successful for a time at convenience stores in beach areas, where glass isn’t permitted.
The 1990s was a decade of wine packaging innovations. One of the first ideas was the Tetra Pak, a laminated paper box holding small amounts of wine. It was popular in Europe and Australia, where one-liter boxes of ordinary wine cost the equivalent of $2.
A decade ago in Spain, we paid 1 euro for a full liter of white wine. (It wasn’t worth what we paid.) In Australia about the same time, we found a good value in liter-sized aluminum bags of shiraz for AU$4. Eventually, the Australian-invented bag-in-box, which for years held many liters of poor wine, was cut to 3 liters and the wine quality improved significantly.