Better a new straw than a bad glass?

13th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

13 August 2007, BORDEAUX - Selling Bordeaux in a 25cl tetra pack with a straw might seem strange, but so might bringing your own glass to dinner.

13 August 2007

BORDEAUX - Selling Bordeaux in a 25cl tetra pack with a straw might seem strange, but so might bringing your own glass to dinner.

That good wine can taste right drunk through a straw is the belief of French wine merchant Cordier, currently selling 1,000 tetra packs a week in Belgium, with plans for a French launch early next year.

The wine, called Tandem, comes in red, white and rose and is aimed at the smaller consumables segment, which grew by 12 percent in France last year.

Cordier's marketing director Vincent Bonhur said the company decided to test the product in 500 Belgian shops first -- a market similar to France but less hidebound -- and place it in the sandwich aisles at 1.89 euros. A similar strategy will be used in France where it will cost 1.49 euros.

"It's a seasonal concept," said Bonhur, that allows people to drink the equivalent of two glasses of fresh wine on the run.

The tetra pack, says the company, has other advantages. It is recyclable, light to transport, better for storage than glass bottles and the 25 cl measure, at less than 12 degrees of alcohol, is within the drink driving limit.

The innovative packs will also help, they say, to get better quality wines, for which the company is known, out of their wooden cases -- a reference to the fact that in France wines are only taken seriously when packed in cork-sealed bottles and wooden boxes, not in shiny tetra packs.

For added benefit, the straw that comes with the pack has four holes around a sealed top that send individual streams of wine onto the tongue, apparently recreating the sensation of drinking from a glass.

To taste experts this may seem a sweeping claim for a plastic straw with extra holes, but many consumers may not have actually noticed that liquid taken from a straw tastes any different to liquid drunk from a glass.

The effect, however, on a wine's taste and smell by the ways it is transported to the mouth, is the subject of detailed research by top glassware companies.

Bringing your own glass with you to a friend's house, a wine-tasting or a restaurant is the solution proposed by Sylvie Laly, who works for Riedel, an Austrian glassmaker founded in 1723 and one of the best known brands.

"I have a case for it and I bring it with me in my purse," Laly said.

The claim that a wine can be improved by drinking it from the right glass -- such as one of Riedel's 78-euro hand-blown affairs -- is an integral part of the company's sales strategy.

Wine, claims US-based Laly who recently ran a comparative tasting in Bordeaux, tastes different depending on the manner of its delivery to the tongue and the nose -- whether by straw, hand-blown glass, jam jar or polystyrene cup like Myles in the US wine film "Sideways."

Asked about a scene from the film, where Myles finally drinks his treasured 1961 Cheval Blanc, a Bordeaux blend, out of a polystyrene cup, Laly says she was not too troubled by the plastic but more by the shape. "It can't have been great for the energy of the wine," she said.

"It's the form of the glass," Laly said, "that dictates the speed and flow of the wine to different sensory zones on the tongue and in the nose," and therefore changes the taste. As well as expert glassmakers, Riedel also employs two physicists to work on glass design.

Laly's opinion, although she had not yet tried the new straw, was that she doubted it could re-create the taste of wine from a glass.

What it can do, she said, is change the way the customer interprets the taste. "And it's possible they may have come up with something, I need to try it. The good thing about developments like this is that people are trying new things and being consumer conscious," she said.

Surprisingly, Laly also warned that the quality of wine glasses in Bordeaux was often questionable.

"In Bordeaux you have fabulous wine lists and terrible glasses," she said. On her recent visit she brought packs of Riedel glasses to restaurants for use during dinner, and then left them there.

Local Bordeaux oenologue Xavier Copel agreed about the quality of wine glasses.

"In France in general they don't take account of the glass," he said. "It can also be hard to get your wine poured into a decanter," he added, a process which gets air into the wine and enhances the flavours.

Asked how it could be that waiters in Bordeaux, of all places, could have so little understanding of wine craft, Copel said, "Just because you live in Toulouse [where Airbus is made] doesn't mean you know how to fly a plane."

Maybe best to get hold of one of those straws.


Subject: French news

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