Eco-Friendly Wine Packaging - French Rabbit Tetra Paks

For most people these days, Earth Day isn't just a once a year event. Even folks in the wine industry are becoming more eco-conscious in a number of ways. For wine producers, eco friendly packaging can mean cheaper to produce and cheaper to ship. For us, it means more wine for less money and ultimately less waste.

10.jpgMaking French Rabbit's New Eco-Smart Wine Bottle
How Boisset Family Estates, the third-largest French winery, launched an eco-smart alternative to the wine bottle that's remaking the industry. by Alissa Walker

U.S. wine consumption topped 300 million cases in 2007, an all-time high. The largest growth is among 21-to-31-year-olds and in $12 to $15 bottles. In fact, 70% of all wine is drunk on the day it's purchased. Boisset Family Estates sought to capitalize on this casual wine trend with French Rabbit, and for marketing and environmental reasons, "we wanted to break the tradition of presenting wine in a glass bottle," says Jean Charles Boisset, president.

Boisset chose "Tetra Pak," an aluminum-coated paperboard known for its versatility. (Everything from orange juice to soup is packaged in it.) The recyclable material is superior to glass in protecting wine from oxidation, and its thinner walls let wine chill more quickly.
Early mock-ups played with a variety of off-the-shelf Tetra Pak options, including the Tetra Brik, often used for soy milk, Boisset decided on an "octagonal one-liter" shape, a radical departure from typically dowdy bag-in-box wines. Jean Charles also liked its rounded, ergonomic qualities. "I really liked the way it felt to hold and pour out," he says.

The Tetra Pak French Rabbits arrive at stores in branded, recyclable cardboard boxes that can be used to build "distinctive displays," eliminating the need for additional, bulky point-of-scale elements. This spring, Boisset launched four-packs of "single-serving" French Rabbit to promote the wine as picnic friendly.

Boisset introduced French Rabbit in Canada in 2005 and then the United States in late 2006. It toured the country, holding blind taste tests with wine journalists, who've given the vino high marks. Consumers have too, buying more than 4.5 million French Rabbits in Tetra Pak in North America (the company also sells glass-bottle versions, so as to offer a choice). And the industry has noticed. "Over 70 wineries have launched the Tetra Pak wine since our launch," Jean Charles says.

Check out the full piece in the June 2008 issue of Fast Company

Content and images from

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June 4, 2008

Cave de Lugny Macon Villages 2006

14385_bottle.jpgVARIETAL: Chardonnay
REGION: Burgundy, France
PRICE: $11

This was sort of a last-minute buy at Whole Foods. People coming for dinner. Flounder in parchment already in the oven and I had only a bottle of rose and a bottle of albarino chilled. Not a disaster if you're having friends over. But alas we were expecting a picky relative, so off to the market. I figured you can't really go wrong with a decent white burgundy--generally pleasing to even picky palates and a good match for the fish. Not wanting to spend a lot of $$, I chose the Cave de Lugny. I was pretty familiar with other Cave de Lugny wines so I gave it a shot. Lovely scents of golden apple, pear and citrus were enticing, but there was no pay-off. I found this wine a little thin and flat, almost watery. And though it did exhibit nice, clean, distinctly Burgundian minerality, there was not much else to balance it out. I even let it warm up a bit thinking it might be too cold. Nothing helped. But I am not (yet) convinced that the problem is the wine. Next time I'll buy one off the shelf and chill it myself. Perhaps it lingered in the store's refrigerated case a bit too long? I'll let you know. In the meantime, do try to buy whites that are un-chilled and chill them yourself. Or if the store has one, use the instant chiller.

Read More in: Chardonnay | White Wine | Wine Tasting Notes

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June 3, 2008

Cameron Hughes Lot 51 Malbec 2004

btl_lot_51.pngVARIETAL: Malbec
REGION: Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza Argentina
PRICE: $11

Now this is an interesting concept -- buy surplus wine from purportedly high-end producers in all the major wine regions and sell it under one label, exclusively to Costco. My curiosity was certainly piqued when I was read the sell sheet for the Cameron Hughes Malbec, but I had my doubts as I am a little uncomfortable trying mysteriously sourced--as well as private label--wines. Part of my personal enjoyment of a wine is learning about the producer.

But I digress. You want to know what this juice is all about and I will tell you: it is not bad. I know, a little underwhelming, but frankly so is the wine. I LOVE malbec and am quite familiar with the varietal in all of its incarnations, but the style of this one just isn't quite what I was hoping for. It is quite aromatic and I did enjoy the ripe dark berry scents. However I found it a little too fruit forward for my taste. I like a malbec that shows great fruit as well as firm tannins and interesting spice. The Lot 51, to me was much more stylistically akin to an Aussie Shiraz. Again, not bad but not what I was expecting.

I will be investigating the other Cameron Hughes offerings at Costco so stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out their story for yourselves. Cameron Hughes Lot 51 Malbec

Read More in: Malbec | Wine Tasting Notes

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June 2, 2008

If I could save wine in a box. . . Wine Cube Sauvignon Blanc 2006

winecube_images-thmb.jpgWhy is it that when I am in Target, things, all sorts of cheap things look cooler. I go in to buy laundry detergent and come out with new clothes, a set of unbreakable dishes for outdoor entertaining and a box of wine. A what? A book on wine? No, you heard me. A box of wine. A box of Wine Cube Sauvingon Blanc to be exact. I didn't know it at the time, but further investigation revealed that this particular California sauvignon blanc is made by Trinchero Family Estates. So I figured it was a crap shoot when I poured the first glass. Could be a hideously bitter glass of swill (a la Sutter Home) or it could the great wine find of the century - a real vinous coup. All I know was it was white, it was wine (in theory) and the bag-in-a-box contained 4 bottles for about $15.

As it happens, it was neither hideous nor outstanding. Rather, it was surprisingly okay. Bright, crisp and grassy with soft melon and apple notes. Not much of a finish, but for what amounted to $4 or so a bottle I found it pretty darn decent. AND it tasted exactly the same on day 25 as it did on day one. I would definitely serve this at parties (great for big shindigs and backyard BBQs) and most definitely would serve it to that certain set of friends who enjoy any wine you set before them. Of course, in shame I would probably put it in a carafe . . . but you won't tell, will you?

Read More in: White Wine | Wine Tasting Notes

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May 24, 2008

Name-Your-Price Wine Boosts Loyalty and Sales

Tired of paying too much for mediocre wine? Now one South African producer asks you to pay what you think it is worth. The tactic seems to be working. He is simultaneously strengthening his customer base while boosting sales. Check out this bit from the May 22 SpringWise:

What works for alternative rock music, might also work for wine. You may remember how Radiohead got the world's attention when it let listeners download its album In Rainbows, asking them to pay whatever price they thought the music was worth. Sales of the album reached USD 10 million. Since then others have tried the pay-what-you-like marketing technique, including Paste magazine, which we featured in October.

South African BLANKbottle has gone a step further. The boutique winemaker's founder, Pieter Walser, sent 20 cases of its latest premium white wine Moment of Silence to loyal customers on consignment, asking them to evaluate the wine and then pay him what they thought it was worth. They paid up to ZAR 90 per bottle (USD 11.80 / EUR 7.50), and the average price came to ZAR 50. Since BLANKbottle aims to exceed customers' quality vs. price expectations, the wine went on sale to the public at a price of ZAR 40.

Walser, for his part, got a high return on the wine he risked in the venture. In addition to the publicity he garnered, he determined a new product's price point based on the actual purchasing decisions made by the winery's best customers. Feedback that's likely to be more valuable than the opinions volunteered by focus groups or market research experts. And by involving them in such a fundamental business decision, he no doubt increased brand loyalty among the winery's core customer base. One to try out with your own best customers! (Spotted by: Bruce Gourley)


from Springwise

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May 23, 2008

Fire up the grill - Wines for Steak

Steak is probably one of the easiest things to grill. . . a little pepper, generous salt, other spices or marinade if you desire, and a good sear makes for an easy and infinitely enjoyable meal. Red meat is also pretty simple to pair with wine so you have a lot more room to play around. Pretty much any big bold red will complement a hearty steak.

cousinomaculcab.jpgA pretty traditional pairing would be a big cab. A cabernet sauvignon, or a cab blend, will have the structure and fortitude to cut through the protein and fat. I like the Cousino Macul because it is big and dusty with the darker berry fruit flavors as well as dried fruit, sweet tobacco and saddle leather aromas. Totally warm and inviting.
Cousino Macul Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 $11
Opaque purple in colour, this Estate Cabernet offers aromatics of ripe blackberries, plum, herbs and cacao. Medium in body and light tannin, it captures the essence of Maipo Valley fruit. In the mouth, the flavors continue the blackberry-blueberry themes with hints of cassis and black olives. Its lingering finish echoes the black fruits and ends on a tangy cherry brightness. With time in the glass, this Cabernet unfolds beautifully, suggesting it can be enjoyed in its youth or cellared for 2 to 5 years. (from

gasconmalbec.jpgMy personal favorite with red meat (at least my cheap and fun fave) is malbec. One of the five Bordeaux blending grapes, Malbec is widely planted varietal in Argentina and is served with just about every type of meat you can imagine. The style is a little more loose and round than a cabernet, but still maintains a good bit of structure and spice to balance it out.
Gascon Malbec 2006 $12
This wine is made by blending Malbec from the three best growing areas in Mendoza. In these areas, the grapes develop sweet tannins, intense fruit and good acidity/sugar balance, combining the characteristics of each area. Red purple color. Intense black fruits and red plum aromas. Smooth and concentrated tannins in the mouth. (from

beyerskloof05label.jpgIf you're feeling a little adventurous, check out a pinotage. It is the signature grape of South Africa and a cross between cinsault (a Rhone blending grape) and pinot noir. What you get is a totally original flavor that has nice cherry and red berry fruit flavors and aromas from the pinot, but is laced with twinges of cut herbs, smoke and roasted meat. Often when you first open the bottle is smells oddly antiseptic and a little like a band-aid, but if you give a few minutes to open up, you're in for an interesting wine experience. A natural match for meat.
Beyerskloof Pinotage 2005 $12
A medium to full bodied pinotage with a deep red colour. A complex Pinotage with plum and red berry flavours well integrated with the oak aromas. A balanced wine that could be enjoyed now or age in the bottle for a few years longer. In summer to go with seafood or light meat dishes. It also goes well with any red meat, pasta and spicy food. (from Beyerskloof)

Read More in: Cabernet Sauvignon | Malbec | Red Wine | Wine Advice

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WinePod - Super-Swanky At-Home Winery

You, or someone you love can soon be making your own super-swanky wine, at home, in your own personal super-swanky winery. Check out this uber-cool apparatus:

winepod1.jpgIf you have a trust fund and dear old dad likes wine, and I mean really likes wine, here is the perfect father's day gift. The Winepod lets dad become his own winemaker with his own personal fermentation chamber.
The chamber itself is 4-feet tall and needs less than 4 square feet of space. The device has sensors and uses wireless technology to connect to a software application on a PC called the WineCoach. WineCoach walks users through the fermentation process and when it detects problems it tells users how to fix them.
Winepod can produce one fermentation every 30 days with each one producing four cases of wine with 48 750ml bottles total. Users can order the grapes directly from the Winepod maker and they are shipped de-stemmed and frozen for freshness. Users wanting to use their own grapes can get them lab certified to ensure fermentation. The Winepod itself is a whopping $4,499, add the bottling kit, grapes, and accessories and it will cost you $5999, thrown in a 30L French oak wine barrel and you will need $6349. (by Shane McGlaun)

from i4u News

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May 22, 2008

Fire up the grill - Wines for Chicken

You can't have a picnic, or cookout or backyard BBQ without the beloved bird. You have infinite options when it comes to cooking chicken, but for laid-back gatherings go simple and crowd pleasing--fry it, or rub it with the spices of your choice and throw it on the grill.

cristalinocava.jpgOld fashioned picnic types will doubtless be serving mountains of potato salad and fried chicken. Crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside--if I didn't think it would kill me or make me fat, I would eat it every day. And my beverage of choice, in this ideal, fried-chicken-eating world, would be bubbly. That's right. Sparkling wine, champagne, in this case Cava, is the ideal match for anything fried. The bubbles clean your palate and are the perfect counterpoint to the crispy crust. The Cristalino Cava is one of my stand by wines for large gatherings. It is inexpensive but tastes like a quality champagne. Bright and crisp with hints of pear and golden apple, it is a toasty sparkler that is sure win you over.

Cristalino Cava Brut $9
Macabeo 50%, Parellada 35% and Xarello 15%
Straw color, smooth and fresh aromas; fine and fruity palate with a dry aftertaste. Clean, dry and crisp with citrus and apple flavors.

hopechard.jpgI know many of you will shun the fried chicken - it is an artery clogger - as well as the sparkling wine. So for you I have chosen a luscious chardonnay to complement a marinated or spice-rubbed grilled chicken. The folks at Hope Estate in Hunter Valley, Australia (yep, the same Hope that makes the shiraz I mentioned yesterday) make a wonderfully round, rich chard that is so reminiscent of a Mersault you'll have to look twice at the label. What differentiates it from its Burgundian big sister is the abundance of ripe, tropical fruit flavors, countered with crisp acidity, and the lack of minerality that is so present in white Burgundies.

Hope Estate Chardonnay 2006 $11
The key for our chardonnay is balance and complexity. Without using too much oak our barrel fermented style has an amazing length of peach, pineapple and melon characters but is balanced beautifully with stone citrus freshness. (from Hope Estate Winery)

Read More in: Champagne and Sparkling | Chardonnay | Wine Advice

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May 21, 2008

Fire up the grill - Wines for Burgers

Everyone loves a big, fat, juicy burger. It doesn't matter if your burger of choice is turkey, veggie, portabello, or good old-fashioned USDA prime beef. There is just something comforting about sinking your teeth into mouthwatering goodness enveloped in soft bun. So what do you drink when you have to satisfy that yearning? Well you could go in so many different directions depending on your burger preference. Classic cheeseburger? Bacon cheeseburger? Mushrooms? BBQ? Don't worry there are a couple of good wines that will make any burger a dream burger.

hopeshiraz.jpgIf you're hankering for top sirloin, bison or just about any red-meat burger, go for a medium to full-bodied shiraz. I like the Hope Estate because it is big and intense with some fruit, but it is definitely more spicy than fruity and doesn't exhibit the fruit-bomb characteristics of most shiraz.

Hope Estate Hunter Valley Shiraz 2006 $12
Hunter Shiraz has unique characters, not the big, ripe jammy characters of many Australian wines but a more elegant, finer style. Our wine still has the usual plum and spicy pepper characters but a balanced elegance enhanced from time in French oak. A complex and satisfying Shiraz that you will love to drink. (from Hope Estate)

renwoodbarbera.jpgOn the other hand, if you fancy a more heart-healthy and figure-friendly burger, a la turkey, veggie and the sort, you might check out a barbera. There are some excellent Italian barberas out there that would foot the bill, but I really like the Renwood from California for all of my burger moods - meaty and meatless.

Renwood Sierra Foothills Barbera 2005 $10-$12
The 2005 Barbera displays aromas of rhubarb, cherry, and strawberry. On the palate the wine is lighter, with a smooth core of fruit flavors. Crisp acidity is Barbara's signature trait which makes this wine so mouthwatering. A finish that lingers, with raspberry flavors with a hint of cinnamon, balances the wine. The lots were aged in both stainless steel tanks and in a blend of older American and French oak barrels for 10 months. This allows the pure fruit to shine through and have a hint of smokiness. (from Renwood Winery)

If these two don't spark your interest, check out this great shiraz blend: D'Arenberg Stump Jump

Read More in: Red Wine | Shiraz | Wine Advice

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May 20, 2008

Fire up the grill - Wines for Wieners

Actually if you want to be literal, its wine for wursts. But I thought wine for wieners had a much better ring. Anyhoo, I digress from my mission which is to direct you in your wine and wiener (or wurst) pairing. Hot dogs and sausages are a little tough to pair because there are so many condiments and side dishes involved. Your best bet is a round and robust (yet dry) rose. It will have enough body and subtle tannins to cut through the fat in the meat, but ample fruit and moderate acidity to balance out the acidity in most condiments and picnic sides. If your tastes lean more toward spicy sausage and peppers, you could also try a light to medium bodied California or Northwest pinot noir. Here are two of my picks that are sure to please without breaking the bank

91020l.jpgPerrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone Rose 2006 $10
Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre
Made by a traditional wine-making technique which results in a rosé wine made by running off or "bleeding", a certain amount of free-run juice from just-crushed dark-skinned grapes after a short, prefermentation maceration. Clearly a wine from a warm place, the color is an intense pink with bright reflections. The nose is fresh, with redcurrants and yellow raspberries. The mouth is supple with fruity roundness in the middle, and a lively finish that is quite long. (from

rexgoliathpn.jpgHRM Rex Goliath California Pinot Noir 2006 $8-$11
The aromas are characteristic of the cool Central coast vineyards that yielded the majority of the grapes for this wine. Red berry perfume with a touch of cinnamon spice, wrapped in a blanket of subtle French oak. Breathe it in. This is one of Pinot Noir's great pleasures. The taste is pure Pinot, too. Mouth-filling overripe raspberry and cherry flavors. Soft and supple are a few of the descriptors I would use. The wine exhibits a velvet finish due to the soft tannins and understated acidity. (from

If you are a die-hard white drinker then by all means go with a white. A medium to full bodied pinot gris or even pinot blanc are safe bets. Although there are certain principles to follow when pairing wine with food, the most important thing to remember is to drink what you like.

One final note: the Rex Goliath is currently out of stock on their site, but one can usually find it at Trader Joe's, certain grocery chains and many smaller independently owned wine shops.

Read More in: Red Wine | Rose Wine | Wine Advice

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