Australia has lead the way in many inventions over the years. From Spray-On Skin, the winged keel, the black box flight recorder, the ute even the humble Hills hoist and petrol lawn mower, the list is as long as my kids Santa wish list.
But there is one thing that is having a massive resurgence in Northern Hemisphere, that Australia can lay claim to: the bag-in-a-box. Whether you call it goon, chateau cardboard, bladder or schoolies handbag or cask, it was a go to for many during their uni days, or many would remember it as something that used to sit in the fridge and their oldies would have a glass or two from it. It was a staple of mine for many years whilst at uni, as it fitted the two most important criteria’s for me: it was cheap and it had an alcohol content. We were able to grab them from the old Causeway Hotel drive-thru when the bag had busted and the casks were dumped in a wheelbarrow at $2ea, you never had any idea what was in there till you got home.
Developed by Thomas Angove of Angove’s wine in the 60’s, its long been acknowledged that its significantly cheaper – not necessarily nicer – than bottled versions, but it’s also better for the environment, carrying a smaller carbon footprint, and the bladder system will keep the air out and the wine fresh in the bag for four to six weeks after opening it. These days the sales of large format 4L casks is slowly waning, however there has been a recent upsurge in sales of the 2L format. Europe and the UK have seen sales soar by 8.5% with Amazon reporting sales increase of 212% year upon year. The format isn’t just for that cheap end of wine any longer, with organic, biodynamic and natural wines hitting the market. The size is perfect for day trip picnics with a few mates, taking to an outdoor event, or great for those casual white wines around the pool over Xmas. The winemakers have taken notice of the quality over the years and are producing young, fresh wines, when poured into a carafe sit very comfortably on the dining table, and most we have tried are quite drinkable without being exceptionable.
DeBortoli, one of the Founding Members of Austrlias First Families of Wine, and one of Australias most inovtative wineries, have recently revamped their own 2 Litre Premium Reserve bag-in-box with a contemporary look and feel. With all the usual suspects there like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz, the winery has turned out some good low-priced varietal and generic wines that are not going to be award winners but are easy drinking, with their Pinot Grigio being a drop that I’d grab for a long weekend camping or the poolside school holidays. But let’s be honest at $13 for 2litres (or $5 for 750ml) you’re not looking for an award winning wine, you’re looking for something that you can have a glass of every now and again.
We put these restyled casks up against a few of the readily available drops to see how they went, pouring the wines into carafes and tasting them blind so as not to know brands or if there were even bottled vs cask. A quick hint though, chill the reds in the fridge for a short time otherwise there are high alcohol fumes:
De Bortoli Premium Reserve Pinot Grigio – fresh and aromatic, our pick of the bunch, a little sweet but not so that its not drinkable. A blend of early and late picked fruit gives a bit of depth to it, think crisp woody pear and citrus blossom, very light notes of lychee and rambutan. Long lingering crisp finish which can be hard to find at this price. Around $10
De Bortoli Premium Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – more of a backyard, quaffing BBQ red than a dinner red, there’s light plum, some green fresh hay notes, plum and berry. Lingering finish that can be a little abrasive if it’s left too long in the glass. Tried beside the recent award winning St Andrews Cab Sauv ($6 Coles) and found the De Bortoli left it for dead. Around $10 for 2L
Yalumba Premium Cabernet Sauvignon – a touch more approachable than the De Bortoli quaffer, with a bit more depth of flavour to the fruit, and a little less astringent. Some light dry hay notes with some sharper green capsicum edge in there, light dark chocolate notes. Around $13
De Bortoli Premium Reserve Shiraz – cask shiraz can be dicey, often the wine shows as sharp with strong alcohol notes that show as nail polish remover. De Bortoli have done well here to avoid those huge overblown notes, they are there but the wine isn’t a huge mouth grenade. Plum and berry with some light soft oak notes.