The Event
Pull the Tab or Pop the Cork?
© by Sheral Schowe
An Australian wine lover tries canned wine.
See Murray Almond's tasting report.
What is it about opening a bottle of wine that people enjoy? Is it the ceremony and presentation of the cork? Is it the flair of fine motor skills employed by the server with a particularly attractive corkscrew? Or is it the unveiling of a wonderful wine that represents centuries of tradition?

It is all of that to me, and more. I love the ceremony, I practice the ritual, and I inspect the cork. I look for an indicator of the winery, for color extraction, for tartrate crystals, and for absorption. Then I keep the cork. Maybe as a reminder of a wonderful meal or occasion, maybe for my friend John's cork curtains, or to craft a wreath, a corkboard, even a wall.

But the winemakers are beginning to see a different side of ye olde cork closure. Many a bottle of wine is lost due to a bad cork. Tainted corks create tainted wines and that's not so great for business. In order to create quality assurance on a higher level, the synthetic cork was developed. Voila, no more wines that smell like chlorine or mildew because of a chunk of bark from Portugal.

But somehow, the ceremony and ritual of pulling the cork lost its mystique when out popped a coal black cork, or a royal blue one, or even worse, fluorescent orange. Pretty appetizing I must say. Nothing like a blue cork to get me in the spirit of an aged cabernet. The worst is yet to come.

Plumpjack winery decided to do away with the cork altogether and package some of their wines with a screwtop. The Aussies thought their mates had a good plan and followed suit with their premium Rieslings.

As if this "twist" were not radical enough, a winemaker Greg Stokes in Australia is marketing wine in a can. He just released 30,000 cans of his 1998 vintage of Iron Bridge Cabernet Shiraz. The next canning will be 200,000. The can size is slightly smaller than a soda can and fetches $6 each. $36 seems a bit pricey for a six-pack, even though it is convenient.

I can see some possibilities for the great outdoors, for those times when the glass bottle is prohibited and wine lovers have to resort to other beverages. Maybe a can of Cab by the public poolside wouldn't be so bad, or in my backpack when a bottle is too heavy or bulky, but for now, I'll stick with glass bottles, complete with cork.

Feb. 27, 2001

An Australian wine lover pulls a tab
I bought this wine based on the discussions of the news release worldwide, and wanted to see how serious the wine was.

It was time to pull the ring tab on the 1998 Iron Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, packaged in a 330ml can (just less than half a bottle). It's a South Australian Wine, but no further details on region. It was oak aged for 15 months before canning.

The can opened with a slight vacuum hiss. I resisted temptation to slap a straw in it, and poured it into a Riedel Gourmet Glass.

The contrast to the Rosemount was dramatic. Here was medium-full red-purple wine. The nose was full dark-red berry with hints of chocolate, spice and a smidge of licorice. The palate was medium to full weight, great berry characters, some nice tannin backbone and a medium-long finish. The oak is understated, I think the 15 months would have been in big old oak. Overall a very enjoyable red!

This can was $5.40aud which makes it a $12 bottle. About equivalent to the Wynns Shiraz on special in price. It's not as good as the 1998 (one of last year's QPR winners), but is more than a match for the 1999!! It tastes like a good 1998 mass market red.

This was really surprising. I had expected it to be cask standard, even at the price, and it performed much better.

I'm not sure if cellaring would do anything. The can is apparently lined with inert material, but I think was vaccuum packed.

I wouldn't put a straw in it or scull it from the can, but it would confuse many served blind in a glass.


- Don't judge a red by its packaging!

-- Murray Almond
Posted on Wine Lovers' Discussion Group.

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