Does anybody fancy cracking open a carton of cabernet sauvignon?
WINE lovers still coming to terms with plastic corks and screw caps will be in for a shock when the latest packaging revolution hits dining room tables later this month.
In an unusual departure for the home of fine wine, one of France's top producers is to replace traditional glass bottles with cardboard and plastic cartons normally associated with milk and fruit juice.
Burgundy-based producer Boisset says the controversial packaging will help preserve the quality of its wines as well as appeal to environmentally-conscious drinkers.
Boisset president Jean-Charles Boisset said: "We wanted to be innovative with quality, in a way that was good for the planet. We do everything we can to respect the soil and the vines, but it never went as far as the packaging.
"We want to take a serious approach to global warming. We decided to eliminate the cork, paper and glass, and look at a new format."
Traditionally more commercial, cheap wine has been sold in boxes but Boisset's departure is notable in that it will supply wine costing up to 10 a bottle including established varieties such as pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay.
Lab analysis by Boisset shows that the Tetra Pak wine will keep fresh for three to four days in the fridge. The company says the eco-friendly containers use 90% less packaging than wine bottles and take up one third less space during transportation.
The cartons also provide 100% protection from ultra-violet light which can damage wine.
Philip Larue, the Scottish director of Friarwood fine wine merchants, said he didn't feel the British market was ready to ditch the wine bottle.
"Putting wine in any sort of box has a very bad image in the UK in terms of quality of wine," he said.
"Wine is all about romance and occasion. To some extent presentation is as important as the quality of the liquid that is in the bottle. Can you imagine if you have a guest coming to dinner and you serve them wine in a plastic carton?
I am not so sure it will be the next big thing."
Britain is fast becoming a nation of sophisticated wine drinkers. Research conducted by Vinexpo, the world's largest wine fair, predicts that by 2008 the UK will have matured into Europe's largest wine market, overtaking France, Germany and Italy. More people than ever are buying fine wines - typically, those that cost more that 8 a bottle and are worth laying down - but the annual cost to consumers and the industry of corked bottles is estimated at 340m.
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