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Keeping up with wine trends on the street

The Boxed Wine Boogie

So there's new information out, about how more people are drinking wine from the formerly lowly three-liter box. Not just any wine, but premium wine. According to AC Nielsen, the boxed wine segment is growing nine times faster than the wine category as a whole, with the vast majority of those purchases coming from people who formerly bought bottled wine. The big sellers are chardonnay and merlot. All I have to say is, it's about damned time people wake up and realize how freakin' convenient boxed wine is. No corks, no spill, no fuss. You go, people.

Coming To a Town Near You

Hopefully, this trend will stick. There's this cool new wine bar concept that allows you to self-serve a glass or taste of wine from a bottle. The technology comes from Italy, and keeps the wine fresh for much longer than just corking the bottle. Taste before you buy... what a concept.

Pinot Fever

Pinot noir is obviously a hot seller, but its mutated white cousin pinot gris craves some of the spotlight. Fuller bodied than a sauvignon blanc yet lighter than a chardonnay, pinot gris offers refreshing floral aroma and flavor, usually at prices that offer high value. You might be familiar with the Italian version of this grape, pinot grigio. They make their grigio light-bodied, steely and very refreshing. But since so many Italian producers make crappy pinot grigio, it's frankly hard to find the best ones. Right now, the Alsace region of France and Oregon are producing the best of the gris out there, so expand pinot fever beyond the red zone.

Bye Bye Beer

In a recent Gallup poll that completely floored me, I learned that wine, for the first time since Gallup starting measuring in 1992, has edged out beer consumption. The July 2005 poll stated that 63 percent of Americans drink alcohol and, of those, 39 percent said wine was their drink of choice, with 36 percent answering beer and 21 percent liquor. In 1992, beer led wine 47 percent to 27 percent. Gallup attributed the growth to men finally realizing that consuming wine doesn't make you a girlie man.

Wine in a Can?

A company out of Australia is bringing wine to a vending machine near you. Gowrie Mountain Estate is packaging chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon in 250 ml aluminum cans -- about eight ounces -- designed to eventually go into vending machines. They say the aluminum won't affect the taste of the wine. Francis Coppola Winery has already released a line of sparkling wine in a can, called Sofia, to much hoopla but not much popularity. I predict a harder sell than boxed wine on that concept.

Blends Having More Fun

In the late 1990s and until recently, wines labeled 100 percent chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon captured our hearts, but wine blends are successfully wooing us. Winemakers blend wines to create different flavors and more complexity, much like a cook adds spices to a stew or sauce. Mixing several grapes' juices also achieves tannin balance so that your senses aren't affronted. Aussies do blends really well these days, with shiraz and cabernet blends, and classic Rhone blends, those made with syrah, grenache and mourvedre.

Recommended Wines

Ponzi 2004 Pinot Gris Willamette Valley (Oregon) An excellent wine worth twice the price. Fragrant, soft almond and tart lime on the tongue make this screw cap wine like hanging with a cool friend. Sweetness = 2. $17. HHH 1/2

Kumala 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Western Cape (South Africa) Gutsy with blackberry, baked cherries and that South African funky elephant foot aftertaste. It's not as disgusting as it sounds. Sw = 1. $9. HHH

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