Local Plonks: Affordable Wine Worth or Not  Worth Your Dime at the NLC 

Boxed Wine

Not long ago, we were in Paris and figured we’d do the natural wine thing. We suspected a fad and many cidery or spoiled wines. Got that wrong. Not one of the examples we tasted was flawed. The excitement is justified. The new cool kids want less chemistry and more nature. The biodynamic crowd are harvesting on lunar cycles, inoculating soil with nonsense tinctures and, for all that, making wines of considerable interest. They are made without chemical stabilizers so don’t travel well. Canada just has to make more of its own.

The same kids are greenminded too. In an effort to reduce their footprint, they’re using lighter bottles and do the bag-in-box thing. Most wines are meant to be consumed in their first few years and actually want the freshness preserved by the airtight bladder. It’s a good solution for packaging “Vins de soif” (thirst wines). The best Muscadet we tasted in years, ever so slightly turbid, briny, and refreshing came out of a bag at a tavern in the 10th.

This side of the pond we associate bag-in-box wines with stroke-like hangovers. It’s been a cheap way of shipping and selling alcoholic beverages that almost mimic wine. We had to give it a go, see if the situation had improved any.

Find it in the Italy Section 

The Ricossa Piemonte Barbera (around $54 a tub) promises a weird combo of “passion and truffles.” It has neither. It’s not super horrible, it sort of recalls a Barbera d’Asti wine; there is a tart cherry note typical of those wines but it’s marred by something confected. This wine has a manufactured character.

Is it a bargain? We compared it to a benchmark, the Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC ‘Bricco dei Merli.’ The Cogno is a top example of wine made from the barbera grape, the serious tannins here are like cocoa powder, the cherry flavours not those of an extract or a candy, but of the juice of the fresh fruit. There’s a hint of wild herbs. But it’s $37.25. That seems a lot for this bottle. It’s excellent Barbera d’Alba, but one thinks of Barbera wines as a class of everyday drinks for the table.

The sack o’ plonk comes in around $14.00 a bottle. It’s not worth it either. Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba are often good hunting ground for Italian value. It wasn’t here.