Portable vs Potable II: A Tetrapak Smackdown (or "Garbage In, Garbage Out")

Vinted on October 30, 2008 binned in Tales of the Purple Monkey, wine review

In this exciting edition of Tales of the Purple Monkey, Plumboo (that’s the monkey) and I take on some wine samples provided in Tetrapak packaging. And narrowly survive!

During the Wine Bloggers Conference earlier this week, one of the event sponsors, Tetra Pak, supplied us with samples of wines from wineries that are using their packaging for their products…

Specifically, Plumboo and I tried juice-carton portions of French rabbit‘s ‘petit’ Merlot/Cabernet blend, and Three Thieves‘ “Bandit” Chardonnay, assisted by friends who have a hankerin’ for some vino when I cracked them open. Er, I mean, popped them open. Or peeled them open, actually.

Before I pass judgment on the wines (warning: it won’t be pretty), I should bring some positive karma to this post by giving some attention to what Tetra Pak is all about.

I can really get bahind what Tetra Pak is all about, which is making coin in a green, sustainable way. Their manufacturing is officially carbon nuetral. The packaging that they produce (think milk cartons) requires less material and less weight than glass to hold the same amount of liquid – which also reduces the carbon footprint needed to ship whatever liquid is in the Tetra Pak container.

So… I do NOT blame Tetra Pak for what Plumboo and I had to endure, because their packaging is neutral and theoretically shouldn’t be imparting any flavor or odor qualities to the wine inside.

Qualities like an aroma of bug spray – which was in such prevalent quantity in the French Rabbit ‘petit’ red blend that I expected to find the words “Contains DEET” on the back of the carton.

As for the Bandit, we found it one-dimensional. And that dimension was astringency.

Green is Good. But it doesn’t change the time-tested rule of “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”

(images: 1WineDude.com, quiktechsaz.com)





  • Dirty

    Nice post Joe-

    I tried the Pinot Noir and found it “challenging” to my palate. I wondered if it were really wine…

    I’m ok w/ the packaging and think it could be cool for simple stuff- (A decent pop n’ pour Cotes Du Rhone might work).

    The rabbit requires tough love….

  • Vinogirl

    It would interesting to see what a ‘premium’ wine would be like packaged like this, instead of highly blended bulk wine.

  • Joe Roberts, CSW

    Thanks for the comments!

    I’ve been wondering if I was too harsh in this assessment, but sounds like a ‘No’ :)

  • Arthur, winesooth.com

    Hey Joe,

    My impression was essentially the same. I am familiar with this packaging having lived in Europe and continue to buy European juices in Tetra Pak cartons from a local specialty grocer.
    In Europe, milk and juice comes in this stuff. The quality of the stuff inside is related only to the raw materials and production process.

    Good post.

  • Alan Kropf

    I’m very intrigued by the Tetra Pak technology, though one fear I have is that people may not treat tetra paks with the same care as glass bottles. I can see tetra paks getting left in the sun in boxes and stuff. Maybe it won’t be a problem, its just that wine in bottles requires a great deal of care, preventing a lot of potential problems…

  • Morton Leslie

    There is a difference between something being recyclable and actually being recycled. About 75% of cardboard and paper products end up in landfills where they generate methane and other greenhouse gases. These emissions are a major environmental issue. Often it is better to use something that uses a little more energy to produce, is lightweight, but doesn’t breakdown.

    Regarding the wine quality, I have never tasted a good wine that has been put in plastic, aluminum cans, bag-in-the-box, or these coated cardboard containers. When push comes to shove, the consumer is not about to part with serious cash for cheap looking packaging and so we fill them with plonk to get down to the right price point.

  • Craig Camp

    You have to admit they had a lot of guts to push this stuff to the WBC conference. There is also the possibility they didn’t have a clue.

  • Joe Roberts, CSW

    Thanks, everyone!

    I like where the tetrapak model is going, but agree with you all that decent juice needs to go into those packs…

  • Dirty

    I agree with Craig-

    They had balls, or maybe just no idea….

    In the end- a lot of people are talking about it.

  • Amy Atwood

    I have had decent, everyday wines that were packaged as bag in a box and tetra box (these were both common in Australia where I lived for many years).
    So I am open to the idea of alternative packaging but yes, put the good juice in there dangit!
    I think these companies view bloggers as more open to new trends than the traditional old school wine world.

  • Diane Letulle

    I tried drinking the awful rabbit on the bus ride back to SFO, since I was only flying with carry-on luggage. Eeww–should have left it in a wastebin at the Flamingo. As far as drinking wine on buses, the Pinot on the bus to Sebastiani was much better!

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