Premium cask wine – sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?
But it’s a concept that one producer, Tote Wines, are trying to breathe life into, releasing a duo of premium 1.5 litre cask wines that are apparently ‘redesigning the way that you think about and drink, premium Australian Wine.’
Conceptually the idea has merit. Glass bottles are bulky, have a massive carbon footprint and aren’t even slightly portable. Further, we’ve come a long way in cask technology, with the quality now firmly advanced enough that the old issues with oxidation are nowhere near as apparent.
Will consumers buy the idea that you can get serious wine in a bladder though? I’m not so sure.
Historically, cask wines have always been the cheapest way to get your wine fix, and even though multiple winemakers have given it a go (like the Bud Naked Sauv and McLaren Vale wines from circa 10 years ago), cask wines remain about value, nothing else.
More to the point, I don’t think these Tote Wines are going to change opinions either.
For starters, the price is just a bit too high. The Eden Valley Sauvignon Blanc has an RRP of $30 for a 1.5ltr cask, the Shiraz $35. Pricewise that marks these as proper premium wine, in a category ($15 and $17.50/bottle equivalent) where wines come from defined brands, with quality aspirations. Quality-wise, however, these aren’t quite at that level – and especially not the Sauvignon Blanc.
Still, what price convenience? The bladder and tap designs on these are some of the best I’ve seen (see above), indicating that you may well get a few full weeks of drinking out of them (particularly the Shiraz). The no-glass, pack flat nature of casks means that they’re infinitely more useful than bottles too. Hello boat and picnics.
The more I think about it, the more I like these as a concept, and particularly for red wine. The fact Tote have targeted Barossa Shiraz is smart too – great commercial appeal. If you could have the Shiraz for closer to $20 or even $25 for 1.5 ltr it would have real merit. Or if the Sauvignon Blanc was Adelaide Hills (more marketable than odd choice Eden) and a step up in quality it would be a popular $20 choice too. Still the problem remains that there are many many better $17.50 Barossa Shiraz out there (Yalumba makes a few for starters) so you’re just paying more for the flexibility of the packaging (which is too hard to justify).
Oh and a final point – I don’t think the lack of info about vineyard and winemaker helps either. That lack of transparency doesn’t reinforce the quality message (in my opinion). The packaging is rather clever otherwise, so just a little more info would go a long way.
So what do you think? Would you fork out the dollars for these? I wouldn’t, but I can see the promise of ‘premium wines on tap’ (with a few tweaks). Then again, I also like wine in a can too…
Tote Wines Eden Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016
The cask says ‘enhanced by premium French oak post fermentation’ which could be anything – chips, staves, powdered oak etc. This chills down from room temp in just 15 minutes though which is outstanding. Vegan.
Light neutral and broad Sauvignon Blanc with a nutty edge of slight oxidation. Lacks much varietal definition and a lean finish. Of a quality level that you’d expect in a circa $10-$15 wine, but not a good one. Flat, lightly oxidised edge doesn’t help. 14.5/20, 83/100. 12.5%, $29.95 1.5ltr. Would I buy it? No.
Tote Wines Barossa Valley Shiraz 2014
‘Select parcels of single Vineyard Barossa Valley fruit’ does that mean several single vineyards or just one? Vegan.
Rich and chocolatey, it’s quite plump and distinctly Barossan complete with a slick of vanilla oak and lots of berry fruit. The alcohol is very noticeable, and the acid/tannin balance is slightly off, but this has some substance and some attractive richness. A $15 Shiraz in quality (at least). 16/20, 87/100. 15%, $34.95. Would I buy it? $25 for 1.5ltr cask and I’d recommend it.