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2005 French Rabbit Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France

french_rabbit.jpgIn case you hadn't noticed, the wine packaging revolution is upon us. Or should I say, upon us again. It was only about a thousand years ago that wine came in a wide variety of packaging, from the scraped bladders of Eurasian mammals, to clay jugs, to woven waxed baskets, to precious glass bottles. Times changed of course, and wine packaging converged on the convenient, durable, and increasingly inexpensive glass bottle, but these days we are seeing a renaissance of options for toting man's favorite beverage.

These days, the choices are even more varied than deer bladder vs. sheep bladder. We've got cans, mini-bottles, bag-in box, jugs, and tetra paks -- and that's not even considering the plethora of alternative closures that have popped up for the ubiquitous old bottle.

So it was only a matter of time that Wine Blogging Wednesday, the monthly online virtual wine tasting event got around to sampling wines that eschewed the trendy glass enclosure for the higher tech world of the box. This month's Wine Blogging Wednesday suggested we all go out and taste wines with alternative packaging, which is how I ended up with a French Rabbit in my shopping cart earlier in the week.

I decided to head up to my local grocery store and see what they had to offer in the way of wines in alternative packaging, and this was all they had: a couple of 1 liter tetra-paks of French wine with little bunnies on them. I thought to myself, "Heck, I've got nothing against bunnies. Sometimes they can be quite tasty" and a few minutes and ten bucks later I was headed home with my own little lepine wine pal.

Boxed wine, and all the variants whose packaging is slightly less rectangular have come a long way since I first stole squirts from the ever-present Franzia blush box in my grandfather's refrigerator. The technology and marketing have improved slightly, but more importantly for us, the wine has done so significantly. This isn't to say that what you're getting when you buy a boxed wine is not made in quantities of bazillions of gallons, but generally it is much higher quality juice than I was sneaking a drink of in my early teens.

So let's get on to this particular juice: Chardonnay from the Languedoc region of France, exported by the liter in plastic lined cardboard boxes by Boisset, one of the larger wine export and distribution companies in France. Boisset got its start from rather humble beginnings as a negociant in Burgundy in the early 1960s, and in the three decades since has become a powerful force in the French wine industry (as well as the Californian wine industry -- owning Deloach Vineyards, among others).

And now Boisset brings us a bit of wine, a bit of new packaging, and a whole lot of marketing. But let's cut through the branding and get to the really important stuff, like what is this little sucker good for? More than you might imagine: picnicking, backpacking, skiing, fishing, and of course the budget conscious art gallery opening. The packaging weighs nothing and is easily foldable when empty, making it easy to "pack it out" of the wilderness, and making for low profile recyclable waste. The brand web site makes a lot of the environmental benefits of the product, which I suppose is good, but at the end of the day, if it doesn't taste very good, that hardly matters.

Luckily for all, however, this stuff ain't awful.

Tasting Notes:
Pale gold in the glass with a slight greenish cast, this wine has a pleasant smell of vanilla pudding as it is opened right out of the fridge, with aromas of baked apples developing as the wine warms and gets more air. In the mouth it is smooth and simple, with decent acidity and pleasant fruit flavors that hang between citrus and apple in quality, with overtones of vanilla. The wine is thankfully absent a heavy oak influences, as well as the somewhat yeasty quality that box wines can sometimes have. This is a totally unobjectionable Chardonnay that most folks would be pleased to drink, though it displays little personality or complexity. However if you're looking for a cheap wine to serve to hundreds of people, this would be a pretty good choice. I've certainly been served worse at some weddings I've attended.

Food Pairing:
If we're talking no nonsense wine here, then it can easily be matched with no nonsense food. How about the classic tuna noodle casserole?

Overall Score: 8

How Much?: $9.99

This wine is available for purchase on the internet.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud