Are we getting the same wine?

The Aussie wine company which has made a great business out of selling canned wine all around the world is bragging about its new packaging, and its latest “extraordinary” wine show success. “Extraordinary” is an understatement.

The company is Barokes, and it has a new range of wine in ‘slim bottles’ – 300ml aluminium cans shaped like bottles.

We could ask why these wines do so well in shows. In the past, when I’ve tasted their samples, I’ve rated them around the bronze-medal to just below bronze area (tastings), with just one wine as I recall arguably worth a silver medal (90 points). Although young and simple, they were all clean, well-made, fault-free wines. I could never agree with the raft of trophies and gold medals they won in overseas competitions.

I would simply point out that the wines I tasted, and those they are promoting today, are non-vintage wines. How would anyone know whether the wine entered in the competition is the same as the wine in the metal container you buy?

It’s the fault of these wine shows, not the wine producers, whom you can hardly blame for taking advantage of the system. Any wine competition that allows people to enter non-vintage table wines is asking for trouble. 

The same could be said for sparkling and fortified wines.

Unless (1) these shows demand the producers declare the batch numbers of their entries, (2) the shows have appropriate regulations relating to batch numbers and non-vintage wines, and (3) the shows enforce the regulations by policing them, these results are not worth the paper they’re written on.

The same can be said for most of the large-production table wines that win surprisingly high awards in our Australian wine shows, despite the requirement that they’re vintage-dated. The fact is, most medium to large production wines are batch-bottled these days. It makes logistical sense: if you’re selling millions of cases of Jacob’s Creek, it would be madness to bottle it all at the same time. They bottle on-demand, as it’s much easier and cheaper to store wine in bulk, in large tanks. Storing it in bottled form would be madness.

Who can guarantee the first batch of the year is identical, or even similar, to the last? Further: who can guarantee the bottles entered in a wine competition are comparable to the bottle you and I purchase off the supermarket shelf months or years later? 

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