April 3, 2008
This 'Green' Wine is White

The dawn of Earth Day 2008 draws near. It will be April 22. Look at it as if it were a serious St. Patrick's Day; once again, we're obligated to go "green."

And like Christmas, the commercial exploitation of Earth Day starts earlier each year. Three days ago, a new boxed wine showed up on my desk. It touts itself as an "eco-friendly upgrade" to other 3-liter boxed wines, which already have an environmental advantage over traditional bottles, the cost of which to manufacture and transport accounts for about 45 percent of the carbon dioxide attributed to winemaking, according to calculations by UC Davis professor Roger Boulton.

At any rate, this latest boxed wine from Boho Vineyards, a brand of The Wine Group Inc. of San Francisco, reputedly cuts by more than half the carbon footprint of the wine if it were packaged in customary bottles, and slashes by 85 percent the packaging that will end up in a landfill. The plain brown box looks as if it's made out of recycled paper, and for the most part - 95 percent - it is. Not only is glass eliminated entirely, so is the use of corks, capsules and labels (appellation, vintage and the like are printed directly on the paper, and with soy-based ink, at that).

While boxed wines make environmental sense, they face a couple of marketing challenges. One is the popular perception that they are so small they couldn't possibly hold four bottles, which the 3-liter containers do. And because of their compact size, their price - about $24 in this instance - looks high. But for the Boho Vineyards 2006 Central Coast Chardonnay, that works out to just $6 a bottle.

So how's the wine? Actually, quite pleasant, representing with clarity and balance more the tropical-fruit side of chardonnay than the citric, melon and apple. It isn't a barrel-chested example of California chardonnay. It's more demure, intended to be taken at the table with light spring cuisine. It isn't an oaky, alcoholic monster meant for cocktail-hour sipping, pondering and discussing. It put me in mind of a carafe of the house wine that would be put on the table of a bistro in Burgundy, a small place in a cellar, so casual the dogs wouldn't be leashed.

In a press release, winemaker Adam Richardson is quoted as saying representative artisan winemaking went into the wine, including night harvesting of the grapes and aging of the wine in small oak barrels, which comes across with a smokiness and toastiness that is more intriguing whisper than intrusive shout. Overall, it's a refreshingly dry and complete chardonnay, worthy for a toast come Earth Day (that's another thing about boxed wines; once you open the spigot the plastic bag inside collapes a bit more with each glass, curbing the intrusion of oxygen and retaining the wine's freshness for up to about six weeks).

Nugget Markets and Corti Brothers carry the wine, which also is to be available at Raley's stores May 1, said a spokesperson for The Wine Group Inc.

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