It is not news to anyone that the world changed about a year and a half ago and that is certainly true for the wine world. While not that much, as far as I can tell, has changed on the viticulture and oenology side of the industry, the wholesale, retail, and hospitality side of it all has changed dramatically.
While it is certainly far too early to know how many or which changes will remain, but it seems clear at this point, at least to me, that mini-bottles are here to stay. For the last several decades, at least, the 750ml bottle was the standard. Sure, there were the occasional 375ml bottles around, and certainly there were larger format bottles available, but the vast majority of wines came in 3/4 liter bottles.
Now, I am not saying that is going to change, for the most part, but I have been writing about wine for almost a decade now and until the pandemic, 99.99% of the samples I received were in the 750ml format. But as of late, I have been getting a ton of these mini-bottles.
While some are produced just for the trade, others are available for consumers. Perhaps the first to adopt this business model was the group behind the Master the World™ series, which provides kits of six 187ml bottles that one tastes “blind” (they are packaged so that the taster does not know what the wine is other than color and perhaps region). The purchaser of the kit also has access to online discussions where highly trained professionals taste the wines as well, providing their insights into the wines.
While Master the World™ appeals more to winery professionals who are either looking to hone their skills or prepare for an accreditation, other producers are offering mini-bottles to consumers that simply do not want to have to open a whole bottle in order to enjoy a glass of wine at home.
One such producer is Le Grand Verre, a group of French entrepreneurs, living in the U.S., providing French wines in quite attractive (I must say) 187ml bottles. The wines are produced by actual French wineries and bottled directly into the tiny vessels, available to consumers in lots of four (for a total of 750ml), either as four of the same wine, or selected “wine bundles” of four different wines that have been grouped together around a particular theme (e.g., “countryside reds” or “picnic whites”).
When I agreed to be a part of the online tasting several weeks ago, I had no idea that they were going to be mini-bottles and when they arrived, I have to admit I was skeptical. I mean, come on. I have had enough really bad wine on airplanes to fear this type of thing.
But I was very pleasantly surprised.
2020 Domaine Prataviera Côtes de Gascogne, France: Retail $5 ($20/4 pack of 187ml). 100% Sauvignon Blanc. I have been to France countless times, I have not spent much time at all in this region. Yes, I have been to Toulouse and yes I have ridden a bike in the Pyrénées , but the Côtes de Gascogne is somewhere in between (I think). Quite tropical on the nose with a real fruit explosion of pineapple, mango, guava. Much more akin to a New Zealand SB than a Sancerre. That continues on the palate with the addition of considerable tartness and length. I was ready to dislike this wine, but this is a pretty gangbusters SB. I am not sure that I am the target audience here, but this is a nice start to the tasting. Excellent. 90 Points.
2020 Domaine Caylus Vin de Pays de l’Hérault, France: Retail $6.25 ($25/4 pack of 187ml). 60% Syrah, 40% Grenache. Made with organic grapes. Before this tasting, I had never heard of “Le Pays de l’Hérault” despite spending a significant portion of my adult life riding a bike all over France. It turns out to be west of Montpélier and north of Beziers in Southwest France, which makes sense since I never have ridden in that corner of the country. Pale pink with an orange tint, and more floral than fruity in the glass. There is also a bit of nuttiness, which I found a little surprising. The palate is lovely–not overly fruity, but well-balanced and really driven by the acidity. I would argue that this is more of a food wine than a patio sipper, given the body and complexity. Pair this with a salmon caesar salad, for example. Very Good. 89 Points.
2020 Château Val d’Arenc Bandol Rosé, France: Retail $7.50 ($30/4 pack of 187ml). 80% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache, 10% Cinsault. Like the first two regions represented above, I have not actually been to Bandol, but I have been fairly close and have tasted countless wines from the appellation, and this is a terrific representation (albeit in a tiny bottle). Fairly light in color with a considerable orange tint compared to other Bandols that I have tried with aromas of intense rose petal, some strawberry, a fabulous nose, really. The palate is an explosion of flavor, with lovely fruit and a perfumed nature that I find is quite rare, it really is fabulous. Add to that the finish, which is lengthy and also intense. My only gripe? It’s only 187ml! give me more! Outstanding. 93 Points.
2018 Domaine Nadal Hainaut Vin de Pays d’Oc, France: Retail $6.25 ($25/4 pack of 187ml). 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Yet another region (again, in the southwest) that I do not know despite all my time in France. Made with organic grapes, using no oak whatsoever. Quite dark in the glass with a bit of astringency somewhat covering the rich black fruit of plum, cassis, blackberry, with some spice and considerable floral notes. Quite rich on the palate with plenty of fruit, but also that astringency which I find fairly common in French Cabernet. Not my style, for sure, but it is excellent and I think this would pair well with a nice ribeye. Excellent. 90 Points.
2020 Château Peyredon Lagravette Haut-Médoc, Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux, France: Retail $7.50 ($30/4 pack of 187ml). 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot. I imagine it was quite a coup for the folks at Le Grand Verre to land a Cru Bourgeois even at a slightly higher price point than their other wines. Fruity, spicy, floral, and astringent notes on this fairly dark majority Cab wine. Good fruit, along with the floral notes on the palate, but there is also that astringent aspect that I associate with the Bordeaux blends of France. While I don’t necessarily mind it, I think I would prefer it not to be there. Still, this is a classic Cru Bourgeois: reserved, balanced, and in search of food. Very Good. 89 Points.