Ever felt like drinking a glass of wine but didn’t because of the reluctance to open a fresh bottle? Ever stopped yourself from ordering wine by the glass in a restaurant because you can never be sure when the bottle it comes from was opened?

Any wine drinker has almost certainly done both. This is why it is such a surprise that no one has come up with a practicable solution to provide small pour-size quantities of wine to consumers.

Well, not no one really. A French company has been making a buzz in the wine industry by developing glass tubes sealed with aluminium screw caps that hold 100 cc of wine or a medium-sized pour.

After having established itself in the French market, WIT or Wine in a Tube has now started doing business in other countries in the world. The potential for this form of packaging is immense, though of course there are prejudices to overcome.

The idea that your Chateauneuf-du-Pape is contained in something that looks like it has come out of the laboratory will take some getting used to. And it’s hard to see a sommelier serve something out of a screw-capped tube with the customary flourish.

If you nurse a romantic conceit about the way wine should be bottled and served, then tubes are not for you. But the real obstacle for wine in tubes is economic rather than aesthetic.

Today, the technology is used to make samples for professional tasting. Tubes are also marketed in modest quantities, sometimes in gift packs – the sales hook being that you can get to taste grand crus or premier crus at affordable prices.

But if wine in tubes is going to become a big success, it will have to move from being a ‘rebottling’ activity to one that persuades wineries to install a separate bottling line for these products. The price of doing so may be prohibitive, or at least not cost-effective at the moment, but in the long run, demand for tubes may well alter the existing economic equations.

The idea is good, it’s easy to see why there is a pent-up demand – the question is in what numbers and how quickly wine manufacturers are willing to experiment selling their products in pour-size measures.



In search of raptureMay 4, 2012