The ancient admonition, derived after the Trojan horse affair, was “beware of Greeks bearing gifts;” today, it may be amended to also say, “beware of wine in fancy bottles.”

Wines presented in gaudily decorated bottles were once the ploy of bulk wine bottlers to attract the consumer to buy the rather mediocre wine in those very fancy bottles.

Bulk wine bottlers were people who bought wines that did not meet the criterion of the producers and therefore could not or would not be labeled under their name.

To counter that process, many wineries have what is called “second labels” which are not inferior wines in any way but usually made with less expensive grapes to counter balance the cost of making wines with higher priced grapes.

The cost of producing all wines, no matter what the selling price, is about the same.

It is mostly the cost of the grapes that determines the final selling price.

After the public got wise to the bulk wines, the bottlers resorted to a collection of wild, funny and occasionally almost obscene labels as the ploy to court buyers.

Fortunately, this does not occur too often these days either but the stigma of “cheap wine in the pretty bottle” still lives on.

To counter this impression, the “good guys” brought out labels of their own featuring famous people and Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Merlot, Paul Newman wines and the Federalist wines showing line drawings of the founders of our country.

There is however one exception to the fancy or decorated bottle conundrum.

The Spanish have always enjoyed decorating their sparkling wine bottles especially around Christmas and New Years.

One among the host of Spanish winemakers who decorates their bottles is Vilarnau of Barcelona, who makes a Cava (Spanish Sparkling Wine) and presents it in a beautifully decorated bottle.

Both the art on the bottle and the wine inside it are of quality.

Vilarnau Brut ($14.99). This is the wine that Vilarnau hangs its hat on and is the wine that set the companies stylistic direction. Made from the local indigenous grapes 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 15% Xarel lo grapes, this wine captures the ebullient spirit of the Spanish while maintaining the structure and elegance required of a fine sparkling wine. The wine displays a crisp acid bite, an important feature for any decent sparkling wine, which is in perfect balance with the fruit. This is an excellent wine, featuring understated fruit flavors, and a creamy elegance found only in the finest sparkling wines. There is also typical flavor of toast along with a hint of vanilla that accompanies all of the wines made by these very labor intensive hands on classical Methode Champenoise that produces the carbonation naturally in the bottle that the wine will be sold in. It is a more expensive process than some of the other methods but without any doubt, result in the finest of sparkling wines. This is a truly fine wine and the perfect accompaniment to holiday meals; yes you can serve sparkling wines with meals and it does add a touch of elegance, even if the main course is tuna surprise, as well as serving it for holiday celebrations.

Vilarnau Rosé ($14.99). Here is another fine wine whose selling price far belies it quality. This wine is constructed with what is an imaginative and novel blend of 85% Garnacha, 15% Pinot Noir that truly does work and it too is made by the classical Methode Champenoise. That’s not all that is interesting about this wine; it comes in an easy to spot casing on dealers shelves by its elegantly colored, pink bottle. A fancy bottle does not make a good wine; it’s what is inside that fancy bottle that counts and this wine is no slouch in that department. The wine boldly displays aromas of strawberries, raspberries and other summer fruits with the background aroma of blueberries and, of course, toasted bread. Summing it all up, this is one fine wine at one incredible price.

Editor’s note: The prices listed in this column reflect the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

Bennet Bodenstein is a wine enthusiast and book author whose column appears in publications throughout the country.

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