With bottles and branding highly (and not accidentally) reminiscent of old-school, cheapy products like Colt 45 and Olde English malt liquor, the Forty Ounce Wines from French winemaker Julien Braud seem unlikely to be worthy of attention. I’m here to clarify that they are, regardless of one’s potential dismissal of the packaging as being too hipster-focused, or an unnecessary nod to brands favoured by poverty-stricken alcoholics. For real, research online uncovered some strong opinions on the packaging, way beyond “meh” or “LOL”.
I’m not here to pontificate on branding or marketing, though; I’m here to speak to the actual wines.
Hey, if millennials are embracing this brand for the same reasons drinking quality craft beer out of stubbies is fun and Instagrams well, then they’re enjoying authentic, food-friendly wines from a lauded producer, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The project, launched by New York City sommelier Patrick Cappiello partnering with Braud, has been quite successful as it’s been released in various U.S. markets over the last year or so, and it has only recently entered our market here in Vancouver.
Not listed at government-operated B.C. Liquor Stores, Forty Ounce Wines can be found in private stores around the city like Kitsilano Wine Cellar, Firefly Fine Wines & Ales, Liberty Wine Merchants, and Village Liquor Store on the North Shore. Oh, and you can ignore the “Forty Ounce” thing. While the classic packaging emulates that historical volume, they’re actually one-litre bottles (clearly marked on the labels), but that translates to 33.82 ounces of wine, which simply doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.
The Forty Ounce Rosé ($29 to $33) is a blend of Gamay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Grolleau, Pineau d’Aunis, and Pinot Gris from the Loire Valley in France. Twist off the cap to unleash aromas of pink grapefruit zest and apple blossom, then splash into Rainier cherries, crab apples, raspberries, and even a little citrusy star fruit. All that carries through the palate to great length, with a dab of orange marmalade on the finish. At 12.5 percent alcohol, it’s light on its feet and eminently crushable from the first sip. While it’d do well with decadent seafood dishes, the casualness and accessibility of the wine turn me more toward burgers, hot wings, Cajun chicken caesar salad, or tacos al pastor.
Its local companion the Forty Ounce Muscadet 2016 ($30 to $34) is a card-carrying Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine sur Lie appellation white, made entirely from Melon de Bourgogne. Whiffs of gardenia and lemon blossom lead to waves of fresh lime, lemon, and white peach crashing across the palate with juicy salinity, acidity, and cracking mineral character. This is a no-brainer for the abundance of flavour-forward Asian cuisine we enjoy in this city, everything from sushi to hot pot, to curries from Malaysia, Thailand, India, and beyond.
Perhaps there’s a theme going on, because I recently received samples of another couple of large-format wines, these ones in a three-litre bag-in-box format. Both are $36.99, which would be $9.25 per bottle if they were in a traditional 750-millilitre format. Bag-in-box can go many ways, so I didn’t exactly rush to give ’em a whirl. My fears were unfounded.
Pasqua Colori d’Italia Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie 2017 is my favourite out of the two. The wine is clean and lively, with apples and pears everywhere, awash with fresh-squeezed lime and a few drops of honey. Hey, this wine isn’t gonna nab Best in Show at any competition, but it perfectly suits return trips to the fridge when tucking into casual Tuesday-night pasta, and it’s something to have on hand when friends drop by late Sunday afternoon.
Pasqua Colori d’Italia Sangiovese di Puglia 2016 is quite light for a Sangiovese, but if you’re looking for an easy, go-to light red for similar occasions as above, then it’s great to have on hand. Cherries, strawberries, and black currants are dusted with the tiniest pinch of white pepper, and particularly shine when it’s served with a bit of a chill.
Finally, a quick mention that last week’s The Bottle column featured two new biodynamic wines from British Columbia’s Summerhill Pyramid Winery, but in the print edition we accidentally swapped their image for two completely different bottles. This has been remedied online; apologies to all.