Jug Wine

Not all jug wine is created equal. Seriously.

This I learned the other evening when some friends visited and brought a jug wine from Potalupi winery in Dry Creek Valley. More on that in a second.

Jug wine has a long history in California. The first jugs marketed to the consumer were in the 1930’s, but wine has long been served out of casks or small barrels to be enjoyed at gatherings and parties. The introduction of the jug with a small handle in the shape of a loop allowed you to make the wine portable. Ensuring a good time is had by all and no one ever goes thirsty.

In the 60’s and 70’s, jug wine sales escalated with Carlo Rossi’s Red Mountain Wine. I did some searching for old ads or information on Red Mountain Wine, but didn’t come up with much except a song about it that kept surfacing on You-Tube. One of the verses goes like this:

Ain’t got no money, Ain’t got no home

Ain’t got nobody to call all my own

I’m satisfied with nothing to do.

But bum for a dime and some Red Mountain Wine

Sounds like the 60’s to me!

Fast forward several decades and you can still go to the grocery store (in California anyway) and find Carlo Rossi jug wine, among others like Gallo, Livingston, Sutter Home and Woodbridge (Mondavi’s jug wine). Not all of these come in jugs, but usually in a large bottle with very low price. Most of the grapes for these wines are grown in California’s Central Valley where it is very hot and the yields are in the 8-10 tons per acre range. By contrast, most fine wine vineyards yield between 2 and 3 tons an acre. A huge difference. Less fruit on the vine means more flavor.

Now, let’s get back to the one I tried the other night….

Maybe the bottle doesn’t look that big to you. It didn’t to me either, but this bottle contains 1.89 liters of wine. That’s almost two and a half regular sized wine bottles! Enough for a dinner party for sure. Portalupi’s website states that “Wine is meant to be enjoyed every day”. I couldn’t agree more. This wine at $48 represents an outstanding value, especially in wine country where some 750ml bottles can cost three times that much.

So, what makes it so great? And what makes it so different from other jug wines? And why is it $48, when you can buy other jug wines for much less? The answers are all in the grapes. This is made from premium wine grapes. Maybe  these barrels didn’t make the cut to go into the varietal wines that they sell. Maybe they got a great deal purchasing grapes during a time when some vineyards are going unpicked. Anyway you slice it, I think it’s an excellent business decision and I’ll bet it sells very well.

The aromas and flavors were intense and full of dark berries, some spice and an excellent mouthfeel. The wine was medium bodied which would allow to go with many different foods. And here’s one more tip that proves it’s a premium jug wine – it wasn’t sweet. If there was any residual sugar, it wasn’t detectable on my palate. I can’t wait to get one for my next dinner party or event that I go to.

In conversations about wine with my dad and father-in-law, jug wine often comes up and they talk about how they used to drink wine straight from the jug….so, I couldn’t resist….


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