Forget the cork, the crown cap and other sophisticated closures not really suited for swift home use : let's reintroduce the milk bottle, a good way to bottle your thirst wine intended for early drinking and no-fuss wine experience. You don't need a cork screw anymore, the larger size (one liter versus 75 centiliters) makes it convenient for a party or a picnic, the bottles are shorter, more stable and easily reusable, there's hardly an hesitation when you look closer.
The only thing is your guests might think this vulgar bottle contains a uninteresting wine (no label, bottled in a sort of jug) but consider this judgement on the container like those negative views on sediments in a bottle (sediments used to be associated with faulty wine in the conventional school) : if your guests know your wine tastes and experience, they'll go beyond the first apprehension and open themselves to the wine, brushing aside the odd container.
The other advantages of this format are many : You bottle the wine with a single quarter turn and it's air-tight, you dont' need a funnel to fill the bottles, you don't have to plan ahead to organize a bottling session in your kitchen with all sort of tools and precautions. And still if you leave on the side one of these bottle for a few months (not drinking the wine right away) it is very likely that your wine will be fine after a few weeks, possibly months__and maybe years although I'll not risk this type of bottling on a high-value wine, given I'd find a high-value wine in bulk in the first place (ever asked in a "top winery" if they had wine in bulk ?). So, we're dealing with thirst wine here, but quality thirst wine : wine made without enological corrections, a rarity nowadays, as rare as real milk, you got to source your milk directly in a dairy farm (with precisely these same bottles) in order to get milk that has not been robbed of its natural fat.
We were having a glass of Cousin Oscar with a friend along the canal Saint-Martin in Paris when we met a friendly couple passing by, Jérôme Sélèque and his friend Louise who were on their way for a drink too in the area, Jérôme happens to be in the Champagne trade (Champagne Sélèque) through his family domaine working on a 7,5-hectare surface split on 7 villages.
For my home-bottled wine I looked for a 5-liter bag-in-box of drink-easy wine, so I headed for the Crus du Soleil in Paris, a wine shop specialized in Languedoc wines which I know sells also occasionally natural wine in this packaging size. I remember a terrific red wine by the Domaine du Possible and vinified by Loic Roure (3rd story on this page) and I know they sell sometimes bibs by Isabelle Frère (Domaine le Scarabée). I'm having second thought about writing this information as this is all such a good deal and my words may cause these bibs to be sold out earlier (they usually don't get a big allotment for these natural wines).
Les Crus du Soleil has two venues in Paris, the one in the 14th arrondissement (146 Rue du Château) and the one in the 12th (21 rue d'Aligre) which is my favorite because it sits along the namesake lively street market (every day except monday), also nearby the Marché Beauveau (a covered market) and the iconic wine bar Le Baron Rouge.
When you approach the rue d'Aligre from the rue Crozatier, the Crus du Soleil is on the right, this is the pink shop front just after the bazar.
My target was Cousin Oscar, a cuvée which I knew was delivered in the shop in bibs a couple months ago and was selling there for 30 €. At the equivalent of 6 € a liter or 4,5 € for a 75-centiliter bottle this was the ideal thirst wine at a price hard to beat for an uncorrected wine if only with some SO2. I had delayed my purchase and I feared it was sold out by now but happilly there were still a few boxes of it recently.
The wine is made by a colorful Languedoc vigneron, Jean-Marie Rimbert, who makes wine naturally using vineyards that have been patiently tended. His 30-hectare winery is located in Saint Chinian, a little known Languedoc Appellation which by the way is among the first regions I noticed and bought (along with Fitou and Faugères) when I first was interested in wine back in the mid-1980s'.
The glass milk bottle as we know it (and by a large extent the plastic bottle that imitates the original glass container) was created by Hervey D. Thatcher, an American drugstore owner in Potsdam N.Y. around 1884. The milk bottle became a worldwide phenomenon, even the USSR having its own imitations (picture found on this page), and some milk dairies in Russia reintroducing the glass bottles for high-end milk, same in Quebec and probably in several other countries. In France you can also buy new (empty) milk bottles online (there are a few websites selling such empty bottles), a one-time purchase largely amortized by repeated bottlings without having to buy corks.
Back at home with the bag-in-box, I swiftly filled my five milk bottles, easy and smooth. The trick is to fill 4 bottles really to the top in order to minimize the contact with the remaining air, the 5th bottle will be the first you drink, preferably the same day of the bottling. Good excuse to taste the wine right away : it is as predicted a light, easy-drinking wine. What had made me decide to buy this cuvée is that, beyong the fact it was natural wine, it sported a mere 11,5 % in alcohol, often a good omen when you get this low with uncorrected wine. The wine is made with Cinsault and I got more information when I called Jean-marie Rimbert : it is a short vinification of Cinsault (3 days) in an enamelled-metal vat to keep the fruit and avoid extraction, the yield for this cuvée was about 45 ho/ha, the vigneron says that he doesn't make this bib cuvée every year, but only when he has enough wine. The winery has a vineyard surface of 27 hectares, it is on conversion to organic farming. This cuvée had some SO2 added on the incoming grapes as well as at racking. The wine is filtered also as a measure of precaution to avoid refermentation (the bib can turn round instead of square if the wine referments, says Jean-Marie Rimbert). The down thing with this thirst wine is that in my mind it got too much SO2, plus the filtration, my system felt the SO2 here, it would have been a whole lot different with much less SO2 (but I'm not a winemaker, so take my comment as it is, just an opinion from somone in a big city...). On the whole, still a good thirst wine, especially for the price.
Asked about his sales abroad I learn that his wines are exported in the United states (not the bib though), through Jenny & François (NY), Joli Vin (CA), OZ Wine Company (MA), Dionysos (VA), PS Wines (OR) as well as in Quebec through Syl-Vins.
If your picnic or summer party is reasonable and moderate, you can even consider keeping these milk bottles in you cellar, stading up or laying down this quarter-turn closure being quite efficient and air tight.