Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Vile vines: A boxed wine smack-down in Yangon

Boxed wine and inappropriate glassware: The makings of a long night of painful guzzling. (Roberto Robertson)Boxed wine and inappropriate glassware: The makings of a long night of painful guzzling. (Roberto Robertson)

It's common for foreigners who move to Myanmar to harbour reservations about what essential comforts might, or might not, be available for consumption in their new home. Are there shops in Yangon that stock Cool Ranch Doritos? Pineapple pizza? Christmas decorations? Spoons?

Topping many a discriminating oenophile’s list is fear over whether boxed wine will be available for regular ingestion. This was a particularly important issue during the waning years of Than Shwe’s wooly regime, when supplies of imported luxury goods were erratic at best, yet cracking open a 5-litre box of wine and guzzling the liquid delights encased therein was widely recognised as the finest means of weathering your fourth eight-hour nocturnal power failure of the week.

Happily, while there have been many benefits to Myanmar’s recent progress toward the idea of contemplating possible pathways to potential democratisation, none have been more important or pronounced than the wider availability of boxed wine, and in greater varieties.

In light of this, the time seems ripe for a taste test of this greatest of Australian inventions (overshadowing even the dual flush toilet and the Super Sopper), with the aim of aiding the uninitiated in choosing the best brand for their next party or extended blackout. Towards that end, The Myanmar Times called together a multinational coalition of the finest boxed wine tasters available — representing Australia, Britain, the United States, France and Myanmar — to determine Yangon’s best buys.

The eight tasters were as follows: Bronco, Skeeter, Twera, The Black Widow, Sabine, Roberto Robertson, Grapelips, and Attila the Invisigoth. (Note: Boxed wine tasters, being a rare and courageous breed, usually find it desirable to take on superhero-like personas, as well as super-cool monikers to match.)

We limited the taste test to red varieties, and settled on three brands: Cantine Ronco (Italy), Berri Estates (Australia) and Fonvene (France). We primed the wine by storing the 5-litre boxes in a locked and sealed car for 24 hours, and tasted them at about 30 degrees Celsius, which we figured was near enough to the recommended 15-16C. For added atmosphere, we watched NASCAR truck racing on All Sports Network during the taste test.

The results are enumerated below, in the order in which the wines were sampled.