"Sassie," says the artistic black script on the bottle, which holds a standard 750 milliliters of California-grown Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. The Chardonnay is a 2007 vintage, the reds from 2006; all are vinted and bottled in the Sonoma County town of Geyserville. The project is by a Toronto-based group, the Sassie International Vintners and Distillers Group, Inc., (www.sassie.com) and are distributed in the U.S. by Stateside Cellars of Mill Valley, Calif. (www.statesidecellars.com), which has a huge mail-order business, representing more than 30 producers from 10 different nations.
The wines have been on the market less than a year, but the plastic bottle is just the latest of many new packaging techniques, including boxed wine and screw caps, whose presence has been growing rapidly. Sassie wines come in a traditional-looking wine bottle made of PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, used as a packaging material and in carpets, as fill in ski jackets and in T-shirts. It's recyclable, unbreakable under normal handling, is less expensive and only one-eighth the weight of glass, and is recyclable. According to South African-born Denis Sasman, his wine can be kept in its plastic bottle for up to two weeks after opening without any problems.
Sassie began with California wines, obviously because they are more familiar to American drinkers, and because the $10 price point would encourage experimentation with the new bottle. But Sasman has expansion on his mind. Plans are for Italian wines in plastic bottles with the Sassie label in 2010, and for South African wines in 2011.
And the wines? Well, at $10, they are a good value and a pleasant drink, and they are food-friendly, as Sasman says they are and will be. The Chardonnay has a nice crispness, and good acidity, and will complement fish. The reds are slightly rough, with good tannins and sufficient body in the reds to make the Cab a nice match with pot roast or goulash, and the Merlot a good companion to pasta. They do not have pretensions of being great wines, they will age and improve for a year or two, but probably should be drunk in the next few months.