Summer is over. So what's the point of reviewing wine sold in strange single-serve glasses suited for a picnic? For starters because they are not. The Le Froglet glasses are as misplaced at an August picnic as they would be near my November sofa. 'Obviously, the Wine Rambler will have to say so,' you might think, 'after all how could a wine snob like wine sold in plastic glasses?' Surprisingly, it is not the concept that puts me off. It is the execution.
Some time ago the entrepreneurs of the BBC's Dragons' Den dismissed the idea of investing money in wine sold in single-serve plastic glasses with tear-off lids. As it happened, I had actually watched the episode and found myself disagreeing with the dragons as I could imagine people wanting to use the glasses for outdoor events. Others apparently agreed and from what I hear the Le Froglet glasses do sell quite well now. So when I saw them at Marks & Spencer I had to buy the trio: white, red and rosé.
What you get for £2.45 is a 187ml serving of 2009 French Vins de Pays d'Oc (i.e. basic wine from the Languedoc region). The alcohol level is 12% for the Rosé, 12.5% for the Shiraz and 13% for the Chardonnay.
Let's stop here for a second and remind ourselves what the unique selling proposition of these glasses is. After all, £7.35 will already buy you cheap glasses and either a serviceable screw-capped bottle of chilled wine or two small bottles if you want variety. So leaving novelty value aside the reason to buy Le Froglet glasses would be because you want hassle-free handling: sit down, tear off lid, enjoy.
Sit down, tear off the lid, enjoy?
So there I was, sitting in my flat with three cheap looking plastic glasses in front of me. The rosé had to go first. I pulled at the lid and nothing happened. I pulled harder. Not much progress. What does a clever chap do in such a situation? Use more force, of course. Impressed by my male pulling power I almost did not notice how much the stem of the glass had started to bend. Luckily though, several years of studying ancient history left me well acquainted with catapults and so microseconds before the lid would have eventually come off I realised I was just about to catapult a good dosage of rosé over my white walls. I did the sensible thing and stopped pulling. Which was just as good because when the lid eventually did come off after more careful handling I was greeted with a smell so vile that I thank all ancient catapult gods I did not spray it across my living room.
Say hello to a strong, fermented smell of foul eggs. Apart from this vileness I did not get much else. This was partly because of the glass - it is so full of liquid you can't even swirl the wine in it. The colour at least was pleasant, an almost artificial strawberry with a hint of brown. Somewhat encouraged I sipped a little and was put off again. Not so much by the wine, but by the glass. Perhaps in order to make the lid fit easier the rim of the glass is very broad and surprisingly sharp-edged. Not in any way dangerous, but not pleasant on the lips either. So I did the second most sensible thing (the wisest option would have been to give up) and poured the rosé into a proper wine glass.
This helped a lot, both my lips and the wine. After a little time the bouquet improved somewhat, shedding the egg, showing a little fruit, but also an alcoholic note. On the tongue there was fruit, not overly well defined perhaps, and a finish with a nice bit of sweetness, some toasty notes and a stringent bitter aftertaste. Maybe this wine was off - too afraid to drink it I had stored it for a few weeks, though still less than the three months the label allowed.
I don't think it matters much though, as the glasses by themselves did put me off. The white wine was difficult to open too, especially as my fingers were a little wet from rinsing the Riedel glass (to get rid of the rosé smell). In the plastic glass the Chardonnay bouquet was mute, apart from a vague toastiness. I switched to the proper glass and found a dark straw-colour wine with a creamy, buttery nose with a hint of citrus and mineral plus oaky spice - boring but not totally off-putting either. Similar on the tongue, we are looking at a text-book oaked Chardonnay without much character or depth and a slightly irritating bitter metallic aftertaste.
The Shiraz gave me the same trouble with the lid and, as with the Chardonnay, I spilled some of the it. The colour was a nice dark ruby and the bouquet featured a deep nose of baked fruit, currant, cherries, leather and strong perfumed vanilla notes. Tthe best performance of all three wines, but also with a hint of alcohol and too much over-baked fruit. On the tongue the intense fruit returned in a robust wine with wood and spice in the finish. This makes the Shiraz well suited to the Le Froglet glasses because you can actually smell and taste it.
With the wine being less than exciting, Le Froglet could be redeemed by easy-to-handle, enjoyable glasses. The reality is that the glasses are difficult to open and unpleasant to handle. Now, the risk of spraying your walls may not be an issue outdoors, but spraying your friends with rosé might. Even if you managed to tear the lid off without spilling any wine, you are still left with a glass that is too full, makes the wine smell worse and is a bad drinking vessel. Even drinking straight from the bottle would be more fun.
So just get a bottle for a fiver plus a few plastic cups and you are much better off. A nice idea in theory, but a total fail in practice.