Weekend Sip: Who needs a cork? Winemaker bottles his bubbly with a cap

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The bottle: POPUP sparkling wine, $14.99

The back story: So much for popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly. Winemaker Charles Smith, long regarded as one of the industry’s renegades, thinks it’s time to embrace the bottle cap.

So, Smith, based in Washington state, has come up with POPUP, a brand of sparkling sip that is indeed packaged that way. The idea is to demystify the sparkling category and rid the world of the notion that such wine is only for special occasions. The bottle cap makes everything “familiar and accessible,” he says.

Adding to that idea is the relatively low price of the wine, which is made entirely from Chardonnay, one of the grape varietals used in Champagne. But unlike Champagne, “POPUP is for everyday,” says Smith.

The winemaker has always challenged the idea of how vino should be packaged and promoted. Among the wine labels he has launched in the past are ones called Kung Fu Riesling, the Velvet Devil Merlot and Boom Boom! Syrah. His approach has worked: Smith’s wines have become so popular that he sold a group of them to the Constellation Brands conglomerate STZ, +0.49%  for $120 million in 2016.

What we think about it: Sure, the bottle cap thing is amusing and makes opening the wine a breeze. As for what’s inside the bottle, we’re a bit divided. This is a sparkler with a very sweet and fruity profile. Smith says you should pick up notes of guava, apricot and fresh harvested apples, though we also got a big mouthful of pineapple. As such, it’s accessible and enjoyable. But it lacks the drier, more elegant finish of other sparklers, such as Champagne.

How to enjoy it: Smith says that POPUP goes with everything from steak to salad. We think it might be perfect with a cheese plate — the fruity character of the wine makes it comparable to a jelly accompaniment. Like other sparklers, it is also fine as a standalone sip.