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This Bubbly's for You

Wouldn't it be nice to relieve the summer heat with an ice-cold can of champagne?

Much like the dress code, wine is going casual as the temperature climbs. Personal-sized packaging, twist-off caps and trendy diet vino are making toting wine to the beach just as easy as bringing a six-pack.

"More people are starting to enjoy wine on more occasions — it's not just a special occasion beverage anymore," said Dennis Cakebread, part owner of Cakebread Cellars (search) in Napa Valley, Calif. "Having wine with pizza or burgers, taking it on picnic ... it's part of the good life and maybe that's what people are working more toward appreciating."

The movement toward making wine more casual is an effort to increase its appeal to a wider audience, experts say — one that may not know a bottle's vintage or be able to describe the bouquet.

Many winemakers "will do anything to sell and make it accessible and fun," said Lettie Teague, wine editor for Food & Wine (search). "In wines now it's all about finding novel packaging."

And there are many changes on the wine list. Screw caps, for starters, have become more common. The caps prevent cork taint, make wine more totable and reusable — and there's never the moment of panic when you realize you don't have a corkscrew.

"You can screw it back on and stick it in the fridge and take it to picnics," said Teague. "And you can get really nice whites under screw caps from Australia and New Zealand for under $10," she added.

Teague also suggested trying Wolf Blass, Villa Maria, Brancott and Goldwater Estate, which also have screw caps.

Also handy for summer are plastic corks, as found in Georges Duboeuf's latest line of fruity "new generation" wines. These corks don't crumble or break off in wine bottles and plug back in nicely.

The latest "new generation" line is also affordable ($7.99 a bottle) and the bottles have a colorful, festive look that livens up the picnic table.

Another winemaker, Brown-Forman, is hoping to capitalize on the latest dieting craze by squeezing the carbs out of its newest wines.

Normally, a 5-ounce glass of wine has 3 to 6 grams of carbs, the company said. But One.6 Chardonnay and One.9 Merlot are named after the grams of carbohydrates in a Brown-Forman glass of the same size.

Cara Morrison, the Brown-Forman winemaker in California who developed the brands, told The Associated Press that most consumers wouldn't notice any difference in taste. "They have a wonderful fruitiness to them," she said.

The low-carb brands also have the same alcohol content as other wines.

Even bubbly — formerly reserved for popping on Valentine's Day and other special occasions — can be stuffed into a cooler this summer. A bit daintier than a Bud, Sofia Minis are pretty pink cans filled with Sofia Blanc de Blancs (named for actress/director Sofia Coppola).

The line took two years of development, since "no one had ever packaged a sparkling wine this way," according to the wine's marketers. A metallic pink, hexagonal box holds four cans for $19.95.

When the Sofia Mini (search) debuted in February, the company obviously foresaw its appeal for the warmer months — the press release boasted the canned refresher is sure to be an "accessory de rigueur this summer at beach and pool parties."

It is available at many of the nation's wine shops and can be ordered from the company's Web site, but only by those who live in California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

But in spite of the perks of transportable vino, some are reluctant to do away with the art and sophistication of fine wine.

While Teague said that anything that gets people drinking wine is a good thing, she for one is going to serve hers the old-fashioned way.

"I won't be drinking my wine from a six pack," she said.

Teague is also wary of adjusting wine for every diet craze.

"If you're sitting there with a bottle of wine on a summer's evening, hopefully you're not thinking about carbs."