Can you find quality wine in a box? For decades, box wine meant low-quality plasticy swill. Does it still?
Supposedly, decent table wines are now being produced and boxed all over the world. The technology and wineries willing to brave the box have improved. European and Australian consumers drink table wine from boxes or refilled plastic jugs, but does the US sell anything worth drinking?
That is what we aim to find out this evening with an impromptu box wine tasting. Check out the hashtag #boxwine on Twitter and feel free to join in!
Why box wine?
Benefits cited include:
But, it really doesn’t matter how great the price, how convenient the product, or that 3L of wine is expected to stay fresh for 4-6 weeks if you want to dump it as soon as you open it!
I love the idea of wine on tap, a single refreshing glass without having to be concerned about finishing the bottle before it oxidizes. I love the portability and many other aspects of the packaging design. I love the price point. But I have questions, too.
There is certainly a case to be made for the ecological benefits of bag-in-box packaging, but I still wonder about the ecological impact and health hazards of drinking wine out of plastic bags. Every choice has trade offs.
I would like to see the glass bottle reuse industry grow, because glass is a highly reusable material that allows wine to retain its quality without leaching harmful chemicals into the product. Unlike plastic, glass is not manufactured from fossil fuels. Reuse saves far more energy than recycling, particularly in the case of glass. Wine Bottle Renew, a new Napa startup, expects to reduce the carbon footprint of wineries by 95% and lower their water use by 25% by sterilizing and reusing wine bottles. I hope they do!
Theoretically, the bag-in-box packaging (sealed spout vs. open bottle) also reduces oxidation, which would make it possible to enjoy a single glass of wine without reducing the quality of the remaining wine. However, as studies show and Joshua Sweeney points out in his extensive boxed wine search, the oxygen-permeable nature of the plastic bag itself impacts the quality and longevity of box wine.
Box wines are also generally less expensive than their glass counterparts, with 3L (4 bottles) averaging about $4-5 per bottle. That’s a great bargain, but it’s only a deal if it’s worth drinking 4 bottles of the stuff.
There seems to be a lot of confusion about the packaging, confusion that goes well beyond the basic question of quality. No wonder the thought of box wine makes us skeptical!
I commend my fellow wine lovers, including Carl Sorvino, John DiMuccio, and anyone else who is game for this adventure. My research and tasting was inspired by a tweet from Tamara Belgard last weekend and it’s been an educational journey so far!
Tonight, we will be sampling various wines that come in boxes. Other questions aside, our focus is simple: Do we like the wine?
What am I tasting?
I love Sauvignon Blanc, particularly from Marlborough NZ, so that’s where I’m starting my exploration of box wine. Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc 2009 box wine rated well in posts I found by Joe Suzadail, Joshua Sweeney, and their commenters. Supposedly, this wine is true to the region’s characteristics and I am truly excited by the idea of having a good Sauvignon Blanc on tap in the fridge.
What’s in your glass?
Photo courtesy of Octavin Home Wine Bar.