It’s leaner (in packaging), greener, and lighter. Shipping it uses fewer resources, so it has a lower carbon footprint. Innovative packaging means the wine lasts longer so there’s less waste. It’s unarguably cheaper than bottled wine (averaging out to less than $10 a bottle). It’s sensibly portable and completely unbreakable – but boxed wine still has an image problem. Is it merited?
While it’s fine for undercapitalized art openings and casual parties and picnics, few serious wine and food folk will choose to pair boxed wine with their finest meals.
I wanted to find out why so I asked a few foodie folks, a winemaker, and a wine store clerk to give me their opinions.
“I’ve never tasted a boxed wine, but a packaging strategy that reduces waste in the food system gets my vote. My feelings are somewhere between neutral and positive, but I’d have to swirl a glug in Riedel glassware or perhaps more appropriately a wide Mason jar to be sure,” said Haven Bourque, Founder HavenBMedia, and contributor to CivilEats.com.
“Wine makers are probably not putting the wines they want to age in boxes. People who really love fine wines and spend good money on cheap wine, green packaging on a nice bottle want the cork, the label, the bottle, the ceremony,” says Dan Glover, Winemaker L’Object Noir Pinot Noir.
“Many of the boxed wines are very drinkable in certain situations. Like a nice fruity zin with a burger or a Sauvignon Blanc at a picnic, but I don’t think that boxed wines will supplant the bottle in the near future. One very good reason beyond image is that some of the world’s finest wines need to be aged. They are alive and change in interesting ways as the years go by. I feel in order to age a wine properly, you need a cork. A real cork. Not a plastic one. This is because it is the tiny amount of air that seeps in through natural cork that ages the wine. This doesn’t happen in a box. Wines in boxes are in a sterile environment. They will last a long time, but they won’t age or change.”
At my local wine store, Paul Marcus Wines, I spied a small selection of boxed wines. I asked the clerk, Ryan VerHey, about the wines and also about how consumers react to them. He told me that usually people are incredulous that the store would recommend boxed wines, but when the employees lead with the green story to convince people to try them, they’ll usually listen.
He starts by telling customers that the packaging is greener, lighter, and lower carbon to ship. He also talks about value and convenience. Most of the wines at Paul Marcus work out to under $10 a bottle. He told me they’re great to keep around if you cook a lot because you can use a little for cooking and a little for the cook. He also mentioned that they are great for camping and for people who bike, because they are lighter. This is something I hadn’t thought of. I’m often pedaling bottles of wine to dinner parties and the thought of lightening my load is quite attractive. I asked if they had to taste a lot of boxed wines before they found some that they liked enough to carry. He told me no, since the distributors know what the store’s buyers like and would only bring the best of the of the box, such as the Pierre Plouzeau Chinon in the 5-liter bag-in-a-box. It works out to be the equivalent of 6-2/3 bottles for $52, or $7.80 per “bottle.”
Want to try a boxed wine? Some of our fellow bloggers have done their homework so there are lots of reviews out there on the web.
Meanwhile Epicurious took a few boxed wines on a test drive and came up with four reds and one white they could live with.
Some of the packaging is more green than others and some of the wines are organic, further enhancing their green cred. The Daily Green chose 8 green boxed wines and recommended dishes to pair with them. The wines reviewed on The Daily Green feature some of the most innovative, green packaging. I’m intrigued by the Yellow + Blue certified organic wine, because it was one of the ones my great wine store was carrying, and it’s organic.
Slashfood chose 7 boxed wines to review and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of many.
Ehow reviewed 5 wines, noting their tasting characteristics, if not their greenness.
A few wines show up over and over in the various reviews. Does that mean they are the best? Or are they just the most available? I guess I have some drinking and find out.
The most commonly mentioned wines in all of the reviews were Black Box Wines, Three Thieves, and French Rabbit wines.
Leave a comment and tell us all about your favorite boxed wines – or why you don’t drink them.
This is the latest installment in Vanessa Barrington’s weekly column, The Green Plate, on the environmental, social, and political issues related to what and how we eat.