For some, the mere mention of “boxed wine” invokes vivid memories of Franzia sitting on the kitchen counter, or heating up outside on the patio, fueling fuzzy nights with its cheap, low-quality liquid within.
However, boxed wines have seen a resurgence in popularity over the past decade — with the format now being used by well-regarded winemakers and producers around the world. Thanks to such producers as Jenny and Francois Selections and Bandit Wines, boxed wines are no longer relegated to your parent’s dreaded White Zinfandel.
Better yet, the cardboard and plastic packaging’s lower production cost allows for lower prices than its bottled counterparts, without sacrificing freshness or flavor.
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While Franzia may seem like a relic, it is still one of the best-selling wines in the country. Though it is largely seen as a symbol of poor quality and taste, opinions around boxed wine started to change around 2003. That year, Black Box Wines of Madera, Calif., began offering a higher-quality vintage made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay among its offerings. Since then, more producers and importers have been working to bring new and exciting wines to drinkers in the bag-in-box format, many with an eye on climate change.
Importer Melissa Saunders, founder of Communal Brands in New York, says the effect of switching away from glass bottles on the environment is huge, but notes that people can be put off by the non-traditional presentation. “We understand the romance associated with the glass bottle but strongly urge consideration of more sustainable alternatives for ‘everyday’ sort of wines,” she says.
Saunders says that while all the farmers her company works with farm responsibly — from using natural methods such as composting and animals rather than bagged fertilizer and weed killer, to using crop rotation to deal with pests — together they’ve gone a step further to ensure sustainability efforts are key to the packaging and distribution processes, too. “We have begun to perform audits that examine sustainability credentials that extend beyond just wine production and incorporate the packaging,” she says. “It is the packaging and transport that are largely responsible for carbon emissions, and it turns out that the glass bottle format doesn’t fare so well in this context.”
According to Saunders, the carbon footprint of a 750-milliliter glass bottle is approximately eight times that of a 3-liter bag-in-box format.
Jenny Lefcourt of NYC’s Jenny and Francois Selections also emphasizes reducing carbon emissions. Lefcourt argues that the boxed method is just as traditional as a bottle. “I had the idea 10 years ago while traveling the back-roads of France and visiting wineries where locals can go pick up a box or a jug of wine,” she says. This type of wine purchasing, known as en vrac (from French meaning “loose”), indeed involves buying wines directly from the farmer from a stainless steel tank into anything that can hold it, including boxes, reused bottles, or jugs.
5 Boxed Wines to Try
We’ve selected five boxed wines that could stand up to their counterparts, from a dry Austrian white to a Burgundian red blend.
This Bordeaux Blanc is a blend of 85 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 15 percent Semillon, producing a nice, dry expression of white Bordeaux. Perfect for an everyday table wine you’ll only need to buy once per week. Price: $39.99
In a world full of overly expensive and hard-to-find Burgundian wines, the Moutard-Diligent is not only extremely affordable, but comes in a large, 3-liter size for sharing (or hoarding). The 100 percent estate-grown grapes are a blend of 70 percent Gamay and 30 percent Pinot Noir and the wine is vegan. Price: $29.00
From the Languedoc region in southern France comes a bit of an underrated varietal, Picpoul. Fruit-forward with a nice minerality, the medium-bodied Picpoul de Pinet has a clean finish. This is yet another perfect one for enjoying on a warm evening with friends. Price: $34.00
A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan, the Vin Rouge is a medium-red color, layered with flavors of cassis, dark fruits, and dark chocolate with smooth tannins and a peppery finish. Hand-harvested with no chemicals or additives used in the winemaking. This wine will stand up to the meatiest cookouts you can throw at it. Price: $24.99
The highlighter-yellow box art definitely helps make this boxed wine the center of attention at a gathering, but it’s the stuff inside that will steal the show. Medium-bodied and slightly dry, the Schplink Grüner Veltliner is citrusy and bright, perfect for sipping by the beach. Price: $32.99