Boxed wine gets a bad rap. That’s because when most of us hear that we’re about to be served wine from a box, our memories immediately return to an earlier time in our drinking journey, most likely college, and to a box of Franzia and a game called slap the bag.
If your exposure to boxed wine was literally ripping the bladder out of the box and taking turns drunkenly slapping the contents inside, while also binge drinking, it’s not hard to see why you wouldn’t have much respect for wine served out of this type of container later down the road. On the contrary, a plausible first experience with wine in a bottle was probably sneaking it from your parents’ cabinet to shyly finish the contents in your basement before playing a game where you and a bunch of your pimpled-faced friends all sat in a circle, spinning the empty bottle around on the ground with hopes of landing a kiss or two. At least with the bottle there was a bit of romanticism involved, all that comes from playing slap the bag is regrets.
But memories of the morning after and cheap wine hangovers should not turn you off from boxed wine, because when done well, boxed wine is really awesome.
You know those nights when you’ve had a long day of work, and all you want is a glass of wine, but you don’t want to bother opening, and feeling compelled to drink, a whole bottle? Boxed wine to the rescue. What about when you have a recipe that calls for just a cup of white or red? There’s boxed wine again to save the day. What makes boxed wine so fantastic, is that every glass poured is like opening a new bottle.
When boxed wine was invented in Australia during the 1960s – yep the Aussies are responsible for both the box and popularizing the screw cap – the technology was initially intended to serve this need of Penfolds, who sponsored the research. The company was looking for a way to sell its entry-level wine at a lower price, while still offering consumers the quality they had come to expect — boxed wine to the rescue! When wine is sealed inside the pressurized bag that sits inside the box, an airtight seal is created that allows wine to come out, but no air to get in. By maintaining an airtight seal, each glass poured from the spout is like popping a new bottle of wine, so there’s no fear of opening a box and worrying that it might spoil later, as long as you keep the box in the fridge and finish the contents about a month after opening it.
Where boxed wine went wrong is when the affordable packaging led to many companies putting less than stellar contents inside. Since boxed wine’s packaging is simply cardboard and a plastic bladder, it has a low carbon footprint, but these materials also means it’s really cheap to produce, and when companies often encounter a cheap vessel, they wind up putting their cheapest contents inside of them. And thus we have how boxed wine was ruined.
But cheap boxed wine’s days are numbered, or at least, there are several quality producers out there that are realizing they can give their consumers great bang for their buck by putting their wine in a box, and lower their carbon footprint at the same time. These are wines that make up that 98% of wine out there that’s meant to be drunk young; they’re great wines that don’t need to be in a bottle, so producers are electing to put them in a box instead.
And if you’re still one of those people out there that swears no matter what we say, you will never drink wine from a box, we bet in a way you already are and don’t even realize it. You see, a lot of the affordable international wine that you buy was probably shipped over to the U.S. in a big box of wine. That’s right, before that affordable Cotes de Rhone was bottled at a U.S. facility and sold to you in the store, it probably spent time in a large plastic bladder while making its way across the ocean. Shipping the wine in a large box, instead of individual bottles, is a much cheaper way to ensure the juice makes it to our shores without any damage, and it keeps the cost low for you too, even if you ultimately drink that wine from the bottle they finally sold it to you in.
So forget those bad college memories, and give boxed wine another try. If you’re looking for a casual weeknight glass or two, you’ll be glad you have a box in the fridge.
And, if you’re looking for a good Boxed Wine, check out The Reverse Wine Snob’s rundown.