Boxed Wine

Boxed white wine and glass
By MichaelGG at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I’ve been curious about bag-in-box wines for some time. I’m sure you’ve seen those boxed wines on the shelves at your local wine store. Inside many of those boxes, the wine is contained in a bag designed to collapse as you take wine from the spigot.

Why am I so curious about this particular packaging?

1. Bag-in-box wines are often cost-effective.
I bought a box with a volume equivalent to four bottles for less than $20. That might sound a bit suspicious, but, strictly looking at cost per ounce, it’s a steal.

2. They’re eco-friendly.

Glass must be heated to 2600 to 2800 degrees Fahrenheit for recycling.

Recycling glass is energy-intensive. How hot does glass have to get to actually melt? Really hot. (According to the Glass Packaging Institute, 2600 to 2800 degrees Fahrenheit.1)
When you pack bottles in cases and stack cases in a truck, you waste the empty space between the bottles. Glass is also heavier than cardboard and a liner. Boxes are more easily stacked, leave little to no wasted space, and are lighter to ship.

3. As the bag-in-the-box shrinks, it seals around the remaining wine and, supposedly, keeps the wine fresher for longer.
This is the claim I wanted to test.

Bringing the Box Home

I went to the back of the wine store – you know, the corner near the bathrooms, where they keep wines that are either kosher, dessert, organic, or boxed. The section that gets the least love.

I found a box of Portuguese red, a blend of traditional varieties plus Syrah. Nothing fancy. I figured I’d be less disappointed in a wine from Portugal, a region which often delivers exceptional value, than a wine from California, which isn’t regarded as a necessarily value-driven region.

I brought the box home, and my boyfriend sniggered. We poured ourselves glasses from the spigot – yes, the box has a water-cooler-like spigot – and shared our initial reactions.

Not bad. Certainly not the best wine we’ve ever had, but not bad. A simple, straightforward red. Its fresh raspberry-blackberry character was pleasant if plain. A good choice, we thought, for casual get-togethers, barbecues, and pizza parties. Certainly, we agreed, it was a cost-effective option and a great alternative if your party venue does not allow for glass containers.

I sipped the red throughout the week. I did not try to make exquisite pairings but occasionally enjoyed a glass with dinner, including a delicious meal of sesame-soy cabbage, fried tofu, and crushed peanuts. Other nights, I enjoyed a glass while preparing dinner or winding down with a book. (I am ashamed to admit I’m way behind the times in pop-culture reading: the second book of Game of Thrones.)

Not Everyone Geeks Out About Wine?
Sipping the same wine every night became easy, comfortable. I geek out about wine often and generally assume everyone else wants to learn everything there is to know about wine.

Frankly, that’s not the case.

Dog in vineyard
Some wine lovers know the name of the winemaker’s dog

We all approach wine differently. In some households, there’s a glass on the table every night. For some homes, it’s the same wine, every day, every dinner, no matter what is being served. In other houses, there’s great attention paid to making the right pairing. Some wine buyers look for reliable wines that fit in their budget. Others look for obscure varieties from lesser-known regions. Some buyers don’t care where it’s from or who made it. Others know the name of the winemaker’s dog.

All of that is okay. Not everyone has to, or wants to, geek out about what to drink. It’s fun to get together with friends and family to taste and talk and learn about the beverage we love. That’s how we discover our new house red, white, or rose. Most wine buyers, however, don’t have the time to do that every week. We want names we can go back to, time and again, without being disappointed.

Thanksgiving Day and Every Day
I kept this in mind during a recent class about Thanksgiving wines. At Thanksgiving, there’s no need to break out the big wine guns. The meal begs for crowd-pleasing wines versatile enough to pair with the variety of flavors on the table. With turkey at the center, this meal doesn’t call for a bold, tannic wine. Rather than taking center stage, the wine does the important behind-the-scenes work of bringing every dish together and pleasing every palate. It does not need to be mysterious, thought-provoking, or complex. What it really needs to be is tasty. Isn’t that we we often want of our everyday wines?

I thought about all of this as I sipped the same wine every night over the course of a week, something I typically don’t do. I noticed subtle changes, a gradual loss of the initial vibrancy. A week later, the wine had certainly lost its pretty fresh raspberry character. While the fruit had faded, the acid remained, and the wine felt disjointed. The bag failed to preserve the wine as well as I would have liked.

But this was an entire week later. I typically expect a few days from a bottle, a day longer if I save it in a half-bottle. Never a week.

My Verdict on Bag-In-Box Wines
If you’re part of a household that drinks two or more glasses of wine per night, going through three-plus bottles per week, a bag-in-box is cost-effective. If wine plays a supporting role on the table, and you’re looking for something simple, reliable, and versatile, a bag-in-box wine might fit the bill. For large, casual gatherings, like Thanksgiving leftovers parties or cookie swaps, again, consider a bag-in-box selection.

Will I buy a bag-in-box wine again? If I see a new brand, maybe another Portuguese wine or one from southern France, and I know I’ll be having friends over, I might. Will I make it my everyday wine? Personally speaking, no. It doesn’t last long enough in a single wine-drinker household. Plus, I am a wine geek and I love to explore new wines, regions, grapes, and labels. I’m the one driving the salesperson nuts looking for this obscure grape and that little-known region.

How about you? Are you convinced? Will you try a bag-in-box wine? Let me know on Facebook @StudyAndSwirl.

 

1 Glass Packaging Institute. 2017. Glass Recycling Facts. Retrieved from: http://www.gpi.org/recycling/glass-recycling-facts.

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