Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Box wines--what's the deal?

A dear reader recently asked us about wine in boxes. Before diving into a reply, click here to take a look at the Santa Rosa's Press-Democrat thoughts on the very subject.
(Short version, they like the Black Box brand, which you will recall is produced by Constellation, as well as jugs that consumers can take to stores and wineries to fill up.)

Wine in boxes is a wonderful idea. The wine is actually inside a plastic bag inside the box. The bag collapses as the wine is dispensed, so the wine remains free of oxygen. An opened box wine can stay fresh for weeks, and is a convenient thing to have on the counter, especially when you would like a glass of wine but do not want to commit to opening a bottle.

Boxed wine is also great from an environmental perspective. A box, barely the size of two bottles, typically holds the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine, so more can be packed into each shipment, reducing the carbon cost of moving the wine around. That cost is further reduced by the very much lower weight of the package. And the package is almost entirely recyclable, although whether the plastic parts actually get recycled is an open question.

The one thing boxes are not (yet) good for, is long term storage of wine. If you buy a box, plan to drink it within the year. This has to do with the nature of the plastic, gas permeability, and details beyond the scope of this blog.

For all of these reasons box, or "cask" wine is very popular in Australia and, we are told, Europe. The box has had trouble catching on here, and producers blame the generally dreadful quality of the "wine" sold in 5-liter boxes, such as Franzia, Peter Vella, etc. We use the quotation marks advisedly. These producers may have cleaned up their act, but at least a few years ago many of the 5-liter beverages were in essence wine-flavored, alcoholic sugar-water. Yum!

In our experiments with boxed wine, we have found that the 5-liter-related stigma may not be the only thing holding them back. We have found that the first releases of the wines is generally pretty good, but subsequent releases show a marked drop in quality. We have all but given up on boxed wine, as a result.

So we turn to you, dear readers. Have you found a boxed wine you enjoy? Or dislike? Do tell which, and why? We eagerly await your reply.

1 comment:

  1. Dear reader Lisa had a comment, but had trouble posting it. Same thing happen to you? Email us at pwr [at] att [dot] net.

    Here is Lisa's comment:
    Well, I'm ready to throw a few bucks at a Black Box and see, since we're more of a 2-glass night household, and often don't get back to the open bottle in time to enjoy the rest of it.
    I'm a little embarrassed to admit I didn't know that we had "jug" wine stores where you could take a container and fill it. How wonderful!


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