A case for boxed wine

It is high time to remove the stigma that boxed wine inherently is plonk.

An Australian invention patented in 1965 by winemaker Thomas Angove, the bag-in-a-box has had a sort of failure to launch here in the U.S. That’s not to say you won’t find boxed wine at the grocery store, but we want to feel good about what we’re drinking, and the product has failed to catch on with the sustainable wine crowd.

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Glass is expensive, the weight of a bottle increases its carbon footprint, and it is less likely to be recycled than aluminum or cardboard. As you may have heard, glass bottles are becoming harder for winemakers to get, with lead times growing longer and prices going up.

Box wine containers are made from fully recyclable plastic and cardboard, and the cost savings in materials generally is passed on to the consumer. Even the most expensive of quality boxed wines is the equivalent of about $12 per bottle, and usually it’s much less.

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The benefits of wine in a box go beyond environmental concerns. The bladder-on-tap system, aka box wine, is very effective at preserving freshness, allowing you to drink well for more than a month. It requires no corkscrew, and is a perfect vessel for tailgating, camping and other fall activities with small groups (trick-or-treating is a lot more fun with wine). On average, a box of wine holds 3 liters, the equivalent to four standard bottles.

This is not to suggest that we can or should replace wine in glass bottles. Boxes do not make an ideal long-term storage vessel for aging wine; because the interior plastic bladder is permeable, the wine starts to fall apart after a couple of years.

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Yet, much like the concept of incorporating a meatless Monday into your week, occasionally replacing those weeknight bottles with a pour from a box could help make an impact. And, as trends tend to go, the more boxed wine you buy, the greater the chance of additional options becoming available in the future.

Sustainably made, quality table wines in a box from France, Italy and Spain can be found in the market. Here are three of our favorites:

From the Tank. Made from organically grown grapes from southern France and available in red, white and rosé, this is from natural wine importer Jenny Lefcourt. The red is a juicy, peppery blend of Rhone grapes that is perfect for burgers and brats at the tailgate.

La Nevera. Available in red, white and rosé, each is an outstanding value from Spain. We love the crisp white with seafood and porch hangs.

Fred. Currently only available as a red, this barbera from the Piedmont region of Italy is delicious when lightly chilled.

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