Welcome to the way we may all be drinking soon. Boxed wine, or to be more precise, bag-in-box wine, had a bad reputation in the past as something that was cheap and not that cheerful.
Now that we’re all eco-conscious, delivering wine in cartons that are “10 times lower in carbon footprint than traditional bottles” seems a sensible step forward, says Ollie Lea, co-founder of the Bag In Box (BIB) Company.
While Rob Malin, of When In Rome wine, points out that we’re embracing a trend that’s already popular in France, where boxed wines sales have risen by 43 per cent during lockdown.
But of course, it’s not just the green credentials which are attractive. The wines themselves are now top-quality – such as the Italian craft wines made by independent producers promoted by When In Rome or the specially selected winemakers championed by BIB.
Convenience is also key as the easily transportable wine pouches from M&S and Waitrose prove.
Once opened, the box or pouch can be stored in the fridge ready to provide the odd glass or two for at least a month and perhaps longer. If that’s what the future holds, then bring on tomorrow.
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BIB Chateau Ponzac maintenant ou jamais malbec 2018, 13%, 2.25l
Ollie Lea believes using “more carbon friendly packaging is by far the biggest step that the wine industry and wine drinkers can make to help tackle the climate crisis”. Add to that commitment a selection of top-class wines and you have a credible pointer to how the wine world may develop in the future.
Perhaps there’s a clue in the name of this hugely appealing cahors – maintenant ou jamais, or “now or never” – from the French homeland of the malbec grape. A medium-bodied red with concentrated dark fruit flavours, it goes really well with a meaty casserole or just a tomato-heavy pizza.
Bruce Jack pinotage cinsault 2019, 13.5%, 1.5l
South African winemaker Jack Bruce has a simple philosophy when it comes to making wine – and blending it. “If you can begin a blend with the majority of the volume being above average, you can add in small percentages of much more expensive components to build something special,” he believes. “These carefully chosen extra bits and bobs add noticeable complexity and length, but the real advantage is balance.
“And with balance comes happiness,” he adds. And that’s obvious here. With this winning combination of South Africa’s bold signature grape, pinotage with a softer cinsault, to produce a fruity and plummy red wine that’s guaranteed to spread more than a little joy.
Old Hands monastrell ecológico bodegas la purisima 2019, 14%, 3l
This Spanish red wine is made from the monastrell grape that’s native to eastern Spain (it’s also known as mourvedre in France). As the name implies, it’s organically grown by a group of farmers who originally came together in a collective in Yecla in Murcia with a single-minded ambition to produce great wines.
Subtle but spicy it brings a taste of the aromatic herbs that surround the vineyards to the table in a pleasing and balanced way, with lots of cherry and red fruit flavours on the tongue. And with this box being the equivalent of four bottles it’s more than competitively priced.
M&S cuvée rosé coteaux varois en Provence 2019, 13%, 1.5l
Summer’s here, almost, restrictions have been eased outdoors, and here’s something to celebrate – a proper rosé from Provence in a bag (or a pouch as M&S prefer to call it). No bottles to hump around, just a handy 1.5l bag with its own in-built spout and handle. What could be more welcome or more portable? Blended by M&S winemaker Belinda Kleinig, it has that unmistakable aroma of red fruits and strawberries and a dry, thirst-quenching flavour that expertly provides just the right beverage for a long summer’s day.
19 Crimes red wine 2019, 14%, 1.5l
The immediate shelf appeal of this wine, in bottles or boxes, is obvious. Authentic, moody shots of convicts transported to Australia stare out at you from the packaging, almost urging you to buy it. But does the wine live up to its promise or are we being held to ransom? Happily, this blend of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and grenache from south-eastern Australia does provide a more than decent mouthful with bright notes of dark fruit and berries and a pleasant oaky feel.
Pascal de Richard famille jaume côtes du rhône 2016, 14.5%, 5l
This is an eminently approachable red wine with a sprightly blend of grenache and syrah grapes picked from young vines which bring a freshness and a perky vitality. But it comes in a huge quantity. Five litres is more than six-and-a-half bottles of wine – so you may want to wait until distancing rules are relaxed further before bringing this to the barbecue. Still, you’re getting an excellent Côtes du Rhône for your money from Domaine Jaune.
When In Rome pecorino IGP terre di chieti, 13%, 2.25l
Another major player in the bag-in-box league, When In Rome’s professed aim is “to make drinking wine as sustainable and accessible as possible for everyone.” To that end, they only use boxed or flat bottle formats but fill them with high-quality craft wines made by independent producers.
This fresh and lively dry white by the Casimirri family from the Abruzzo region of Italy, is made using the local pecorino grape. It’s an ideal companion for the cheese of the same name as well as vegetable or seafood pasta dishes. Equivalent to three bottles it’s also said to stay fresh for up to six weeks once opened.
Three Choirs bacchus archa 2020, 11.5%, 2.25l
Well, here’s a welcome surprise. The current English white wine of choice, bacchus, is now available fully boxed. The bacchus grape was developed in Germany as a cross between riesling-silvaner and müller-thurgau grapes back in the 1930s but it’s only in recent years that it has been found to be ideally suited to the English climate and terroir.
Here, cooler temperatures lift its acidity turning it almost into an English equivalent of sauvignon blanc. In this example from the renowned Three Choirs winery in Gloucestershire, there are notes of elderflower and citrus with that backbone of pleasing acidity that makes it a great companion to fish dishes.
The Wine Show reserva vinho regional alentejano 2018, 13.5%, 2.25l
A robust, full-bodied Portuguese red that’s a blend of two local grape varieties – aragonez and trincadeira – along with a dash of syrah to add a bit more texture. Aged in both French and American oak, it has strong notes of bramble and black fruit backed up by hints of cocoa and spice. A product of Herdade da Candeeira (the house of candles) in the Alentejo wine region, it can stand up to strong flavours and is the wine you should reach for if you have chorizo or perhaps a chicken piri-piri on the menu. Once opened, help yourself to a glass or two then store it in the fridge until it’s needed again. That way, it should stay fresh for up to six weeks.
Waitrose bijou grenache rosé le chic 2019, 13%, 1.5l
An attractively packaged 1.5l pouch of a French rosé made from grenache grapes grown in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of the south of France. Dry, with notes of strawberry, red fruits and a dash of citrus, it’s the perfect accompaniment to an al fresco salad or a picnic lunch. The lightweight pouch – equivalent to two bottles – is also easy to carry and manufacturing-wise has a lower carbon footprint than glass bottles. It will stay fresh for a month after opening. More stock is expected mid-May.
The verdict: Boxed wine
All tastes are catered for by bag-in-box wine, but it’s the “now or never” maintenant ou Jamais from chateau ponzac that epitomises everything that’s great about bag-in-box wine. Attractive, eco-friendly packaging, authoritative and proven green credentials and above all, an impressive and vibrant French malbec that’s as good if not better in the box than it would be in the bottle.
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