Show up at a dinner party with boxed wine and you'll inevitably get some raised eyebrows. But, what these wine "connoisseurs" don't know is some of the best wines come in a box.
Boxed wine gets a bad rap for several reasons. It's inexpensive. Its packaging lacks flash. It elicits memories of college hangovers — those times you "slapped the bag" gleefully, then barely lived to tell the tale. In reality, though, boxed wine is often a smarter, more sustainable and in some cases tastier option. Here's why.
Boxed Wine's Competitive Advantage
When the typical glass wine bottle is opened, air seeps in and begins oxidizing the wine. This can enable hidden bacteria to grow. Flavors change — often for the worse, sometimes for the better — as a result. That's why wine enthusiasts invest in intricate vacuum pumps and sealants to keep their pricy wines safe.
But boxed wines comes with their own built-in vacuums. When you "pour" the wine out of the pressurized bag inside the box, you're also creating an airtight seal that prevents air from getting inside. That means boxed wine can stay fresh for up to one month, compared to bottled wines, which last for a week at best, once they're open.
And, vino in a box does more than simply save wine. It's helping the planet. That same simple packaging that turns off many wine drinkers is actually better for the environment than glass bottles. According to boxed winemakers like Jackson-Triggs, the cardboard and oxygen-proof inner bladder take less energy to produce than glass. Recyclable cardboard and the plastic materials take up to 80 percent less landfill waste than normal bottles.
Price is another pro in the boxed-wine category. While the average bottle of wine costs around $28 for 750 milliliters in the U.S., the average boxed wine costs around $14 for 3 liters, according to the State of the Wine Industry Report 2019.
The Wine Tastes Good, Too
Boxed wine has seen drastic improvements over the past 10 years, with many upscale brands adding this packaging to their lineup. Take the French, a culture known for top-of-the-line wine that rarely lacks quality. According to Confectionery News, French winemakers saw the potential in 2006 when a survey proved a growing demand. (Over 12 percent of consumers had purchased boxed wine, according to the report.) Destinations like Finland and Sweden sell up to 50 percent of their wine in boxes.
That's why upscale wine brands like Jenny & François Selections, which launched the eco-friendly From the Tank natural boxed wine brand in 2008, are seeing large-scale success. From the Tank's blends include a red (40 percent Grenache, 35 percent Syrah, 15 percent Carignan), white (100 percent chardonnay) and rosé (50 percent Cinsault, 30 percent Grenache Noir, 20 percent Syrah). Their grapes come from a small co-op in France's southern Rhône. The New York Times described From the Tank's 2009 Côtes-du-Rhône red as a pleasing wine that's "fresh and lively."
Today, even the less flashy, legacy boxed-wine brands are seeing growth. The State of the Wine Industry Report 2019 says that the box wine category grew by 4 percent in 2019, alone, fueled by large distributors like Constellation Brands, The Wine Group, Delicato Family Vineyards, Trinchero Family Estates and E. & J. Gallo Winery.
Of course, while Refinery 29 found many sommeliers are open to the trend of boxed wine, some purists say glass is (and always will be) the way to go. Like all foods and beverages, the best wine is the wine you like, whether it's a vintage bottle or vino served in an eco-friendly box. Long story short? Boxed is the new bottled, and we're not mad about it.
This story has been updated since it first went live Feb. 3, 2020.