Boxes. They might not be at the top of most adults’ list of acceptable drinking vessels (that would be goblets), but for many college students -- and the entire nation of Australia -- they’re a way of life. Boxed wine has been around forever, but has recently started gaining traction -- nay, respect -- from wine drinkers. Still, some folks continue to turn their noses up at the very notion of drinking wine from a box, marking rare instances of wine lovers acting snobbish.
We chatted with Union Square Cafe sommelier Sam Lipp and Constellation Brands (purveyor of Black Box wines) marketing head Kim Moore to give some crucial facts that might just change your mind about the box.
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Turns out, it’s no longer just a bag you slap before heading to a place where there’ll be Jell-O shots. “Once we secure quality fruit, the vinification process in our production facility -- in terms of converting the grapes via fermentation into wine juice and aging appropriately in stainless steel or with oak -- is exactly the same as it would be for any bottle counterpart,” says Moore.
There's just as much of a spectrum with boxed wine as with bottled, and just because something is packaged in a box doesn't necessarily mean it's inherently worse. In fact, some of the best things come in boxes, like that Nintendo 64 you got for your 8th birthday.
The packaging helps it stay fresh longer
“We are talking zero light penetration (one of the potent killers of great grape juice) in a box,” says Lipp. Light is the enemy of good wine, and that’s just not a problem when the wine comes in a box rather than a bottle.
In fact, on average, boxed wine that’s just been opened will stay fresh in a refrigerator for two to four weeks. That’s 21-28 times longer than bottled stuff, for those of you keeping track. (You should keep track.)
It's less expensive... and not because it's poorer quality
Bottling is costly, as it turns out... but what about boxing? In addition to being totally badass when done by Muhammad Ali, it’s also much less expensive when applied to wine. The plastic bags inside boxes of wine are often vacuum-sealed, and the boxes themselves are made out of cardboard, which is extremely efficient to produce (and transport) when compared to the glass used for bottles.
“In theory, these savings can be passed along to the thirsty consumer,” says Lipp. In this case, the consumer can afford to be a little thirstier -- boxes of wine typically contain around four times as much wine as bottles, as well.
It’s easy on the environment
Cardboard boxes are recyclable and biodegradable, not to mention the fact that producing them takes far less energy than it takes to manufacture bottles. Plus, since cardboard isn’t fragile, pieces of it are less likely to break off and contaminate stuff.
Concerned about your wine getting aerated and gross? Not a problem. Got anxiety about your wine turning out cork-flavored? Never an issue. “And did I mention the elimination of a need for a corkscrew?” asks Lipp. “While there are plenty of MacGyvers out there, I'm sure we can all acknowledge that not needing to think on our feet to get at a glass of happiness in the moment can be a huge advantage.”
A box is more convenient than a bottle
Portability is key! Boxed wine is easy to store (it’s geometric, so you can just Tetris it into picnic baskets, book collections, even spare-tire wells), transport, and share with your friends. “3-liter boxes... are easy to pack and take on an outdoor adventure or can be enjoyed simply as your go-to everyday house wine,” says Moore.
Bar fights involving boxed wine are virtually nonexistent
A dude coming at you with a glass bludgeon? Scary. A dude coming at you with some soggy cardboard? Sounds like the aftermath of a particularly competitive breakdance competition. And not that scary.
Above all, it’s eminently drinkable
Let’s get down to brass tacks -- boxed wine is just easier to drink and share than a bottle. The larger boxes are great for parties, and honestly, if you don’t show your guests where the wine is coming from, they probably won’t even know it’s the boxed stuff.