Pool season is in full swing, the grills are out, and I've got the juice you should be sippin' alongside the summer vibes. The catch? We are talking about wine in alternative forms of packaging that you are likely more familiar with than you realize: bags in boxes, cans & plastic bottles to riddle off a few! Now I'm certain some folks are keeling over in agony at the thought of letting wine in a box or can touch their palate. I swear it's forbidden in some circles. It's a topic considered taboo when it really shouldn't be. Like with anything in life, there are pros and cons to alternative packaging, but we shouldn't fear things that deviate from the norm.
"Wine should come in a glass bottle, right? Actually, wrong, if wine drinkers want to do their bit for the planet's resources and environment, glass bottles and their transport are the two biggest contributors to wine's carbon footprint." - Jancis Robinson
PHOTO: Herisson by Moutard-Diligent
The classic Bordeaux & Burgundy shaped glass bottles have become the most widely accepted form of packaging. We as consumers seemed to be eternally bound to it, or as wine writer Jamie Goode says: "unconsciously wedded". So much so, that even wines with screw cap closures in lieu of cork have struggled to take off in the manner that innovators expected. Wine as a luxury good has pushed the thought that any and all juice in alternative vessels are of subpar quality. While that is the case in most scenarios, especially within the walls of grocery stores----I'm looking at you Franzia----wines in cans or bags-in-boxes can be of the same production quality as the juice inside traditional bottles. So don't shame your friends for their boxed wine affinity! There's a huge movement behind alternative packaging. It stems from the desire to, in some respects, make wine more consumer friendly and also to protect the earth (hello recycling!). With the price of glass rising post pandemic and the subsequent shortages, there is now the added financial benefit for winemakers to pivot to unconventional packaging. Let's touch on some other pros & cons to consider:
PROS of going alternative - Eco Friendly & with some materials such as aluminum, it can be "endlessly recycled" - Durability, durability, durability----cause I've broken many a bottle in my heyday and broken glass is a danger to all the pool-day shenanigans. - Protection of the wine from prolonged light exposure - Who doesn't like volume on the cheaper side? CONS of going alternative - While airtight seals are great, wine's exposure to oxygen over time is what aids in the aging process & its future improvement. - Increased levels of sulfur dioxide (reds tend to require less SO2 than white wines) - Some liners have a higher chance of negative reactivity, thus leading to more hydrogen sulfide compounds & potentially unpleasant aromas.
VIDEO: Broadbent Vinho Verde & Frico by Scarpetta (Lambrusco)
I've had some fantastic canned and boxed wines recently and got to geek out while tasting a few with my friends at Assorted Table Wine & Shop. We were tasting with a distributor who claimed to have a surprise for us and whipped out two 3-liter boxes. They poured us the Gruner Veltliner (the white wine) and Gamay/Pinot Noir blend that had us all genuinely shocked. The bag-in-box red from Moutard-Diligent represents a union between two families that have a long, storied winemaking history in Burgundy that dates back to the 18th century. The packaging has a porcupine, heart emoji & globe on it's cap to further echo a message of sustainability. It's downright sinful how easy drinking & refreshing this red blend is----almost like tart strawberry kisses on the palate and the slightest bit savory. At $40 bucks a box, you can't really beat its quality & volume. This will definitely be traveling with me to any future pool parties!
FUN FACT: Approx. 19.5 Billion glass bottles are filled & emptied each year, and though that glass is recyclable, this only adds to the wine industry's carbon footprint.
Definitely give wines in alternative packaging a second thought the next time you come across one. We want to be able to enjoy good wine for many years to come, and alternative packaging may just be the way we achieve that. Cheers, The Certified Wino