I have only negative memories of boxed wine: from college basement parties to my grandmother's tennis friends in Arizona, it never held my interest. But things are changing and boxed wine is not only becoming cooler, it's simply starting to make more sense. At neighborhood bars around Seattle, it seems distilleries and breweries are opening each weekend. There is an almost palpable start-up energy with craft bars and interesting small-batch beers, our friends are making their own Fernet Branca, and cocktail house parties have become a favorite pastime. Beyond Seattle, a lot of this energy certainly focuses in on crafting new food and beverage products as well. You can see this parodied in episodes of Portlandia
or see the evidence in small artisan bottles of catsup or specialty salts at your local boutique grocer.
Trailing not-that-far behind those catsup and salt artisans are the renegade wine makers, and these days it seems some of that buzz is in boxed wine, that product with a long-held reputation for cheap Merlot or rowdy late night parties.
Steffan Bankier, founder of start-up Public House, a New York-based boxed wine company says of his product, "The box holds four bottles of wine ... it's recyclable and the bag keeps the wine fresh for 4-6 weeks once you open it. When you open a bottle, you've got 3-4 days max." Some boxed wine makers have been at it for years and others, like Bankier, are just jumping in now to get their feet wet. Regardless of tenure, all are starting to move boxed wine beyond its ho-hum reputation, relying on the fact that the product just seems to make good sense.
But while it may make sense and businesses like Public House are thinking of new ways to draw customers over to their side, is boxed wine really necessary or it it just another soon-fleeting food/drink trend? From reading and chatting with wine lovers from all walks of life and researching a few boxed wine companies from around the country, it seems there are three main reasons its about to have its time. Or perhaps I'm late to the party, so to speak, and its time is here.
1. Shelf Life: This is a pretty big draw for many folks. Gone are the days of worrying whether or not to open a bottle of red for fear it could go bad before you and your significant other will finish it -- a good box of wine will last for weeks. This is probably the biggest draw of all for me as we have a household of two and there are weeknights where one of us may want just one glass and a bottle ends up sitting for a few too many days before we both sit down to enjoy the rest of it. Why does it last longer? Real Simple writer Jessica Brassard notes, "The bag inside the box slows oxidization because as you use the tap to remove the wine from the bag, the bag collapses and limits the air inside. With a bottle of wine, once it has been opened, the exposure to oxygen means you usually have just a few days before air affects the flavor of the wine."
2. Ease and Convenience: For those of us on the go, boxed wine can be great because you don't have to worry about bottles breaking if you head out on a camping trip, hiking venture or road trip. I'm thinking: just in time for summer picnic season!
3. Savings and Value: Boxed wine is often much more affordable than buying an equal amount of bottled wine. The folks behind Black Box wine note their boxes "costs 40% less than comparable bottled wines."
Regardless of whether boxed wine is the next hipster fling, a wine cousin of PBR, it does seem to be making a strong case for its practical self. (Don't just take my word for it, too; our wine writer Mary Gorman is a fan of some of the newer boxed wines too!)
• The Box Wine Short Course - Forbes
• Wine's Future: It's in the Bag (in the Box) - The Wine Economist
• The New Boxed Wine - Portland Monthly
Have you taken the boxed wine plunge yet?
Related: Bag in a Box: What's Your View?
(Image: Public House)