Last week, while visiting the Rheingau, in Germany I met some Norwegians. Arne Ronald, MW, well known wine writer, and Mai Tjemsland, Wine Director for a group of Norwegian restaurants. They explained to me, that in Norway over 50% of wine sold at retail is bag-in-box (BiB). In Sweden it is estimated to be 65%, and in the United States about 20%.
When we think of bag-in-box wine, we most often think of cheaper, low-end wine. However, in Norway, and other Scandinavian countries, this is not necessarily the case, where wines such as Chablis and Sancerre from France are routinely sold in box.
Bag-in-box wines offer a number of advantages to the consumer. They are good value, convenient, lightweight, easy to store, unbreakable and especially great for outdoor activities.
However, there are also disadvantages such as being big and bulky to serve at table. Also, compared to a bottling unit, the packaging technology is quite complex. The bag inside the box needs to be both flexible as well as a good oxygen barrier. This combination is not always easily attained.
Additionally, 'bagged' the wine has a max shelf life of about nine months, after which the wine starts to lose freshness and deteriorate. So unless you know how long the box in your local store has been hanging around, it is hard to calculate how much more shelf life it has.
I'd love to hear your experiences with bag-in-box wines. Mine have been quite mixed. Some good, but there have also been many oxidized wines. In principle I think BiB is a great packaging alternative, and certainly has a future, as wine becomes part of so many more of life's occasions and activities.
FYI - The Norwegian wine market is run much like our own control states, in that all retail outlets are owned by the state monopoly Vinmonopolet.
So until next week, enjoy.