Associated Press
Steph Waller poses for a photo with a box of wine in her home in Stillwater, Okla, in a
2007 file photo. Waller is one of a growing group of wine drinkers turning to the box
rather than the bottle.

Wine in a Box Finally Gets Respect

August 19, 2008 07:57 AM
by Rachel Balik
The Italian government began certifying certain boxed wines; experts say boxed wine will reduce prices and carbon emissions.

Boxed Wine Friendly to Environment, Wallet

When the Italian Ministry of Agriculture announced in early August that it would bestow the government’s quality assurance label on a selection of boxed wines, reactions were mixed. Many feel that the quality of wine, or at the very least the standard for wine, is heading downhill. Writing for The New York Times, wine professor Tyler Colman argues that boxed wine may help the wine industry weather the recession and reduce the large carbon footprint currently associated with producing and shipping wine. The piece reports that 90 percent of American wine is produced on the West Coast, but most drinkers reside east of the Mississippi.

The recession has also contributed to the trend in boxed wine. Colman says that wine has enjoyed a solid bull market for the past 15 years, but with the perilous economic conditions, the industry can only continue to succeed if wine makers can prevent the “per-glass prices of wine from rising as the dollar falls.”

Ray Isle, deputy wine editor for Food and Wine magazine, told NPR that while one would certainly not want to age wine in a box or drink extremely fine wine in a box, it’s a perfectly viable way to drink less expensive wines.

Background: The carbon footprint of wine

Colman teaches wine classes at New York University and the University of Chicago and writes about it online and in print. Last year, he did a study to measure the carbon footprint of various wines. He found the majority of the carbon emissions caused by the wine industry stemmed from the shipping of wine, especially in glass bottles.  “Light packaging material such as Tetra-Pak or bag-in-a-box has much less carbon intensity,” he noted. Wine that is transported in barrels and then bottled locally also produces fewer carbon emissions, but the best way consumers can decrease their footprint is to choose wines that don’t travel as far.

Opinion & Analysis: Few drinkers object to wine from a box

A blogger for Serious Eats argues that “wine from a cardboard spout hasn’t been able to shake its cheap and crappy stigma.” She asked readers if the new stamp of approval from the Italian government might dissuade them from their ingrained disinclination towards boxed brands. Many admitted to already being boxed wine drinkers, and joked that they were grateful not to be ashamed of it anymore. Of course, many of the responders noted that they knew the wine they were drinking was of poor quality, and they simply didn’t care.

In order for wine aficionados to embrace the trend, better vineyards will need to sign on. Colman wrote a follow-up blog entry admitting that the quality of current boxed wine is often less than adequate and reasserting that now is the time for better wine makers to switch to putting wine in boxes. When polled, the majority of respondents thought that “good wine in a box is an idea long overdue.”

A blogger on the quest for a cheap wedding notes that she was previously embarrassed to serve boxed wine at her wedding but after reading the Times piece was delighted to discover she was also helping the environment. She observed that it’s a rare case when helping the environment is actually the less expensive option.

Reference: Drinking boxed wine, beating the recession


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines