Think Outside the Box: The Whys and Why Nots of Boxed Wine

Boxed wines. Those very words alone can send the most snobbish of wine drinkers into fits of apoplexy. For decades, these boxed wonders were regarded as cheap and of poor quality—the equivalent of sidewalk plonk and generic jug wines. They were thought to be inferior to their bottled counterparts, simply because they came in cardboard form. But the tides are definitely changing as the wine world has embraced boxed wines in a big way. One should never judge a wine by its packaging. In a study conducted by Nielsen, the global information company discovered that boxed wines now account for 17.5 percent (%) of the total volume of wines in the United States. More and more premium wine producers have also started selling boxed tipples. This means wine enthusiasts can now get more bang for their buck when purchasing high-quality and ready-to-drink vinos.

Unboxed: The History of Boxed Wine

Boxed wines, also known as cask wines, have been around for about 50 years. The first prototype of boxed wines was invented and patented in 1965 by Thomas Angove of South Australia’s Angove Family Winemakers. When it first hit the shelves in the late 1960s, the product came in a corrugated box that housed a polyethylene bag carrying 4.5 liters of wine.

To access the vino, drinkers had to cut through the box and bag and a specially designed peg was used to help consumers reseal the wine. Though it provided a more efficient and cost-effective way to enjoy vino, it wasn’t the easiest product to use. Spills were a common occurrence after a bad pour. To help remedy this problem, the wine experts at Penfolds Wines teamed up with Australian inventor, Charles Malpas, to create a spill-proof and airtight plastic tap. The tap was then welded to a metalized container that could hold the wine. This ‘new-and-improved product’ was patented in 1967. Shortly thereafter, it was released to a delighted public who could now enjoy easier wine storage.

Today, cask wine producers have reverted to the use of plastic bladders making the wine box a little lighter. A perforated panel is found on the front or side of the corrugated container.  Drinkers will only need to peel the fiberboard panel away to fish out the bag’s airtight plastic valve. It’s  a more convenient design than the ones sported by its predecessors.

The Emergence of Premium Boxed Wines

In 2003, California’s Black Box Wines began offering premium-quality vinos in boxes. It was a move that would help revolutionize the world’s perception of boxed wines. Suddenly, these ‘bag-in-a-box’ tipples were no longer subpar, sidewalk swigs but were economical and eco-friendly fine wines. Through this new image, the industry’s perception of this product began its 180-degree turn.

Nowadays, you have hundreds of wineries and producers offering topnotch boxed wines. Prominent brands include Octavin, French Rabbit, Target, and Bandit Wines. You’ll also find dozens of wine boxes lining the shelves at your local grocer’s. These products vary in sizes, with most holding one and a half to four bottles of your favorite wines in one box. Some even come in Tetra Pak form. This offers drinkers a serving of their preferred varietal when they  want or need it the most, (i.e. after an exceptionally long day at work or while waiting for your delayed red-eye flight).

The Perks of Boxed Wines

More wine for less cost. From the wine company’s perspective, corrugated cardboard containers are a lot cheaper to use than glass bottles. This lowers production costs to the point where wineries can ‘afford’  to offer more wine  a lower price. This is the reason boxed wines are cheaper, (by the liter), for both producers and consumers.

Lighter, more convenient way to bring wine. Once again, it all boils down to packaging. Four 750-ml bottles of vino are a lot heavier than one box containing three (3) liters of wine.

More environmentally friendly. Compared to glass production, cardboard uses less energy to make. Cask wines are also easier to transport in bulk, with each 3-liter box generating about half the carbon-dioxide emissions for every 750ml bottle.

Can be stored 3-6 weeks after opening. Most bottled wines are candidates for oxidation within a day or two after being opened. But boxed wines have been proven to last for up to six weeks after the first pour. If you want them to last this long, it’s best to  keep them in the fridge.

The downside—box wines come with an expiration date. The only glaring disadvantage to cask wines is its lack of aging potential. Boxed wines aren’t meant to be stored in the wine cellar. They’re supposed to be enjoyed as soon as possible.  You can only store them one year after the product’s packaging date.

Boxed Wine Recommendations

Public House Sauvignon Blanc. First of all, let’s take the moment to enjoy the incredible design of the Public House wine. The box screams ‘hip’ and ‘millennial,’ with its throwback font and witty one-liners. Flavor-wise, this Sauvignon Blanc is as fresh and vibrant as its packaging. Teeming with kiwi, apple, passion fruit, pear, and grapefruit undertones, this Sauvignon Blanc makes for a gorgeous summer drink. Touches of pineapple and lemon zest add lip-smacking goodness to this tipple. It is very bold, profoundly  vivacious, and absolutely delicious.

Bandit Pinot Grigio. Lively, with a bit of an edge, this bright and full-bodied Pinot Grigio is liquid delight in Tetra Pak form. Bold notes of green apple, banana, papaya, melon, pear, and peach deliver wave after wave of sumptuous fruit flavors to the palate. Nice, long and citrusy finish.

Bandit Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep, intense, and irresistibly lavish, this Cabernet Sauvignon is brimming with decadent blackberry blackcurrant, and oak-laden flavors. Superb structure and great layers of tastes and aromas. All in all, a very satisfying drink.

  • Tony Tan

    Hi, I’m looking for box wines in Singapore. Do you have any distributor to refer?

    • Dear Tony, thank you for your comment. We don’t have any distributors storing boxed wines with us currently, so am afraid we cannot recommend any one to you. If we do come by any in the future, I will definitely inform you.