Boxed wine. Wait! Don’t skip ahead to the next article, you’re going to want to see this. Yes, I did indeed say the two words that seem to have become a mantra of bad quality in the wine world: boxed wine. Boxed wine has blown up across the world rather recently and a lot of wineries have come to recognize the bonuses of the box for storing wine.
The advantages of boxed wine are many. To start off, I must first inform you that the term “boxed” wine is a bit of a misnomer. It is actually a vacuum-sealed aluminum or plastic bag connected to a hose that is fitted into a box. I suppose mass-producers Franzia and Almaden decided that, although we might accept a boxed wine, a plastic bag of wine was never going to fly with consumers. Yet the box is pretty important on its own, eliminating two of wine’s most dire enemies: Oxygen and light.
Ever open a bottle of wine and then leave it for a couple of days? The end result is not pretty. The bag and box combo really tackles that problem. The tap doesn’t allow any (or at least a negligible amount of) oxygen into the wine, even after its initial opening, and the wine will still keep for a few weeks.
We’ve seen that you save money with boxed wine, but is it actually vital in reducing the carbon footprint that we, as consumers, have unintentionally created? The majority of the carbon emissions in the wine industry are due to transportation. Since most wines are still stored in traditional glass bottles, it requires a lot of protection to keep the bottles from breaking in the transportation process. Using boxed wine allows you to transport the same amount of wine in about half the amount of vehicles. That means that if we even just switched all wines under $20 to box and bag storage, we could cut the wine industry’s carbon emissions by around a quarter. When the wine world is responsible for a significant percentage of carbon emissions worldwide, that makes a huge difference.
I’m not the only one touting the virtues of boxed wine, either. New York Times editor Tyler Colman (a.k.a. “Dr. Vino”) wrote the following on August 17, 2008:
"More than 90 percent of American wine production occurs on the West Coast, but because the majority of consumers live east of the Mississippi, a large part of carbon-dioxide emissions associated with wine comes from simply trucking it from the vineyard to tables on the East Coast... Switching to wine in a box for the 97 percent of wines that are made to be consumed within a year would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about two million tons, or the equivalent of retiring 400,000 cars."
Now I don’t think the romanticism associated with a glass bottle and cork will ever die. I think that it will forever be tied to wine and that’s a great thing, but we have to start thinking about how to leave less of a footprint on the earth. Boxed wine, recyclable plastic bottles, aluminum-lined cartons — these are all great ways of lessening our impact on the world. The only thing we are being asked to do is sacrifice a little of the aesthetic quality of how we receive our wines. Is that really so much to ask?