In the NYT suggesting to drink inside the box

boxwine I am an op-ed contributor to the New York Times today urging wine producers to upgrade the quality of wine available in boxes. If you’re new to the site, welcome and feel free to explore the site including wine picks. Also, consider subscribing to the site feed or get caught up on my joint research on the carbon footprint of wine.

Overall, I’m disappointed with the quality of box wine here in the U.S. But the time for good box wine has come for environmental as well as economic reasons as I argue in the piece.

There are some rays of hope in the box wine landscape. Unfortunately, the $40, 3-liter D-Tour wine, made by Dominique Lafon of Burgundy and imported by Daniel Johnnes, wine director at Daniel Boulud’s restaurants, has been temporarily withdrawn from the market (search for this wine). However, the Cuvee de Pena, an old vine grenache from the French side of the Pyrenees, is still available (find this wine). And the newest and brightest star is the $11 unoaked, organically grown malbec called Yellow + Blue sold in a 1-liter TetraPak (not bag-in-box; find this wine). There’s also the Bandit from California (find this wine).

So what do you say about boxed wine? Have your say in the latest poll! And hit the comments with your preferred box selections.

democracy18
poll now closed

Related: “Drink outside the box” NYT
An open letter to Jorge Ordonez” [Dr. V]
How I gave up bottled water and lived to tell the tale” [Dr. V]
Drinking box rosé in the south of France
The excellent image is by Grady McFerrin and ran with the story.

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42 Responses to “In the NYT suggesting to drink inside the box”


  1. Now wine in a carton is something I had hoped the wine i drink, CK Fortisomo would do.
    I am “JUG” wine drinker and these gallon glass bottles are cumbersome and dangerous besides being
    heavy
    Bravo for your thought, I’ll drink to that
    v frisina
    stormville, ny


  2. Great op-ed piece. Besides the environmental benefits, I really like that the wine lasts up to 4 weeks in a box.


  3. In Venice I enjoyed taking our own bottles to the wine store and having our choice of barreled wine from which to fill up! Saves on packaging and you puchase any amount you want/need.


  4. I beg to differ. I am Italian and I was raised in a household of wine connoisseurs – I am very grateful for that, especially as it taught me that drinking is a complex aesthetic experience. Carton boxes are ugly, unfriendly to taste, extremely common and all-around annoying. The ritual of uncorking a bottle, airing the wine, pouring in the exact right way has already been butchered by the insane screwcap craze. Take the bottle away, along with the pleasure of looking at how the light plays on the color of the wine (not to mention the label etc), and we’re well and truly lost.
    If there is a carbon footprint problem, well, maybe one should start with water rather than wine, as in “More tap water, less bottled water”. Or, alternatively, drink less wine, as the whole point of wine is not stuffing oneself full of alcohol but enjoying a multi-layered pleasure.


  5. I’ve been drinking box wine for several years sometimes at a rate of about 750ml (1 bottle) a day. I spend about $13 for 5L. That’s about $2 a bottle. At that rate (retail) a bar/restaurant could sell a 1 liter carafe for $8 and make a killing!


  6. Sirs,
    Is the plastic bag inside the cardboard box a problem for the “ecology”?
    Glass can be and is recycled.
    Cordially, WC


  7. The bag used to be made of aluminum or something, right? I don’t know what they’re made of now since I don’t know of any good boxed wine available . . . yet. My suggestions are here http://thewinekapital.blogspot.com/2008/08/boxes-i-just-cant-get-enough.html. Cheers.


  8. Tyler,

    Could you please help me out with your math about the carbon footprint. what you say seems about extreme. if i’ts true i’ll shout it from the mountain top with you, but i need to see the math. where/how did you calculate those numbers?

    thanks

    de


  9. Here in the United States, box wine is an abomination! It’s terrible, but I’m glad we have it! Lets the uninformed palates of the world enjoy the fermented juice of the (extremely cheap) grape. There’s something for everyone and it takes care of all that excess tonnage we have each year besides. And….they stack so easily on the shelves of my local retail wine outlet.

    I do disagree that screw caps are butchering the aesthetic wine “experience”. Screwcaps are the best thing to come along in decades! Why we favored corks for so many eons is beyond my realm of thought. This is the 21st century for God’s sake. Technology rules and screw (pun intended) the cork!

    As for box wines, show me a decent one. Until then…

    I have spoken.


  10. There are some good arguments for and against here. I can sympathize with Claudia’s comment because I feel the same way about eating Japanese food with a fork: It just doesn’t taste the same. I wish I had access to the same custom-portioning that Judith enjoys in Venice.

    Here’s what I’m looking for in a packaging alternative:

    a) a reduced carbon footprint so I can freely purchase wine from CA on the East Coast.

    b) portion choices because I would rather open three or four different 250 mL wines in a week than one 750 mL bottle.


  11. Congrats on a great OpEd, Doc!


  12. Great article and congrats for reaching the NY Times Op-Ed page.

    I agree with the previous poster about the recyclability of the plastic wine bag with spigot. While it takes up less landfill space, it still can’t be (easily) recycled. And box sellers should make it easy to remove said box for recycling.

    Can you provide a link to reviews of boxed wines? Either comparing them to their bottled brethren or against other box wines. My French wife and I have tried several boxed wines and have found a few that are palatable everyday wines. While the boxes are economical, if they are plunk then you have 2+ liters to get rid of somehow.

    Many thanks for the info!


  13. Great op-ed piece Tyler, thank you for the drink for thought!

    Count M, have you tried Yellow+Blue? It’s great juice, and this box might just change your thinking…


  14. Sadly, glass wine bottles often can’t be recycled. The market for used green and brown glass is very thin: since the color in glass can’t be undone, clear glass can’t be made from green/brown glass. And partially because the U.S. imports more wine/beer than we export, there’s not enough demand for green/brown glass domestically to soak up the supply.

    Remember that the “three Rs” — reduce, reuse, and recycle — are in descending order of effectiveness. Reducing waste to begin with is far more powerful than recycling. Glass manufacture is particularly carbon-intensive since it involves large amounts of limestone, which is the most stable form of carbon; in contrast, the plastic and foil liner bags in wine boxes (whether plastic bladder or Tetra Pak) consume a few ounces of oil. The cardboard outer box can usually be recycled, too.

    I’m looking forward to having my wine-by-the-glass at restaurants be served out of kegs or barrels, actually, as is done in Europe and now by MAS Wine in the Bay Area. I’ve switched most of my beer consumption to drafts from kegs or growlers, since every step in that process (keg, growler jug, glass) is reused. There’s also plenty of great local beer in the Midwest — wine, not so much just yet.


  15. how did you calculate the amount of CO2 emitted in transporting a bottle of wine across country? Which mode of transport did you assume? how do different modes compare on this basis–rr, truck, air?

    i think your suggestion is pretty ridiculous coming from someone who claims to like wine. Part of the enjoyment is the uncorking, the decanting, etc. Wine in a box is fine for those who are just casual drinkers, but I seriously doubt you’ll have many takers. You are a killjoy. There are much more effective ways to reduce carbon emissions; why don’t you focus on those instead of this relatively minor problem.


  16. As a boy growing up in Vicenza, Italy I was regularly sent to our cellar to fill the dinner’s carafe with wine from the demi-john we purchased from a local dealer (who delivered!). I guess that is kinda like wine from a box. We also would go to the local enoteca to have bottles filled. Wish we had that here! Friends in Italy still do provide themselves with decent everyday wines in these manners. I will buy a bottle when I want a really good wine, but for everyday quaffing and meals I would be fine with a good quality boxed wine. I would be willing to pay more for quality and heck, since it is so easily stored and keeps better, will probably end up drinking more. So, vintners, bring it on!


  17. PCC: Where do you get your knowledge of the emissions produced in glass manufacture, the problems in recycling it, the “few drops of oil” used in making the plastic bag, etc?

    Just want to know, as I’d be fully behind box wine if I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it was greener than bottles — which I prefer aesthetically.

    For example, are glass bottles ever washed and re-used, as beer bottles are? Here in Ontario, we have a booming local wine industry and don’t have to truck wine all that far. If we could reuse our wine bottles that might be better than having to put foil/plastic bags into the garbage. And we could institute policies of clear-glass bottles only to solve the green/brown glass issue.

    Also, there’s the fact that those box wine bags can’t be reused for anything, and absolutely must go into landfill. It’s plastic bags that end up polluting the oceans, taking lifetimes to break down, etc. Tetra paks can’t be reused and their prospects for recycling are not great.


  18. [...] In the NYT suggesting to drink inside the box Dr. Vino – Chicago,IL,USA And the newest and perhaps brightest star is the $11 unoaked, organically grown malbec called Yellow + Blue sold in a 1-liter TetraPak (not bag-in-box; … [...]


  19. Box-wine doesn’t have to be non-recyclable. In Europe, they recycle TetraPak plastic-lined packaging, so why not in the US? Where there’s a will (and a market) there’s a way.

    For example:
    http://www.tetrapakrecycling.co.uk/


  20. Reducing the carbon footprint of everything – including wine production – is crucial. That said, are we sure the plastics used to line wine boxes and for spigots are not being degraded by the wine? And is it possible if boxes are the only solution for our carbon-challenged future to devise boxes that can work without plastics that are hard to recycle and vulnerable to degradation?

    As for the aesthetics, as others have commented, part of the pleasure of serving wine is the appeal of the bottles, light on and through the glass, the smell when the cork is removed, etc. Putting a box on a table would be like putting a cereal box or a gallon of milk on the dinner table. If boxes are the only way to go and we can solve the plastics/recycling issues, perhaps decanters can be brought back in force. Perhaps use some of the current crop of wine bottle glass to make carafes & decanters for home use, perhaps also available through wineries and wineshops……


  21. Firstly, great op-Ed article. It was thorough in its execution and very convincing. There seem to be a lot of people on the comment wall that want to believe but just need a few more of the facts.

    I too, am interested in hearing more about the recyclability of plastic compared to wine bottles. I read on one comment above that colored glasses are difficult to recycle. I then wonder, what if the industry made a trend towards clear, glass bottles? How would those fare in comparison to the plastic bags?

    The current wine boxes are not as sexy as wine bottles just by virtue of shape, I can agree on that. However, there are many talented designers around. I would be interested to see where they would take such a challenge. I believe boxed wine is an interesting marketing task both for packaging and perception. The green message alone is not enough, you need both a change in packaging and perception to create the shift.

    Until then wine-enthusiasts will drive a hybrid, convert their bulbs, install solar-panels; and do anything else green to excuse the grievance of their BOTTLED wine.


  22. Hey there – glad to see you in the #1 spot on the Times today. Great thought provoking topic. I’m on the fence, the painful process is takes to get a single bottle and or box of wine to anyone’s home to is head-spinning to begin with.

    I can’t wait to pass out your latest book over the Holidays to local wine industry folks. Bravo. Ali


  23. [...] In the NYT suggesting to drink inside the box [...]


  24. [...] In the NYT suggesting to drink inside the box [...]


  25. Forget wine in a box. What about a box of Jack? Get the spirits industry on board and booze in a box could really start reducing waste.
    Check out my post on the op-ed piece.


  26. Tetra Paks are made from layers of plastic, metal and paper, thus making them difficult and expensive to recycle.

    http://plasticisforever.blogspot.com/2008/06/plastic-in-my-coffee.html


  27. Thanks for all these comments! I’m working on a big roundup to address the issues raised here.

    Cheers,


  28. [...] In the NYT suggesting to drink inside the box [...]


  29. So what are some decent box wines available here in the US?

    Banrock Station and Black Diamond are the only ones I’ve tried.


  30. The best advice I ever received was to never buy the liberal premice in the first place. The lib premice here is that something as natural as co2 is bad. Animals and human machines exhale co2 and plants breath the stuff and they in turn exhale oxygen. So a good bottle of red wine will feed many plants on its way from Napa to me in Florida. My bottle of red will leave a trail of happy plants and a trail of oxygen. But what the heck if libs ever do take over I will convert and sell carbon credits to libs that prefer glass bottles.


  31. Nice work, Doc. I recommend Killer Juice Cabernet, Hardy’s “Stamp” Shiraz” and Black Box wines in general. Too bad D-Tour is out of the game; that was even better. No doubt most of the wine that makes it into boxes could easliy be going into bottles. Unfortuantely, low-end bottles. I wonder if a higher-end producer will go for a box just for shock (PR) value. Like Plumpjack did with screwtops in the 1990s.


  32. Carry that wine in a bag “incognito” – TheBag2Go Beverage System, available online is made of sturdy neoprene and allows you to take your wine where bottles are not allowed: the beach, the boat….can buy more refill bags -yes they are recyclable – and those can be filled with water, sports drink, kool-aid, [3 liters=6 water bottles that DON'T have to be used!!!]. Versatile. Fun and very hip! The Bag2Go. See video on youtube too!


  33. @David: While yes plants consume co2, the big deal is that there are not enough to soak up all the excess we are producing. This is not a liberal/ conservative issue, this is a science issue.

    @ Dr Vino: I was just able to find the Bandit wines after going to three big wine stores. I was unable to find the other two recommendations.

    Does anyone have other suggestions for good boxed/tetrapacked wines or where I can buy them? I live in Illinois.


  34. [...] Colman (AKA Dr Vino) has been talking about boxed wine a lot this week (post1 post2), including an op-ed piece in the New York Times on Sunday. I am very much in support of what [...]


  35. [...] In the NYT suggesting to drink inside the box [...]


  36. Your Ontario correspondent, Boxwhiner, suggests the province’s centralized beer distribution which refills bottles could be duplicated by our equally centralized wine/liquor system. But with transportation prices rising, is there evidence that trucking empty bottles around actually reduces carbon? And where would the vast quantities of non-standardized imported wine bottles go?
    If the traditionalists sneer at a screw cap instead of a cork, imagine the sales resistance to burgundy and bordeaux showing up in exactly the same shape bottle.
    Ontario’s provincial liquor authority, possibly the world’s biggest wine retailer, is in step with Dr. Vino and is muscling its suppliers to go Tetra pack. These packs are accepted for recycling by some local waste authorities. But to return to the good Doctor’s point, much of the stuff reaching the retail shelves so far is barely worth the bother.
    To widen the debate, the plastic “bottle” is beginnning to show up here, particularly from Australian producers who can make a substantial freight savings because of the container’s significantly lower weight. Looks like a bottle, unscrews like a bottle (Australians care more about contents than knee-jerk tradition), is acceptable to recyclers, and makes economic sense in the global vineyard.


  37. I am one of the owners of Blue Angel Wines in Brooklyn, NY and we carry “The Tank” an organic Cotes du Rhone from Jenny and Francois Selections. It holds 4 bottles and is packed in recycled packaging. It is a great boxed wine.


  38. Dr. Vino is certainly makes a passionate argument here. What bothers me though, is the man releases books in paper form. Wouldn’t the logic of his argument compel him to make a personal statement by only releasing his books in electronic form?

    I don’t understand this seeming contradiction between his solution for the wine industry and his own personal endeavors.

    I am a wine importer (Louis/Dressner Selections) and a spirited proponent of the physical book and the bottle. But that’s another argument.

    All I ask is that Dr. Vino embrace the same policies in his work that he urges the wine industry to embrace.

    When I see him do so, we can have an intelligent conversation and dialogue about the glass.


  39. [...] box wines have been a strong growth segment for the past few years and consumer attitude, as least on this site, are ready. So I’m raising a glass in the hope that more producers will continue to see [...]


  40. [...] “In the NYT suggesting to drink inside the box“ Permalink | Comments (0) | SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Box wines in O, Oprah magazine and [...]


  41. I think wine in a box is a valid packaging also because it helps put the focus on what’s important: the juice!

    It also might help drink more often, but less each time.

    L.


  42. [...] how wine is consumed in Australia, Sweden and college dorm rooms. More recently box wine has crept upscale. Angove joins Robert Mondavi, Peter Mondavi, and Ernest Gallo as having lived well into his [...]


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