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Drink: Drinking outside the box?

We live in an age of extreme technology, yet some things remain surprisingly static. Think of the humble water closet. First patented by Joseph Bramah in 1778, it remains virtually unchanged to this day. And how about the wine we drink? Despite the progress we have made in quality and consistency, it would still be recognisable to the pioneer winemakers of Armenia, six thousand years ago.
Yet like haute couture, wine fashion is fickle. Trends come and go. Thirty years ago Liebfraumilch was all the rage and in another thirty years we may look back on the current trend for rosé wines with disdain. Grapes, regions and styles wax and wane in popularity. So is there anything revolutionary on the wine horizon? Wine has been bottled since the 17th century, but although sterile and tactile, glass is clearly inefficient: energy-heavy to produce, expensive to transport and easily broken. Is there no better solution? Bag-in-box (BIB) technology has existed since the late 1960s, yet accounts for less than 10% of the UK market. BIB packaging is cheaper and more energy efficient to produce, lighter and therefore cheaper/more eco-friendly to transport, easier to handle with less danger of breakage, and 100% recyclable. A BIB is also consumer friendly: easy to open and convenient to store. Crucially, box wine is not subject to cork taint or spoilage after opening and can stay fresh for up to 4 weeks. So what is holding BIB back? Until recently the format was used exclusively for cheap, mass produced wines. However thanks to a BIB boom in countries like Norway (where it accounts for half the market) smaller, premium producers like Johannes Leitz (Rheingau, Germany) and Luca Roagna (Piedmont, Italy) are starting to use BIB. The only brake on future expansion is prejudice, and lack of UK availability. Better for you, better for the environment: isn’t it time we started to drink out of the box?

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