By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 10 Oct 2020
Bag-in-box has been enjoying a surge of interest since lockdown began, which has taken many retailers by surprise, with supermarkets reporting 60% to 300% increase in demand from last year.
Once a symbol of cheap wine, alternative packaging from bag-in-box, pouches, ‘bagnums’ to single serve cans are now enjoying a renaissance.
In the past the problem with boxed wine was often the quality of the wine, but now an increasing number of premium wines are being sold in this format – and crucially some are organic, biodynamic and even natural or low-intervention wines.
Buying a bag-in-box can often offer good value – and once opened they last much longer than an opened bottle of wine. Once you have broken the seal on your bag-in-box tap, some of the wine boxes state they stay fresh for up to 6 weeks - useful during lockdown for reduced number of shopping trips.
However the recent rise in demand is believed to be linked to renewed focus on environmental issues, as lockdown has accelerated interest in health and well-being.
‘One easy-to-remember rule is: the lighter and more recyclable the packaging, the smaller its climate impact…glass bottles generate the most emissions and greatest environmental impacts per litre of beverage, while boxed wine generate the smallest’: states Alko’s report from Finland.
“This new data shows wine boxes have up to 10 times lower carbon-footprint than bottles”, says Rebecca Roberts co-founder of BIB Wine Company. “The other issue is that a lot of green and brown glass is not recycled despite entering the recycling scheme, as the market demand for coloured glass is not always good”, she says.
BIB, launched in 2018 by four siblings, is one of the most interesting newcomers, aimed at the luxury market. “BIB was really born out of frustration”, says co-founder Ollie Chapman. “The four of us spent Christmas together in Paris when I was living there, drinking good boxed wine and wondering why great wines were not available in boxes in the UK”.
With neat stylish packaging and interesting wines sourced direct from small-scale growers by Justin Howard-Sneyd MW (pictured right), BIB’s range includes Hungarian Furmint, Austrian Zweigelt, Cahors Malbec, English Bacchus, German Pinot Noir and Cotes-Catalanes Grenache/Roussanne blend from Howard-Sneyd’s own Roussillon estate, Domaine of the Bee. Taster packs (6 x 100ml pouches £25) with online tasting are a good way of sampling their range, before committing to a box.
“BIB Wine has already managed to save nearly 14,000 kgs of CO2 in just two years, but we’re just a drop in the ocean. The implications of a greater uptake are huge. We are sure that environmental benefits of the BIB are one of the key drivers in growth of this format”, says Howard-Sneyd.
Another interesting new addition in the market is Waitrose’s organic vegan-friendly ‘wine-in-a-tube’ from Orion Wine, looking like swish paint-tins. Convenient to carry, but they take up considerable fridge space. Frustratingly there is no mention on their packaging how long wine stays fresh, but their wine buyers suggest only 10 days after opening.
One of the issues with bag-in-box is that whilst the cardboard is easily recyclable, the inner bag with tap cannot always go through normal recycling systems – although Waitrose state that theirs can. Some supermarkets and special council recycling points accept bags (taps should be separated from bags for recycling); BIB introduced a freepost return-scheme, but I doubt many will return used bags in the post.
Another new development is the ‘bagnum’ wine pouch. M&S moved from larger bag-in-box to 1.5litre pouches, tailoring pouches to a slimline shape; a perfect fit for inside UK fridges. Bagnums cannot be recycled in local schemes, so must be returned to M&S Take Back schemes.
If you still want to serve wine from a bottle, the most climate-friendly of all bottled alternatives is the PET plastic bottles with a carbon footprint only 35% of a traditional glass bottle. Only a few wines are currently available, their six months ‘shelf-life’ causes problems for supermarkets and plastic does not have a good image. We may see more PET wine bottles - watch this space for my next ‘alternative packaging’ taste test.
Meanwhile - check out my pick of ‘boxed wines’ on the market:
Puglia, Italy: MAREE D’IONE ORGANIC FIANO 2019 (12.5%) ***STAR VALUE***
£25.99 for 2.25 litres (equivalent to 3 x 75cl bts; £8.67 bt) : Waitrose
Pale gold, light apricot & peach aromas, smooth creamy, honeyed notes and steely undertones. Appealing dry white in large paint-tin tube.
South Africa: FAIRTRADE CHENIN BLANC/SEMILLON/COLOMBARD 2019 (12.5%)
£18.50 for 3 litres (equivalent to 4 x 75cl bts; £4.62 per bt) : Co-op
Plenty of tropical fruit notes, full opulent fruit initially on palate, this blend from Breede Kloof valley is excellent for under a fiver (per bottle).
Hungary: DRY FURMINT TALLYA 2019 (14%) ***STAR BUY***
£38 for 2.25 litres (equivalent to 3 x 75cl bts; £12.67 per bt) : www.bibwine.co.uk
Orchard fruits, spicy undertones, rich textural palate, minerally undertones and a long dry finish; super-smart packaging - an excellent example of bag-in-box renaissance.
Puglia, Italy: TERRE DI FAIANO ROSSO 2019 (13.5%) ***STAR VALUE***
£25.99 for 2.25 litres (equivalent to 3 x 75 cl bts: £8.67 per bt) : Waitrose
Outstanding favourite for its super-ripe red fruit aromas, smoky vanilla undertones, opulent flavours and velvet smooth texture; ripe Primitivo/Negroamaro/Cabernet Sauvignon blend packaged in large tube.
Chile: FAIRTRADE CHILEAN RED BLEND 2019 (12%)
£19.50 for 3 litres (equivalent to 4 x 75 cl bts: £4.87 per bt) : Co-op
Pale Merlot/Alicante Bouchet/Cabernet Sauvignon blend which shows little of Chile’s usual bright polished fruit character; light on fruit; short finish.
Germany: KARL MAY PINOT NOIR 2018 (13%)
£41 for 2.25 litres (equivalent to 3 x 75 cl bts: £13.66 per bt) : www.bibwine.co.uk
Bright cherry aromas, soft smooth texture with vibrant acidity, good length; rare to find good German Pinot Noir at this price range.
Join Rose’s Meet the Winemakers Virtual Tasting
in association with Raeburn Fine Wines:
Vignai du Duline, Friuli, NE Italy: Fri 30 Oct to book click here
Le Soula, Roussillon, SW France: Sat 7 Nov to book click here