I was chatting to a friend the other day about wine boxes, as you do. It’s been a bit of a trend during lockdown – the Co-op reports that sales are up 300% – but I still don’t quite get it. You get better wine by the bottle, and more choice, I venture; but he’s unsurprised. “That’s not the point,” he says. “It’s all about the price and the convenience. If you’re working on some figures from home in the evening, you can have it by the desk and just pour yourself a glass.”
Having tipped wine over my laptop more than once, I’m not convinced that’s a good idea. Plus, what’s wrong with pouring it from the bottle? “Well, for a start, you’d probably be more inclined to finish the whole thing,” he argued. “Whereas, with a wine box, you’re only going to have a glass or two.” There, I concede, he has a point.
But, convenience and moderation aside, what else is going for wine boxes? Well, they carry less of a carbon footprint than glass, and the wine keeps fresher for longer (though not indefinitely: Domaine Jaume, producer of the Wine Society’s Côtes du Rhône below recommends 20 days; most suggest a more generous 30, but I do think the quality deteriorates as you work through the bag, which is worth bearing in mind if you’re only taking a glass a day from them).
Again, on the plus side, boxes are easier to fit into the fridge than individual bottles, especially the 2¼-litre sized ones. Mind you, so-called “pouches”, such as Bijou’s fresh, zesty Le Chic Pays d’Oc Sauvignon Blanc 2019, which is £15.99 for 1½ litres (equivalent to £8 a bottle) at Waitrose, are even easier – they’re basically the bag without the box.
What has been a game-changer, though, are new entrants to the field – outfits such as When in Rome, More Wine and, more recently, the BIB Wine Company, which even sends out dinky little sample boxes (6 x 100ml for £25) for you to try before you buy. No, that isn’t cheap for bag-in-box, but not all Bibs are cheap as chips these days.
And if I lived in Hackney, north-east London, I’d regularly be round at the marvellous Weino BIB, which sells wines in every conceivable format: can, box, bottle, keg and pouch, including its own new “bagnum” JouJou, a fresh, almost salty, 10.5% abv Catalan white which is £28 for 1½ litres. Defiantly, it says “Fuck Covid” on the packaging, which right now I think we can all buy into. Maybe bags – and boxes – can be fun, after all.
Five winning wine boxes
Co-op Fairtrade Chenin Blanc 2019
£18.50 for 3 litres (£5.38 a standard bottle), 12.5%. Fresh, fruity, South African white that would be good with salads and stir-fries – and only 87 calories a (125ml) glass. Amazingly good for the price. Exactly what you want from a wine box.
Pascal de Richard Famille Jaume Côtes du Rhône
£45 for 5 litres (£6.72 a bottle), The Wine Society, 14.5%. Bumper-sized box of eminently gluggable, gutsy Côtes du Rhône. Perfect for large households.
When in Rome Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2018
TR Furmint 2019
£38 for 3 litres (£12.68 a bottle), BIB Wine Co, 13.5%. Sophisticated subtle, almost almondy Hungarian white: the best of the wine boxes I tasted and, like an Italian white, hugely versatile with food.
£31.70 for 4 litres (£7.87 a bottle), More Wine, 13%. Channel summer with this attractively fruity, strawberry-ish rosé “cubbee” – it’s a bit fuller than a Provence rosé, so is better suited to autumn drinking anyway.
• For more by Fiona Beckett, go to matchingfoodandwine.com