Monday, August 18, 2008

Boxes (I just can't get enough)

Another perfect storm of media awareness has brought my attention to something that has long been in the back of my head somewhere . . . boxed wine. The NYT reported that Italy will begin allowing DOC wines to be sold in boxes and this weekend Dr. Vino also contributed an article to the Times extolling the virtues (mostly environmental and economical) of boxed wine. And in a rare moment of clairvoyance I also brought up the subject last week with my WBW roots post about "wine stands". Granted, I was speaking of Franzia which not only is this not Real Wine I'm not even sure it's real Industrialized wine. But whatever, it's all a part of the public consciousness. The salient point is this: I love boxes. For all the reasons Mr. Coleman mentions--lower carbon footprints, lower prices, ability to keep a "house wine" around for longer which is also about lower prices--but also because it fits nicely with my philosophy of wine as a food, or with food all the time. Boxed wine is a homerun concept for me, but I haven't actually purchased a box in many years. Because despite the emerging media attention and the increasing number of manufactures there are still few options on the market, and almost none that aren't bullshit. You can see a list at the BoxedWine blog site. So before I get in bed enthusiastically w/ this box trend I have a few suggestions.

  1. The wine has to be good. By good the mainstream media means comparable in taste and quality w/ what is offered in a similar bottle, meaning most boxed wine is typical, industrialized, super-market style stuff. Dark, soft, inky Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz and blends from Spain and Southern France that are usually flavored w/ oak. Or oaky Chardonnay or watery Pinot Grigio. I think the focus should be on wines or grape varieties that are versatile w/ food and take to a chilling well such as Gamay, Schiava, Bardolino, and Zweigelt. The options for white are endless but I think oak ageing requires some bottle ageing too so don't put those guys in a box.
  2. The wine has to take to chilling because of storage. I would never encourage someone to keep their reds stored on top of the fridge or in a kitchen cabinet, espcially once they're already open. And since there's not a lot of wine fridges w/ built in box holders (and most of us don't have that $ anyway) you've got to keep the box in the fridge.
  3. If we're going to be "green" in packaging and shipping than we should do it all the way. Use recycled materials and sustainable agriculture. Better yet let's get some natural wines into boxes. If Joe D. is listening how about some boxed Muscadet or Loire Gamay from Marc Ollivier et. al.? Most Real Wine doesn't require a cork.
  4. Even better still would be good, natural, local wines in boxes. For me that means a North Fork Cabernet Franc or Chenin or Sauvignon Blanc. I'm going to lobby the Long Island wine community for a good, inexpensive boxed wine made responsibly and available only in the Greater NY area. You do the same in your hood and soon we will save the world.
The picture is of Gertrude Stein, who by all acounts also loved boxes, the photographer is Carl Van Vechten.