Monday, August 18, 2008

Buy a box, save the planet

In today's New York Times, op-ed writer Tyler Colman suggests that we Drink Outside the Box--by which he means, it's time to join much of the rest of the wine-drinking world and get our everyday wines from boxes, not bottles.

According to Ryan Sproule, the founder of Black Box Wines, over half the wine drunk in Australia comes from a box. A quick Google search indicates that Scandinavians and Brits are approaching that percentage; the French are gradually being won over; and just last week the Italian minister of agriculture announced that certain of Italy's DOC (but not DOGC) wines may now be packaged in a box. That is, the highest quality wines must be bottled (because they require aging, and aging requires bottles), but good wines--two steps above ordinary table wine--can now be boxed.

Why drink boxed wines? Price, for one thing. Delicato, an award-winning California winery, offers its cabernet sauvignon in the standard 0.75 liter bottle for $5.99 at Sam's Wine. In the 3-liter box, the identical wine costs $15.99, or just $4.00 per bottle equivalent.

Long-lasting quality is another advantage of boxed wine. Use the Vacu Vinpump, and your opened bottle will stay reasonably good for another day or two. Your opened box of wine, by contrast, will stay good as new for nearly a month, thanks to the interior collapsing bag that keeps oxygen away from the wine.

Another excellent reason to choose box over bottle, as Colman points out, is environmental:
Switching to wine in a box for the 97 percent of wines that are made to be consumed within a year would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about two million tons, or the equivalent of retiring 400,000 cars.
Check today's post in Colman's blog for a few suggested labels--although I guess boxes don't have labels, do they. Brands, then?

[A word about statistics: you'll find websites saying that half of the wine drunk in Northern Europe is poured out of a box, and you'll find other websites giving much lower percentages. My interpretation: half of the volume drunk comes from a box. But because boxed wine costs less than bottled wine, and because higher-end wines must be bottled (boxed wines can't be aged), the percentage of money spent on boxed wine is still way under 50.]

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