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In this episode of “Wine 101,” VinePair’s tastings director Keith Beavers explores the science and history behind boxed red wine. Likewise known as bag-in-box, these items are on the market for a fantastic value and are easy to utilize– and drink. But where did boxed red wine originate, how did it become so popular, and what are the very best ways to consume it?
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Keith Beavers: My name is Keith Beavers, and I’m most likely showing my age here. But podcasting in basic, I get these significant “Pump Up the Volume” vibes, like Mark Hunter.
What’s going on, wine enthusiasts? Welcome to Episode 6 of VinePair’s “Wine 101” podcast. How are you doing? It’s red wine, it remains in a bag, and it’s a little cardboard box. We need to speak about this. It’s part of our lives. It’s who we are. Well, sort of. Let’s enter into it.
Wow, wine fans, Here we are. We are at the boxed red wine episode. Am I sounding too remarkable? The thing is, I’m delighted to speak about boxed white wine. I had a retail store, and I offered boxed wine. It’s like a rollercoaster trip with people attempting to figure it out like, “What, I believed boxed white wine was one thing and now it’s this, and I can’t comprehend. Can you please describe what’s happening with boxed white wine and what I should be considering with boxed white wine?” You need to be considering whatever you wish to consider boxed white wine. However I wish to offer you a bit of history, a little bit of science, perhaps, and just some enjoyable realities about this thing called boxed red wine. As soon as you have all the details, maybe it’ll help you in the future, making your own decisions out there in the boxed white wine world. Since man, they’re out there. And they’re getting increasingly more numerous on our market. So we got to discuss it. They’re not going anywhere.
For those of you who don’t know, or are just familiar with the term, let me describe to you what a boxed red wine is. It’s likewise sometimes called bag-in-box. In Australia, they call it jerk or chateau cardboard. We’ll enter into that. Essentially a boxed wine is– and it’s pretty basic– a retractable plastic bag filled with white wine that has a tap attached to the plastic bag. That plastic bag rests inside a cardboard container. The red wine is drawn out of the bag by the actual tap, and what that does is it allows the white wine to come out but will not permit air to get in. So there’s no ingress of oxygen when you’re pouring yourself, or tapping yourself, a glass of red wine. And the bag is set into package in a manner that the tap is at the bottom, and the bottom of package has a little perforated hole you can pop out and drag out, so it’s simple to gain access to. So it’s quite cool. When you draw white wine off the tap, no oxygen is entering the bag. And due to the fact that of that, the bag itself has to have a barrier for oxygen as well. We don’t desire oxygen permeating into the bag. We have a tap that’s utilized to not get oxygen in the bag.
For these, there are two types. You have a silver-colored bag and you’ll have a clear bag. If you see a silver-colored bag, what you’re taking a look at is a bag that’s safeguarding the wine from oxygen by a thin layer of aluminum or aluminum-coated polyester. That thin layer of aluminum is in between 2 layers of what’s called high-density polyethylene, which is essentially simply plastic bottles and bags you get at the supermarket, and plastic movie. It’s also helpful for recycling because it takes a long time for this specific sort of bag to break down, which lowers the variety of gasses that are constantly going into the air from this product. It breaks down slower, releases slower and smaller sized quantities with time, so it’s better for the environment. If you see a clear bag, what you’re looking at is a bag that has an oxygen barrier or an O2 barrier. That’s made up of something that’s called polyvinyl alcohol. I understand it sounds odd. It’s alcohol? And I believed it was weird, so I had to look it up. And it’s still odd, however it’s actually cool. This product is the very same material that’s found in eye drops and contact lenses. That’s wild. It’s likewise recyclable.
These bags are developed to hold between one and a half to four bottles’ worth of white wine. So 3 to 4 liters of white wine. I imply, that’s awesome. You have a big bag in a box filled with wine. And the thing is, these wines that are taken into these bags are not costly. They are cheaper red wines. You’re getting the more casual drinking style of red wine with a bag-in-box, due to the fact that it’s going to remain in that bag. It can last 4 to six weeks, truly. After 4 to six weeks, it begins to deteriorate because there is some oxygen getting in, just not a lot. It’s not like a light switch. It’s simply going to start to weaken with time. Honestly, if you still have a boxed red wine after 4 to 6 weeks in your fridge, the very best thing to do with it is to begin cooking with it. You can actually prepare with boxed white wine from the minute you tap it. The wines that are going into these, as I said, are less expensive. However being less costly is not a bad thing. It means these are young, dynamic, fresh, easy-drinking white wines that don’t need to age. And they are young enough that they will take advantage of remaining in a bag that is safeguarded by layers of plastic so that oxygen does not break it down because they’re so prone or vulnerable to that.
There’s the apparent thing I have to say about this: Wine-in-box is really eco-friendly. An environmental impact study from Scandinavia in 2010 discovered that bag-in-box leaves just in between 12 and 29 percent of the carbon footprint of bottled wine. So, that’s good news. Also, the products that are utilized to make bag-in-boxed white wine are much more economical than glass. Also, the production of glass uses more natural deposits than the manufacturing of bag-in-box. Now, I’m not removing anything from glass here. I’m just giving you some statistics and some figures here. Certainly, glass bottles are going no place. However in 2014, nearly 20 percent of all red wine sold in retail in the United States remained in a box. So boxed white wine has an impact on our drinking culture. It belongs to what we do. It belongs to who we are. Where did it originate from?
The principle of putting red wine in a bag and utilizing what they called the “airless circulation principle,” which is not enabling any oxygen to enter the bag after you pour a glass of red wine, was developed in Australia. What we see today on our market, on our shelves, is kind of an American thing. Are you puzzled? Let me describe. In the United States in the 1950s, the Sholle family developed and patented a bag-in-box system with a tap to transfer battery acid securely. Put a pin in that. Around this time in South Australia, in the McLaren Vale Adelaide area, there was a winery called Angove Family Winemakers. The third-generation winemaker and head of this winery, Thomas Angove, had an idea. Now, I’m uncertain what kind of winemaking practices were basic at the time in this part of Australia, but Thomas Angove was mad at glass. In an interview with his child, he stated that his daddy was disturbed at the fragility of glass. And also, he thought that white wine was more susceptible to going bad in glass bottles. Which, naturally, holds true. I’m picturing this is because, at the time in Australia, the amount of range a red wine had to travel to a market was long. Perhaps the glass, the fragility, and the vulnerability of a cork were such that it prompted Thomas Angove to say, “Well, why do not we simply put red wine in a plastic bag?” But in an actually cool Australian accent.
He was inspired by the shepherds he would see around who were drinking red wine from their goatskin sacks or flasks. So in 1965, Thomas Angove, of Angove Family Winemakers, designed the very first bag-in-box. But at the time it didn’t have a tap like we have today. And also, according to his boy, his dad wasn’t the first one to put liquid in the bag. But he was the first one to concentrate on the idea of the airless flowing principle, meaning when you pour a bit of red wine out of a plastic bag, it doesn’t oxidize the wine. Despite the fact that they didn’t have a tap back then, they had a certain peg or a paperclip or a method of closing it. Despite the fact that it was primary, it became popular and individuals saw the capacity for it. It ended up being so popular that Penfolds, one of the most popular wineries in all of Australia and the world, came together with a popular Melbourne red wine merchant. They began to establish a tap system for these plastic bags. And in 1968, Penfolds launched its first, what they called, cask white wine, which became a standard term for this sort of white wine in Australia. What’s fascinating about it is it wasn’t actually a bag-in-box, it was a bag in a tin. I’m assuming it had a tap, but I’m not really sure.
Since Penfolds was collaborating on this technology, they probably did. I just have not had the ability to discover a picture of it anywhere, and I type of want to see a picture of this. I want to see a bag of white wine with a tap or without a tap, in a tin, from back in the day from Penfolds. So if anyone has a picture of that, hit me up on my DMs @vinepairkeith on Instagram. I got ta see it. But this is how it all started. In the ’70s, Australian winemakers got wind of this concept that was patented in the United States for carrying battery acid. That box-bag tap system became the standard way of providing bag-in-boxed wine in Australia. And here we are with the bag-in-boxed red wine technology that was kind of American and sort of Australian; primarily Australian and a little bit American.
However in any case, what a boxed red wine is, is just a great, easy-drinking casual white wine you can receive from a tap. If it’s white, you keep it in the fridge. If it’s red, you keep it on the counter. Or if it’s red, keep it in the fridge if you desire it cooled. I don’t know; whatever you want to do. However that’s what boxed white wine is for. We in the United States and in Australia have these ideas about boxed red wine. Because they’re so budget-friendly, they’re so simple to celebration with. You bring it to the party, you bring it to the beach, you bring it to the picnic, you bring it to the roof, you bring it to the deck. That’s what this white wine is for. It’s fun, engaging, amazing, common fun drinking. There’s Tim McKirdy, senior personnel author at VinePair, as well as the host of VinePair’s “Mixed drink College” podcast, and Katie Brown, who’s also part of the editorial group of VinePair, along with co-producer of “Going Out with Jake Cornell,” our other VinePair podcast. The three people got together and we tasted, I think, 30 or more of the boxed red wines in the market and developed our favorites and put them on a list. You ought to certainly inspect that out on vinepair.com.
I believe bag-in-box ended up being popular once again due to the fact that of the natural motion that came out of California in the ’90s. When I had my red wine shop, the bag-in-box game was big. When the organic movement hit, everybody was doing bag-in-boxes. The important things people were doing is, now there was a competitors of who might put the best red wine in a box and sell it on a retail shelf. There’s a lot of competitors out there, and there’s a lot of various type of wine in boxes. You never ever understand what you’re going to get, but there’s stuff from all around the world. There’s bag-in-box from France, Spain, United States, Italy, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, you call it. There are bag-in-box wines all over, because the majority of the wine that we drink on a daily basis, white wine lovers, are ones that are prepared for right now. And bag-in-box are red wines that are all set for right now. There are business that sell red wine in a bag-in-box, but they also offer that very same white wine in a bottle, since that’s the type of red wine it is. It’s fun, satisfying, young, and easy-drinking. And the very best part is, they’re quite low-cost, guys. The most costly boxed white wine I have actually ever seen is $40, and that’s truly a lot. You’re talking in between $20 and $25 or less, and you’re getting at the majority of 4 bottles of wine. So that’s pretty incredible.
So I seem like I’m rambling here now since I keep on saying things over and over once again. I wanted to offer you people a sense of what this is because, as I stated, it’s not going anywhere. It becomes part of our drinking culture. It’s who we are, and they’re enjoyable. And I got ta be sincere, when I had my wine shop, I constantly had a boxed wine in my refrigerator. I constantly had a boxed white wine on my counter, constantly. Whether I was consuming it or cooking with it, it was constantly there. The last thing I’ll say about boxed red wine is, the looks you’re going to get when you stroll into the party with the huge box of wine, you’re going to get high fives. Let’s talk next week.
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And now, for some totally remarkable credits. “Red wine 101” was produced, taped, and edited by yours genuinely, Keith Beavers, at the VinePair head office in New York City. I wish to give a huge ol’ shout-out to co-founders Adam Teeter and Josh Malin for producing VinePair. Big shout-out to Danielle Grinberg, the art director of VinePair, for developing the most incredible logo design for this podcast. Likewise, Darbi Cicci for the signature tune. Listen to this. And I want to thank the whole VinePair personnel for assisting me learn something new every day. See you next week.
Ed. note: This episode has actually been modified for length and clearness.