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Boxed Wine and the Long Slouch toward Respectability

Wine presentation is such an integral part of the imbibing experience it is taught in classes and on countless websites, so people can do it at home. Studies prove that everything from the lighting in stores, to the heft of the bottle, to the art and words on the label have a statistically significant effect on purchasing decision, even for experienced drinkers (although the effect is diminished as the drinker learns more and more).

Labels, bottles, and price matter because food is part of us in more than the purely biochemical sense that we will turn wine into blood, muscle, and energy. In choosing to drink wine instead of beer, we’re saying something about ourselves. In choosing to drink this wine over that wine, we’re saying something about ourselves. For social creatures, it seems to be a hardwired trait: If I can see you do it, it must mean something.

This has meant that boxed wine has always had a hard slog out of disrepute. I mean, it just doesn’t matter how silky your smoking jacket or how well-tied your cravat, you can only look so classy pouring wine from a box. (The guy in the pic is the high bar.)

But seriously there are three good reasons to drink wine from a box.

  1. It’s better for the environment
  2. At comparable prices, it’s better wine, or at least you get more of it.
  3. It’s lighter and therefore more portable

Let’s deal with the easiest first. It’s more environmental than drinking wine from a bottle. OK! Moving on. (And they say I can’t be brief!)

Producing wine in a box is cheaper than producing wine in a bottle. Does this mean that the boxed wine will be cheaper? Not necessarily. But it does (or at least should) mean, that at comparable prices, you should be getting a better quality wine from a box?

That’s right. I said it.

If you have a $5.99 750 mL bottle of wine and a $5.99 750 mL box of wine, the fixed costs are higher for the bottle, so the care the winery can afford to put into the box and the quality of the grapes should be higher. My argument here is not unlike Yglesias’ argument about why foodtruck tacos are so much better than restaurant tacos (They are!)

What you’re more like to get is the same quality wine in a larger container. CalNaturale is an example. Instead of a 750 mL bottle you get a full L box. Well! If you’re not getting better, at least you’re getting more. (Reminds me of a joke about two women lunching in the Catskills.)

Finally, as Emily at Endless Simmer says, if you’re on your way to a picnic where portability is a key characteristic, the box is the way to go. That’s three, three reasons to get over this whole “but it’s in a box” thing.

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Posted in Boxed, The Drinking Class, Wine.

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