The last time I had boxed wine was sophomore year in college when I was on the editing board of a literary magazine. We were holed up in our senior editor’s apartment eating cheap cheese and crackers and sipping Franzia from Solo cups critiquing poetry.
That was seven years ago.
But now I’m talking about boxed wine again because a few months ago, Sean Matula of Houston was talking to me over Twitter and email about Bottle2Box, his fledgling project to put wine you’d usually buy in a bottle into a box to preserve the flavors.
Sean was only able to raise about $2,600 during the one-month campaign. Although he can’t build his machine, Sean’s idea got me thinking: who’s drinking boxed wine, why would producers put their wine in a plastic bladder and what are the pros and cons?
With consumers increasingly willing to try new things–think wine in a can and wine in paper bottles–it’s not surprising that sales of 3-liter boxed wine jumped 10.7% in 2012, according to Wine Spectator.
But a main impediment to any boxed wine product is the stigma of boxed wine, the idea that it’s not a good product, said Michael Kaiser, director of communications at WineAmerica, a national association of American wineries. Not all boxed wines are lower quality, but a produced that chooses to box their wine tends to do so if they have a wine that is not as good as their other wines, but they still want to sell it, Michael said, so they will put it in a box rather than a bottle.
The upside, though, is that the wine preserves better–getting to Sean’s point–in a box. It can lasts weeks or months after being opened. Boxed wine will not age like a bottle of wine though.
And while the culture of wine is shifting: more people like me are drinking wine in their slippers rather than saving it for fancy occasions, the same community of new wine drinkers that have welcomed screw caps are still several steps away from doing the same with boxed wine.
“I don’t see us ever getting to a point where a bottle isn’t the main way a wine is presented,” Michael said.
As for Sean, he plans to build a prototype of his patent-pending technology and keep on trucking with his startup idea.