Thursday, 14 May 2015

Wine in a Box

Cask wine, as it is known in Australia, has been widely adopted in France, where it is known as bag-in-box. In Australia it is generally negatively regarded as cheap and poor quality, but it never acquired that stigma in France. Here it is seen positively as a cheaper and practical alternative to bottles for mid-range wines which are intended to be drunk young. In other words the sort of wine that many people here drink every day and the sort of wine that restaurants use as their house wine. Many local wineries package their most popular wines in both bottles and boxes. The sauvignon blanc in the yellow boxes below is exactly the same prize winning wine as the bottles you can buy from this winemaker.

 Red, white and rosé Touraine wines in 10 litre boxes stacked up ready for sale at
Christophe Davault's Domaine de la Chaise winery in Saint Georges sur Cher.
Consumers appreciate the lower price and the practicalities of storage, transport and lower weight. They like the fact that the wine has a long lifespan after the box is opened, because the wine remains protected from the air. Restaurants appreciate the ease of use and the fact that staff don't have to open numerous bottles each service. Boxes come in 5, 10 and 20 litre sizes and are openly used behind many local bars, at functions and in private homes.

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Forgot to mention: Claudette passed her CT (Contrôle Technique) on Monday with no problems, the only advisory was a cracked steering rack boot. The brakes are really good: I knew that from using them, but the balance is nigh on perfect (the déséquilibré is in single figures) and the new Koni shock absorbers are spot on too. Well done Jean-Louis!

Simon

15 comments:

  1. For the first time we've bought a box of the La Renaudie cauvignon. It's in the fridge chilling as I type...

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    1. P.S. Good news about Claudette!

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    2. G., it was Bruno Denis at La Renaudie who first explained to us, 10 or 11 years ago, that the most economical and ecologically friendly way to buy wine was to buy it en vrac -- in bulk -- by bringing our own containers to the winery and having them filled right out of the stainless steel vats. The next best option, when you live in wine country, is the BIB (bag-in-box) or fontaine à vin. We do both, depending on how the particular wine is available.

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    3. I'm a bit dubious about BiB being more ecologically friendly than bottles. Bottles are recycled, but the BiBs aren't as far as I know. I don't know what the comparison between the two is in terms of manufacturing, but ending up in landfill must lose BiBs a lot of ecological brownie points. Does their more efficient shape and lighter weight reduce their transport costs sufficiently in ecological terms to offset the landfill issue?

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    4. Well I actually buy a lot of our wine in bulk, as I said below. I assume that transporting heavy bottles around uses a lot of fuel, and the corking, labeling, and sealing of bottles with those metal or plastic "condoms" is pretty environmentally taxing. I wish BIBs were refillable, actually. There's a business opportunity for somebody in that idea. The cardboard wine boxes are recycled, as are glass bottles, no? One thing for us is that we don't have to haul a lot of empty bottles to the recycling stations after we empty them.

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    5. Good point about getting the bottles to the recycling depot. Mind you, many people can do it on foot, but it is another thing to factor into the mix.

      I'm not totally sure the wine boxes are recycled. How many people rip them apart and sort them in their rubbish? and even if they do, are they coated with something that makes them unrecycleable? Lots of cardboard boxes are (or used to be -- maybe it's changing...)

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  2. I have used boxed wine for years... it is great!
    Great news about Claudette

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  3. It's funny how wine is seen as a luxury product and almost a magical elixir in many countries, but as an everyday commodity in places where it is produced, as in the Loire Valley. I remember going to an organic winery in Provence back in 1993 and being advised that buying wine in bulk, by bringing my own containers to be filled from the vats, was the right way to do it. That place's wines sold in bottles at very high prices in California. The big disadvantage with bulk wines compared to bag-in-box wines is that you have to bottle and cork them yourself if you plan to store them for more than a few days.

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    1. I dunno. I think the French do their fair share of mythologising wine.

      In the old days many people bought wine in barrels which were made of any old cheap wood ('acacia' was popular) and the barrels were intended to be disposable. That's also a sustainable way to buy and sell wine, but I don't see people going back to it.

      If you pick up the wine yourself I'm not sure that there are real ecological advantages to taking it in bulk and bottling yourself. The ecological gains must be made on largescale distributions to be meaningful. Individuals will buy a similar amount of wine regardless of how they carry it home. With developments in glass technology bottles are getting lighter, so transport costs are theoretically coming down.

      I'm not picking a fight or disputing what you are saying, just musing in public. The more you think about it the more complicated it gets. One of the difficult challenges of the environmental movement.

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    2. We used to buy "real" corks to use in bottling the wine we buy in bulk. Now we use and reuse plastic stoppers. It's seems pretty obvious to me that buying wine in bulk is more environmentally friendly. We obviously don't throw out perfectly good bottles. Besides, the price of the bulk wine is much lower. Add 4 or 5 euros to the cost of 10 liters of wine just for the BIB package (bladder and box). Next time you fill the trunk (boot) of your car with bottles (empties) you'll tell me how light-weight they are. The bottles sparkling wines come in are especially weighty, but then you can't buy sparkling wine in bulk or in BIBs. I'm not sure what you mean about picking up the wine yourself... I've tried to have it piped in, but haven't convinced our wine-making neighbors yet.

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  4. I really like the idea that chateau carton can be viewed as a positive environmental investment rather than a wine filled pillow-in-waiting (you may wish to explain that Susan). Having said that I can't imagine any restaurant dispensing wine from a 20l pack and still having a reputation here. But why not embrace young wine with a different dispensing method..like the iPad vs vellum....

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  5. We like wine in a box and generally find it to be good quality. The only problem is keeping tabs on how much you've drunk! With a bottle you can see it go down!
    We've taken to decanting it into a 50cl decanter rather than just taking a glass from the box when we want a refill to avoid over consumption.
    There is still something romantic and special about the sound of popping a cork though! Even if it's inexpensive wine it feels like we're in for a treat when we hear it.
    And we always diligently recycle our cardboard when the box is empty. It's a shame the rest can't be recycled. You can at least burn real corks on the fire!

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    1. Curiously, there is not a single reference to wine boxes on the SMICTOM leaflet, even the new improved version. Considering that virtually every household they collect rubbish from will be disposing of them it does seem odd.

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    2. We just flatten them and leave them by the gate with the rubbish, along with any other larger cardboard boxes, rather than fill up our yellow bags. I saw other houses doing this so decided to do the same, and they disappear every Thursday.
      Would the refuse collection team leave them behind if they were not acceptable I wonder?

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    3. Yes they might leave them if they were not suitable. I've seen them leave yellow bags full of magazines and annuaires put out by our former neighbours.

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