Confession: I have never “slapped the bag” (purely out of fear of germs… and also pride… just being honest here). BUT I have many respectable pals who have participated in said festivities and can attest to the debauchery that is winebag fountain chugging.
Boxed wines are rising in popularity, yet they still have quite the negative stigma in the US. The Europeans are fine with it (boxed wines make up 20% of wine purchases) and Australians are allllllll about it (50% of wine purchases). Many Americans associate boxed wine with “getting wasted” in lieu of a credible and distinguished way to drink (and appreciate) wine. Thanks 1980’s. I’m here to tell you to discount any notion of slapping you have and open your mind to the boxed wine revelation.
This post is less about how to “chug wine in mass quantities” and more about the pros and cons of drinking boxed wines.
Here’s how it’s going down (feel free to skip to whatever part interests you):
- Imma go over what a ~BIB~ is. Don’t skip that section if you want to find out this mysterious acronym.
- Imma go through what’s good and not so good about BIBs.
- Imma give you a definitive ranking of the best BIBs on the market.
Alright class, let’s begin.
BIB stands for Bag In Box. CRAZY. Basically, boxed wine is a large quantity of wine (usually 1 gallon or 3 liters or the equivalent of six or four regular sized bottles) that is put into a plastic bag called a bladder (hahahaha let’s all laugh about that for second hahahaha) and a little plastic tap/valve that is then placed in a box (to keep it upright, make it easier to transport, and create a barrier of protection from puncture wounds). Also, honestly, when you take the bag out (like for the aforementioned frat party game) it kind of looks like a bag of blood… It’s not super appetizing.
Here’s a fun history lesson: William R. Scholle first created the BIB system in 1955 for the safe transportation and dispensing of battery acid. PSA- do not play “slap the bag” with battery acid BIBs. TYSM Billy.
BIB wine can range from Franzia to ~fancy~ Bordeaux wine in ~fancy~ wooden boxes made of wine crates (see reviews below). Before you write off boxed wine (as I did once, but growing is accepting past mistakes, right?), peep section 2.
It’s inexpensive to make… usually meaning it’s inexpensive to buy!
This point speaks for itself, but the costs of individually bottling glass bottles, the corks, the transport of added weight, etc. can really add up. With the BIB system, you can contain and transport large quantities of wine at a fraction of the cost/space. Meaning you can essentially buy 4-6 bottles for the cost of 1-2. Crazy!
No cork taint!
Since there’s no cork, there’s no possibility of cork taint! Huzzah! (PS if you don’t know what cork taint is, check out this post). The really good news: Box bags can actually absorb TCA, meaning there’s limited likelihood the wine could be corked.
The carbon footprint of transporting BIBs is much smaller than that of bottles, so you can feel good about supporting the environment. Usually, the components of the BIB can also be recycled! (in the case of boxes made of wooden cases, they are super cute and can be recycled into decorative flower boxes, book shelves, etc… Get creative.). Greenhouse gas emissions from production are reduced (up to 80%), and so is the carbon footprint for shipping one box instead of 4 bottles (40% less weight).
It stays “good” for longer*
When they put the wine in the BIB, the wine is rarely exposed to the air. Likewise, after you pour yourself an Applebee’s Pour (basically like 80% full… you know what I’m talking about), the tap system immediately closes the wine off to additional air. With the typical cork/twist off bottle system, the wine is immediately introduced to air, and there’s no going back.
But ALSO, since the bag is inside a dark box, there is no light exposure (this is a normal factor that makes wine go bad).
BIB wine is basically fresh for up to 4 weeks SO LONG AS YOU STORE IT IN A NICE, COOL TEMPERATURE. Don’t keep it in the window sill or by your space heater.
So even if you’re not having a housewarming and just want a glass in the eveningtime, you can keep your BIB for quite some time. Genius.
*pay attention to the quality of the bag inside the box… the box itself (whether wooden or cardboard or plastic) has nothing to do with how long the wine will stay good. It’s all about the bladder, people!
It’s perfect for parties
Hosting a housewarming? Nice boxed wine is like a fancy keg.
Hosting a pregame? Boxed wine is like 4 bottles in one.
******try to remember warmer days******
Going on a picnic? No glass, so you can bring that puppy to the park. (Remember not wearing twelve sweaters? Me either.)
Headed to the beach? Easy transport, no glass, easy pouring.
Minimal cleanup, efficient pouring, no glass liability. It’s a crowd pleaser (but please oh please don’t get any notorious bag-slapping brands. If you’re over 23, you’re too old for that…)
The plastic can suck
Some experts believe that the aromatic qualities of the plastic can seep into the wine, making it taste worse. A lot of companies are working on better plastics, but some of the cheaper stuff might not be as concerned with the ~organic~ quality of the wine.
Also, depending on the quality of the plastic, oxygen transmits through the film and tap at different rates. Again, it’s all about the quality of the bladder!
They’re designed for quick consumption
This is somewhat obvious, but you shouldn’t be cellaring your boxed wine… It DOES NOT age well. It’s meant to be drunk as soon as it hits the retail shelf, so don’t “save it for a special occasion.” You’ll be sad, and that makes me sad.
They can generate some serious side eye
People may think you’re cheap, but hey, it’s just being efficient, right? There are some nonbelievers out there that still need convincing. But that’s what I’m here for! Let’s break the stigma about boxed wines because there are some really great ones out there (and this is coming from your resident wine snob).
***************RANKED FROM LEAST FAVORITE TO MOST FAVORITE***************
Bandit (Chardonnay): ~$9 for 1L
- Technically not a BIB, it’s in a carton (like coconut water-style), but I wanted to include since it’s ~different~ packaging. It’s fine, not great. Lots of citrus flavors (think: pineapple, green apple) and is fairly sweet. The acidity is there, so it’s actually semi-balanced. They have other varietals as well: Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Cabernet, and a Red Blend. Go for the Chardonnay, though.
Black Box Platinum Series (Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc): ~$20 for 3L
- You’ve maybe seen this one around, they have a wide market. While the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Platinum Series is probably their best red, I’m partial to the Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. For the Riesling, lots of stone fruits (think: fruits with pits in them aka peaches, plums, nectarines, etc.), citrus, lots of acidity. It’s very bright and delicious. Perfect summer BIB. Sauv Blanc has similar flavor, but is drier and has a herbaceousness to it. It’ll do.
Archer Roose (Carmenere aka Redsurrection): ~$27 for 3L
- Available in NYC (also for delivery hollerrrrr). Wine Enthusiast named it one of 2016’s “Top 100 Best Buy.” It’s an old Chilean varietal, and it’s plummy and spicy and purple. They have a variety of varietals as well as cans.
Bota Box (Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz): ~$20 for 3L
- Probably the best Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Bota Box (which is probably the trendiest boxed wine I’ve found… your resident hipster friend has probably tried it). Black fruits, pepper, spices. Not super tannic (re: still a boxed wine), but would be the best for more rich food. Their Shiraz is also somewhat heartier, but more jammy on the palate.
Boxx Cellars (Sangiovese): ~$50 for 3L (but you can buy on AMAZON)
- Ok yes, this one’s more expensive, but it’s worth it. They filled this box with the premium juice. But think about it, it’s 4 bottles for the price of one… So you still end up with a bargain! The Sangiovese is seriously perfect with pizza. It’s won awards. Head down to the park with a pie and some pals, and you’re set. They also have accessories (like a little cooler for transport). Plus, Amazon.
Wineberry French Varietals (multiple varietals): ~$37-$50 for 3L
- So I’m a little biased since I used to work for Wineberry once upon a time, BUT that does not discount that these boxes are amazing. They’re made of recycled oak (which you can use to decorate your home, use as flower planters, etc. The ideas are endless) and look really chic at parties. They have varietals from all over France (Bordeaux, Provence, Burgundy and Rhône). The Rhône varietal is probably my favorite, but I’ve been wanting to try the Burgundy. Restaurants even buy them in large keg format and offer them by the glass. Whole Foods in NYC even carries them! I’ve had the box versus bottle side by side, and there is literally no difference (except the price and longevity). Big fan big fan.
Got BIB recs? Send ’em my way!
Special snaps 4 Miss Leslye Barth for correctly guessing the theme of this post. She gets wine as a prize, shocking I know.