THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX & DRINK WHAT’S INSIDE THE BOX

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to enjoy this wine!

It’s a wine in a box. A box wine. We look at each other.  Really?  Are we snubbing it because it’s not in a glass bottle?  If we had drunk it before we knew it came from a box would we have had the same expression on our faces, knowing that we’d just drunk something utterly brilliant?

We are in Italy in July. It’s stiflingly hot outside so we’ve been sitting in the cellar-come-wine-bar that belongs to winemaker Alessandro Sgaravatti‘s castle in the Veneto, cooling off with litres of chilled water and a glass of his superb unfiltered white whilst we discuss wine, vines, grapes and trucking.  Particularly trucking. Why it costs so much money to truck bottles across 1,000 miles, how much we want to reduce our carbon footprint.  Why can’t we get gorgeous natural wines in boxes? We laugh at the thought.

“You can, I have mine in boxes. You’ve just been drinking one of them.”

What?

Alessandro disappears off and returns with 2 boxes, one in each hand.  He’s carrying 13 bottles of wine and strolling towards us with no effort.  We’re already in love with the concept.

And we’ve tried the wine.

We’re sold.

Why is it that Bag in Box Wines have such a bad reputation with the British public and yet we all bang on about wanting to be eco friendly, we want to reduce our carbon footprint, do our bit for the environment and we endeavour to find ways of doing so, composting and recycling. So why do most of us still reach for the corkscrew and a bottle when we want what we consider a really ‘decent’ glass of wine?

Perception of a wine that comes out of a cardboard box, from squeezing a plastic tap, that gushes or dribbles into a glass, just has to change. In 2011 GreenBottle unveiled its paper wine bottle that could result in huge energy savings during stages of manufacturing and transportation.  The compostable bottle has a plastic lining similar to those found in bag-in-box wines, to keep the contents fresh. In The Drinks Business‘s write-up of the bottle on 5 November 2013 it stated that the bottle’s carbon footprint is now less than one third that of an equivalent glass bottle. Will it catch on in the UK?  We hope so.

Back to our own Lispida Bag in Box wine. 4 months later and Italy has arrived in the UK.

We’d been invited to a party in October in suburban Kingston-on-Thames and we decided to trial our precious wines.  We walked in with five litre bag in box wines to [rather audible] sighs of dismay from the gathered throng of Richmond, Kew and southwest Londoners used to fine dining and fine swirling. We could hear it. Ugh.  Cheap. Whilst others walked in with bottles of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, the odd case of pinot grigio (50% off in Morrisons at the moment, we were advised), our box wine sat forlornly at the end of the table palpably unloved and unwanted, except by us.

After 10 minutes the birthday boy, an old friend who luckily trusts our judgement and knows our eccentricities, approached with an empty glass. “Come on then, let’s have a go,” he said and pressed the tap.  Out gushed the frothy white.  Cautiously inspecting his glass he muttered, “Why is it cloudy?” “It’s unfiltered,” we explained.  “Ignore that, get over it, close your eyes if you must, just try it.”

And he did. And he smiled.

You see, our beautiful Bag in Box wines are simply delicious, refreshing, flavoursome, intriguing.  Both red and white are feel good wines.

Their creator, Alessandro Sagravatti, is also a feel good producer.  A brain surgeon by profession Alessandro creates his wines in the cellars of his castle outside Padova (we couldn’t make it up if we tried).  The castle’s history dates back to 1150 when the Pope of the time confirmed the Augustine monastic order as the rightful owner of the hill and the neighbouring church dedicated to Saint Mary of Ispida.  The monastery’s soil lay, and still does, on a fertile plain that proves ideal for vines and olive groves.  These are spread around and ascend above the castle today.

The monastery closed in 1792 and the property came into the Corinaldi family’s hands, who built the building we see now and added the massive wine-cellars, from where they began producing wines renowned throughout Europe.

During World War I Lispida Castle became King Vittorio Emanuele’s headquarters, as a slab of stone documents above the stately doors.

Towards the end of the 1950’s, the castle’s wine-making activity was given a new lease of life with new planting and a desire to work towards developing and conserving pre-industrial wine-making methods. At one stage we are told it was the largest producer of tomato paste in that part of Italy.  From a staff of 400 at one time, the winery now has 4, including Alessandro.  He creates superb wines, he has amphora sunk into the cellar floors, two given to him by Gravner.  His unfiltered spumante in a crown cap bottle is quirky, intelligent and unique.

Not just for the retail market, these box wines work well for the on-trade too, in small bars where space is at a premium.  They sit on a bar top, on a shelf, or in the fridge.  Wine by the glass or by the carafe fits the bill perfectly for these – and the long lasting shelf life ensures no waste: at least 2 to 3 months, although it’s likely more than that quite comfortably although nobody has kept one long enough that we know of to find out!

The Bag in Box white wine is Alessandro’s Terralba, a blend of Ribolla Gialla and Tocaj Friulano (also called Sauvignonasse, Sauvignon Vert or Jakot each name favoured depending on which producer or expert you speak to).  The Ribolla Gialla gives our white that lovely deep yellow colour. Just 12% ABV, this wine needs no food, but it’s a star with fish, salads, seafood, risotto, pasta – well, think of a staple Mediterranean Italian diet and this wine matches it.

The red is Alessandro’s Terraforte, which comprises sangiovese predominantly, with a dash of merlot.  Fruity but light, 13% ABV, this is the perfect everyday red.  It doesn’t need contemplation, it needs to be enjoyed, a glass with friends or matched with lasagne, sausage and mash, spaghetti Bolognese, melanzane parmigiana, the Sunday roast.

Now, here’s the technical blurb, because it’s not just about the wine, it’s about the concept. Do you want to reduce your carbon footprint?  Stop regularly visiting the bottle bank? Then read on.

5 litres of wine in our box weighs 5.25 kg.

The same 5 litres in bottles equates to 6½ bottles, with a combined weight of 10.5 kg.

So, unlucky for some, 13 bottles equates to 2 of our cardboard boxes.  Be lucky!

There’s 1 kg of silicon (SI) in 4 glass bottles. Be gone silicon from our cardboard box!

The wine is contained in an Aluminium paper bag that is completely recyclable.

Because the bag-in-box prevents the liquid inside from having any contact with the air on the outside, the quality of the taste of the product is retained and oxidation is prevented.

It’s been difficult to find adequate research into how many people use Bag in Box wines in the UK, the latest statistics we found in a fleeting internet trawl were from 2008, when bag-in-box packaging had a 9% share by value of the British wine market.  This was at the low end of the market, the supermarket end; and what is sad is that public perception is that a bag in box wine is a low quality wine.

To learn more about your carbon footprint try the WWF footprint calculator and take their test – it is both enlightening and frightening.

The cardboard box is annotated with informative easy-to-understand drawings:

On one side, 40 glasses of wine (125 ml) to prove how many glasses you can enjoy from 1 Bag in Box. On the other side, you can read all the information you need about its ecological and recyclable status, fewer CO2 emissions and how it retains its flavour.

Each of our boxed wines comes with consumption suggestions:  a daily intake of 0.3 litres for a man and 0.15 litres for a woman.  We are feeling Dr Sagravatti’s eyes on us as we reach for another glass whilst we talk.

Our Bag in Box wines need to be taken at face value, they are what they are, five litre boxes of wine on tap.  They lend themselves to the kitchen but there is absolutely no trade off on quality, and that’s the difference.

Natural wines in space saving boxes, made with minimal intervention, made with interesting grapes, made with a lot of care, and consideration for the environment. Not many can say that.

Incidentally, after Birthday Boy had enjoyed his glass of wine and topped it up again, so the word went around and his friends followed.  Investment bankers spent the evening pressing the tap and having fun in suburbia with our box wine, and our box wine was drained.  Surely not? Yes, bankers actually thinking outside the box, for a refreshing change.

Enjoy these wines currently at selected Hotel du Vin & Peckham Bazaar. For on and off-trade sales, or direct sales please contact us at info@pactaconnect.co.uk

© Pacta Connect (UK) Ltd, November 2013