The bag in a box concept of packaging wine has become one of the most preferred formats for winemakers and consumers today. Research studies, experiments and creativity over the years have paid off; boxed wine continues to gain popularity worldwide. Wine snobs might have seen it as a vulgar way of packaging when it was first introduced, but the wine market has changed significantly over the years. Boxed wine is recognized in most wine making countries as an efficient system of storing, transporting and pouring the wine. This marketing awareness also includes France, reputed worldwide for its wine culture as well as its historical and traditional winemaking techniques. (Learn more in "Boxed Wine, Cans & Tetra Paks®: The Future of Wine Packaging.")
Wine cooperatives might have had a reputation for producing mediocre wine in the past, but today, cooperatives are very active, more terroir conscious and produce excellent wine. Cooperatives are responsible for about 51% of wine production in France. (Read on in "Cooperative Growers go Organic with Shiraz Grapes.")
The Popularity of Wine in a Box
Sales in France show that "bag in box," often referred to as BIB, has increased steadily especially in supermarkets. Figures published by FranceAgriMer (Ministry of Agriculture) in June 2016 confirm this – it reports that 3 or 5-liter containers now account for 37% of sales in the country’s largest retailer outlets. The country has gone one step further: France is the only country that organizes an international wine competition for the Best Bag in Box wine. The venture has proved to be successful especially with the country’s wine cooperatives where vineyard owners work together to produce and sell wine.
Wine in a Box Competition in Toulouse South West France
At the first competition held in Toulouse South West France in 2015, the jury was presented with 250 red, white and Rosé wines from 12 different countries. One year later, the number of participants rose by 30%. Out of the 330 different wines presented that year, 97, wines were judged as outstanding. Anne Marie Estampe, principal organizer of Best Wine in Box says the number of French and international contestants for the 2017 competition scheduled for March have already increased substantially from last year.
To take part, participants have to send in three samples either in 3 or 5-liter containers to the organizers well before the competition. The first sample will be presented at the competition; the second will be used just in case of problems with the first while the third will be kept for a year following France’s regulations regarding fraud.
American oenologist Tom Fiorina, one of the judges at the first Wine in a Box competition said that judging wine at the Wine in Box competition is slightly different to a standard wine competition. In a traditional wine competition, the judges work on their own, making notes as they go along but at Wine in a Box, each jury consists of at least three people headed by an oenologist. The other participants usually include wine technicians, sommeliers, wine merchants, restaurant owners, consumers and even journalists. (Learn more in "10 Wine Professions and What They Do.")
"Wines are Judged by Their Quality"
Fiorina who has been in the wine business for over 6 years said, “Judging at wine in a box is more a group discussion, a sharing element, one that I particularly enjoyed.”
And the flavor of the wines? Fiorina said that the best boxed wines were fruitier than the normal bottled wines. (Image Credit: Tom Fiorina)
The connoisseur now based in South West France reported in his blog The Vine Route that the wines he judged in 2015 were "honest wines where the grape variety aromas and flavors shown through, unhindered by any winemaking manipulation (apparent acidification, oaky floorboard smells or flavors, excessive filtering, residual sugar, etc.)."
He said that with boxed wines, you don’t get the secondary or tertiary flavor that you get from aging wine.
Participants don’t receive a bronze of silver medal for their wine, and the wines aren’t judged for their packaging. Recognition comes with the quality of the wine. It is the winemakers’ good wine that will allow them to earn the Best Wine in Box award. And it is this mark of distinction on their wine box that will add value to their wine especially in the supermarkets and retail outlets – for consumers these wines represent good value for money.
Estampe said she hopes that one day Wine in Box competition rules will extend to the packaging and design of the boxes. This will eventually move the competition up to the next level, especially with more involvement of private label wines.
With the right price, innovative packaging and high quality, the prospects for boxed wines can only get better. Space saving, light, easy to carry and perfect for a single serve, it’s easy to see why bag in a box wine has become a hit with French families, millennials and those living alone.