By Rick Riozza
For the past twenty-one weeks this wine column has consistently commented on the effects of the on-going pandemic in our beloved game of wine. Of course, so much more important matters exist around us; but we’ve made the most of it in offering a quick read in a local wine column, and, even encourage enjoying a nice glass of vino while we’re at it.
Although I don’t think we need that much encouraging! Consumer demand for wine and other libations are more robust than ever! Compared to last year, wine sales are up almost 30%; moreover, “premiumization” is occurring leaps and bounds in that wines priced above $20, have seen a rise in sales by 40%!
And yet another statistic, especially pertinent to this week’s column, is that the sale of boxed wines in particular have seen a huge jump in sales — increasing over 50% over the past pandemic months when compared to the same month’s sales in 2019. The culture professionals claim this is the result of higher stress levels requiring a little more wine; and purchasing box wine requires less visits to the market.
For so long Americans were grimacing at the boxed wines on the shelves—taking all that room from our pretty glass bottles with pretty colorful labels and all those corks to be pulled as part of happy hour theater. But boxed wine has long tradition, especially in France, when those folks pulled up to a winery or even a service station and got gas and filled their “boxes” of wine from a stainless steel tank, known as en vrac (from French meaning “in bulk”).
And throughout Italy today, you’ll still see many vino lovers in piazzas and parks all over pulling out a small glass tumbler alongside a box of tasty wine and being happy about the convenience.
And convenience is the major factor in the huge increase in sales. The typical box comes in all sizes now: 3 liters that hold 4 bottles; 5 liters that hold 7 bottles; and the smaller box of 1.5 liters that hold a quick 2 bottles. Boxes are easy to buy, easy to transport from the store easy to use (no corkscrew necessary), and always on hand and ready to please for a fast hit or medium pull hidden in a coffee cup.
Not only do you generally save purely because you are buying in bulk, but bag-in-box packaging costs a fraction of traditional glass bottling for the same amount of wine. In addition, with the box packaging itself weighing about the same as a single glass bottle there are massive savings in shipping costs which in theory get passed on to you.
Further, it stays fresh for at least a month with the vacuum sealed pouches used today. And there’s no fear of cork taint; which granted, only affects just small percentage of bottles (less than 7%), but you sure hate it when you’re that 7% group!
Of course—the real question becomes, “Can we really find a very delicious wine hold up in a box?” The response is a happy yes: And now, our wine box pick of the summer season is Bonterra Organic Vineyards 2019 Sauvignon Blanc. 1.5 Liter Box ($20)
We’ve already designated here in the Coachella Valley that the clean, fresh, and zippy Sauvignon Blanc to be the deserving wine for our desert surrounds. It’s light bodied, full of vibrant fruit flavors, lower in alcohol than Chardonnay, and pairs with most seafood & fish, salads, lunches and light dinners. It’s the winning white wine to deal with the summer heat.
We’ve been fans of the organic wines from Mendocino County and have appreciated their insistence that most of the vineyard properties work sustainably. Bonterra Vineyards have been farmed organically since 1987, long before organic products were widely available in America. The inspiration for farming this way was simple: organic grapes produce the purest expressions of the varietals and land on which they are farmed. At Bonterra, they have a deep respect for the environment. Organic farming and regenerative practices enrich the biodiversity in their vineyards year after year.
Going on their website is very informative regarding their vineyard philosophy and practices: www.bonterra.com. Here are some interesting excerpts:
“Organically farmed and masterfully made, Bonterra Organic Vineyards wines are crafted to be perfectly in tune with nature. Organic farming poses natural challenges which require natural solutions. Our animal “partners” offer fantastic solutions for farming issues like pests and the need for added fertility. Instead of spraying our vines with chemicals to ward off pests, sheep and chickens roam through our vineyards munching on insects and trimming the weeds.”
“One of the greatest and most important assets in our vineyards is the soil. At Bonterra, we often say, “Soil is Everything.” If the soil is not healthy and diverse with nutrients, other systems struggle and the resulting fruit from the vines is affected. There are many things we do to ensure our soil is as healthy as possible.”
My friend, Meridith May, Publisher and Editor-in Chief of Tasting Panel Magazine, of which I’ve written for in the past on Palm Springs culinary venues, gave this 2019 Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc, 91 Points, stating, “Housed in an earth-friendly, well-designed box, sourced from blocks of organically grown grapes sourced from vineyards in Mendocino, Sonoma and Lake counties. Bright, crisp and fresh tasting – in fact the wine will stay fresh up to 30 days after opening. Aromas of white tea flowers, just-squeezed grapefruit and a summer grassiness. Vivid acidity strikes a tone with pineapple, kiwi and lemon blossom.”
In the past few years, we’ve heartily recommended Bonterra’s wine portfolio for excellent wine at reasonable prices. The organic red blend Equinox and the Organic Rosé were our picks just last year. And now we’re drinking Bonterra’s organic Savvy blanc in a box! Cheers!