“Wine from a box” – the four words that would make any wine connoisseur cringe while some would argue that it is wine nonetheless and should be afforded the same prestige as bottled wine.
Patriot Lifestyle took the topic up with wine expert, Lengau Wine Company Sales & Marketing Manager Violet Sabakaki, to unravel the mystery and stigma surrounding the issue.
Sabakaki, whose relationship with wine started whilst she was a part time waitress in restaurants with vast wine cellars in Cape Town, South Africa where she lived and later worked, bluntly states that whether boxed or bottled, wine is a social lubricant that makes for easy hangouts and socialising.
The self-taught wine master explains that it is through her vocation as a restaurant host, recommending wine to patrons and the primary fact that Cape Town has a wine-based culture, that she got forced to study the wine world extensively.
Her curiosity about the holy liquid also spurred her interest further.
“I also had the privilege of visiting various wine farms, engaging with the wine makers, tasting different wines and getting accustomed to the taste and enjoyment of wine,” she adds. In her endeavour, Sabakaki also learnt about the different wines, its history and its role in society past and present.
Questioned on how different boxed wine differs from bottled wine, she says normally wine in a box is of lower quality – “what we call bulk wine”. She continues that ‘box wine’ packaging is made to sell bulk, inexpensive wine quickly as this type of packaging does not hold the wine quality very long. Bottled wine, on the other hand, is produced of better quality grapes giving the drinker a better wine. “But obviously a bit more expensive; this type of closure holds the quality of the wine a lot longer than Bag in Box,” she highlights.
Sabakaki insists that bottled wine is of much better quality than wine ‘Bag in Box’ (BIB), referring to the silver bag the wine is incased in before being placed in the box with the brand name of the wine.
“Ask yourself one question, would you go and package a wine of high quality in a BIB where the lifespan is about six months?” she poses the question back to this writer, and the obvious answer is a sparkling “No, I would not!”
She states that wine is produced from grapes, whose quality vary based on nature of soil where they are planted. Those produced in bulk often – planted in warmer regions with flat landscapes – result in low standard of the grape.
Those from cooler regions, with mountainous areas, produce better quality grapes whose wine get bottled and lasts longer. Due to the climate they grow in, the characteristics of the grapes also get more complex, enhancing the quality and experience of the wine.
Innovation has also seen the advent of screw top bottle caps being used in packaging bottled wine, away from the historical ‘cork’.
Sabakaki reveals that one of the advantages of using the screw top is that it is easier to open and it prevents what is called ‘corked wine’, a situation where the cork, due to deformities caused by a bug invisible to the human eye, that lives in the bark of the tree (Curtica) that makes the corks, bores through the cork, letting in too much oxygen that would otherwise be trapped outside the bottle by the cork. The new inventions are also easier and cheaper to make than corks in the advent of technology.
Though a welcome development in the business of wine, it however, does not keep wine as long as the traditional cork and does not let the wine breath, something a functional cork does without letting in too much air.
Alerted to the notion that wine connoisseurs would argue that wine drinking is an experience and new 'inventions' such as the wine in a box and screw top bottle caps ruin the experience, Sabakaki simply responded: “It is a question of how much of a connoisseur you want to be! If you want to impress a group of friends that understand a bit about wine, stick to the bottled corked wine, if you enjoy having a regular glass of wine with a meal or with some friends around a snack and go for bottled screw top wine”.
She also firmly believes that if one wants to drink a simple uncomplicated glass of wine with loads of friends who would not judge their knowledge of wine, they are free to go for BIB.
“There is a wine market for all types of consumers and not everyone has the budget to buy an expensive corked wine so people buy down to screw top and BIB,” she adds, maintaining that “there is no such thing as a bad wine, but like any commodity quality does cost more.”