Five reasons you should be drinking bag-in-box wine – even at Christmas

With contents that are more delicious than you might think, these cardboard containers get better and better

The carbon footprint of bag-in-box wine is 'ten times lower than bottled wine'

Bag-in-box wine used to have a bad name, associated with rough plonk and drunken camping trips. A cardboard box? Well, now, that wouldn’t do at a smart party. But today, attitudes to bag-in-box wines are changing, not least because an increasing number contain decent, even premium, varieties.

Having a boxed white or rosé in your fridge door or a red in the cupboard means you can keep it going, once opened, for weeks. Many boxes claim six weeks but, in my experience, three to four is about the length of 100 per cent freshness. And their dinky size and lightweight nature makes them appealing when lugging home booze for a dinner party or bigger festive bash; available commonly as 1.5 litres (two normal bottles’ worth) or 2.25 litres (the equivalent of three bottles), bag-in-box wines are certainly a nifty way to drink if you can part with your precious glass.

Their eco-friendlier weight is why bag-in-box wines are produced in the first place: lighter cardboard with a thin plastic bag and tap has a much lower carbon footprint than heavy glass. Of course, glass can be recycled, too, but the process (as with making glass in the first place) uses a great deal of energy. 

Oliver Lea, co-founder of The BIB Wine Company (@bibwine), which launched in 2018, says the carbon footprint of bag-in-box wine is “ten times lower than bottled wine”. His company provides a large postage-paid envelope for sending taps and inner plastic bags back to BIB. They then go on to a recycling unit which “uses a microwave-induced, carbon-efficient process to break them down into reusable material,” says Lea. “We’re still trying to refine the process, but it’s pretty much a closed loop.”

Also taking back used taps and bags – washed please! – is Rich Hamblin’s company More Wine (@morewineontap) which specialises in alternatively packaged wine, including many boxes. More Wine’s business is 85 per cent wholesale to pubs, bars and restaurants, and 15 per cent to consumers, which means it sells larger boxes than most. One of its five-litre boxes is the equivalent of seven bottles.

These companies and the newly founded Bobo (@bobo_wines) are the best independents for bag-in-box wine. I also tasted a wide range of supermarket lines. There were a couple of duds, including two faded rosés, but my best buys are below. 

I also liked (for the price) the limey-bright Stormhoek Siren Fairtrade Organic Chenin Blanc 2023, South Africa (11%, Co-op, £10.50 for 1.5 litres) and the tangy, fresh Taste the Difference Coolwater Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2022, Marlborough, New Zealand (13%, Sainsbury’s, £20 for 1.5 litres).

If you’re buying any of these for a party, chances are they won’t last longer than one night, but don’t let that stop you. Whether for a crowd or for a cosy night in with a glass of something that’s really good, it’s worth thinking inside the box.

The Best Gran Montana Malbec 2019, Mendoza, Argentina

(14%, Morrisons, £20 for 2.5 litres)

The Best Gran Montana Malbec 2019, Mendoza, Argentina, Morrisons, £20 for 2.5 litres

With aromas of cassis and dark chocolate and a flavour that conjures up blackcurrants cooked with cinnamon, this soft, gently oaked malbec is quite the bargain. It’s rich and strong, though, so would suit party food (especially red meat dishes/spicy canapés) better than being poured on its own.

When in Rome Organic Grillo 2022, Sicily, Italy

(12.5%, Waitrose, £26.99 for 2.25 litres, down to £21.99 from Nov 29 until Jan 1)

When in Rome Organic Grillo 2022, Sicily, Italy, Waitrose, £26.99 for 2.25 litres

An eye-catching offer on a scented Sicilian white with refreshing tangerine peel and ripe pears, and a subtle hint of orange blossom. Dry finish, so it’s fine without food but would be good paired with lighter nibbles based on prawns or green vegetables such as asparagus or courgette.

Le Blason de Parnay Saumur-Champigny 2021, Chateau de Parnay, Loire, France

(12.5%, Bobo, £46 for 2.25 litres)

Le Blason de Parnay Saumur-Champigny 2021, Chateau de Parnay, Loire, France, Bobo, £46 for 2.25 litres

Organic cabernet franc bursting with fresh raspberries plus some blackcurrants on the finish. Unoaked, youthful and succulent, it’s not too strong or heavy, so is versatile on its own as a quality party red or with food. Charcuterie would be my match.

Domaine Reverdy-Ducroux Sancerre 2022, Loire, France

(13%, BIB Wine Company, £51.22 for 2.25 litres)

Domaine Reverdy-Ducroux Sancerre 2022, Loire, France, BIB Wine Company, £51.22 for 2.25 litres

Here’s a premium wine in a box, a fine Loire Valley sauvignon blanc with zesty lemon and grapefruit that zip across the palate, with a lip-smacking mineral finish but enough ripeness to round it out. I’m too mean to buy this for a party, but would happily serve it up for a smaller group with fish pie, shellfish or grilled goat’s cheese salad.

Cellier des Chartreux Viognier 2022, IGP du Gard, France

(13%, More Wine, £59.50 for 5 litres – equivalent to almost seven bottles)

Credit: Cellier des Chartreux Viognier 2022, IGP du Gard, France ,More Wine, £59.50 for 5 litres

A whopping big box of vivacious viognier from the south of France. There’s plenty of juicy apricots and a honeysuckle hint on the scent, but a dry, fresh finish. It’s a great idea for anyone planning a really big bash this Christmas. It’s refreshing on its own but also goes well with chicken, salmon and quiches. It may not fit in your fridge though – I stuck mine outside the back door.