Boxed wines are becoming more popular in America. They've already established themselves in Australia and France but the low quality of early boxed wines continues to hurt their public perception in America. This is changing and while there are some definite advantages to using boxed wines, there are also some disadvantages. If you are going to drink boxed wine, you should weigh the pros and cons of boxed wines for whatever your situation.
Pros of Boxed Wines
There are a number of very good reasons to choose boxed wine over bottled wine, at least in certain situations:
Storing Unfinished Wine
One of the dilemmas which confronts nearly every person who drinks much wine is what to do with leftover wine. Sometimes you can just finish the wine, but that isn't always practical and it isn't even healthy if you do it too often. Sealing wine in the bottle works for a day or so, but the quality of wine kept in this manner degrades quickly. There are expensive options, but are they really worth the cost? At best, an open bottle of wine might last for a day or two. Boxed wine, once opened, is good for four weeks at a minimum.
Boxed Wine Value
You can't beat boxed wines for value — you'll get more wine for less money by buying wine in a box than in any other form, even in large bottles like a magnum. This is valuable even in good economic times, but when the economy is bad it's worth taking a hit on a wine's quality if it means paying a lot less money to get more wine.
Any wine you have will have to be stored somewhere until you drink it. Bottles of wine don't pack or store very efficiently because of their shape and weight, but boxes of wine are as efficient of a storage situation as you'll find. On the other hand, you can't have too many boxes of wine sitting around waiting to be opened because wine doesn't last as long in a box as it does in a bottle.
If you're going to be taking wine somewhere — to a party, to a special dinner, or perhaps on a vacation — bottles of wine take a lot of room and create a lot of weight. If you wait to buy the wine at your destination, it might be too late or cost a lot more. A boxed wine is easier to transport and costs less right from the beginning.
Camping with Wine
One type of travel where space and weight are unusually critical is camping. It's not uncommon for people to want to take wine with them on camping trips — they may not drink wine every night, but it's nice to have a little wine with dinner when you reach special destinations. During camping trips you want to carry as little weight as possible, which means a bottle of wine is an expensive luxury. A bag of wine, removed from the box, is a lot better.
Transportation for boxed wine isn't just easier and cheaper for you the consumer, but also for wine makers and distributors. It is estimated that the carbon cost of shipping a single three liter box of wine is half that of shipping a 750ml bottle of wine. It's good that people are becoming more conscious of the environmental impact of their decisions and this is one of them: if you care reducing the damage to the environment which your lifestyle can cause, this is one way you can make a difference.
Cons of Boxed Wines
Despite some clear advantages, there are a number of disadvantages to drinking boxed wine rather than bottled wine:
Quality of Boxed Wines
Perhaps the most obvious and serious drawback of boxed wines is their quality. This isn't as much of an issue as it used to be because the original boxed wines were unquestionably inferior. This reputation follows boxed wines today even though they have improved, but "improved" doesn't mean "just as good." On the whole, boxed wines can be good wines but if you're looking for superior wines you should look at bottled wines.
Another serious disadvantage of boxed wines, and one that will ensure that boxed wines cannot completely supplant bottled wines, is the fact that you can't age wines in a box. Aging wines requires the use of bottles sealed with natural cork and kept in optimum storage conditions over the course of years or even decades. Fortunately, only a small minority of wines even benefit from being aged, never mind are aged. Most wines are table wines designed to be drunk in a year or two of being bottled. Since boxed wines today can last about that long or a little less, they are well suited for the average wine.
Selection of Boxed Wines
The selection of boxed wines available for purchase in the United States is quite a lot smaller than the selection of bottled wines. This isn't an inherent flaw in boxed wines themselves, but rather a reflection of the relative popularity of boxed wines with the American public. Even if boxed wines were a lot more popular, though, it's not clear that there would be just as many boxed wines to choose from as there are wines in bottles.
Variety of Wines at Home
If you're going to drink much wine, you'll want to have a variety of wines to choose from — that way, you'll have just about any wine available to you at the spur of the moment, regardless of the occasion. This is much more difficult to achieve with boxed wines than with wine in bottles. One reason is, as mentioned above, the worse selection of boxed wines in the stores. A much more significant problem is the fact that boxed wines have so much more wine in them. Opening a bottle of wine is a short-term commitment, even for one person; opening a box of wine is a long-term commitment even for a party. There are only so many such long-term commitments you can have at home.
Trying New Wines
Anyone who enjoys wines can and should keep trying new wines — wines from different vintages, different countries, and different varieties of grapes. This is relatively easy to do with bottles of wines because even if it turns out that the wine is awful, you haven't spent too much money and/or don't have to drink much. With boxed wines, though, there is so much more wine that there is necessarily a lot more waste and a lot more risk. Fortunately a couple of wine producers are starting to distribute wine in small, single-serving boxes of wine. This will make it easier to try new wines, but only if these small boxes are used to distribute lots of different types of wine rather than just a few popular types.
Wine Style & Culture
All the other disadvantages of boxed wine involve value and practicality, so it might seem superficial to bring up the question of style. Nevertheless, one of the reasons people are attracted to and drink wine is the sense of style and history which surrounds it. Wine isn't just a liquid, but also a culture. People can partake of that style when opening a bottle of wine, pouring from a bottle of wine, and having a bottle of wine sit on the table or in an ice bucket. There's romance and history in all that, but there is no similar romance in using the twist nozzle on a box of wine.