I was on a rather splendid vacation in Tuscany more than a decade ago when I discovered boxed wines. Or, rather, I discovered that my bias against them was hopelessly provincial. The large gang at the villa was mostly posh; there were foodies and oenophiles; the other handful were restaurateurs from Lyon. And in the fridge, when I arrived, were numerous boxes of wine. I actually thought it was a joke.
I was wrong. The French long ago accepted boxes and bags as legitimate delivery vehicles. Sturdy, dusty glass bottles will never go away, but sometimes you need decent wine and plenty of it (and that, I assure you, is just the minimum of what our gang needed). My theory is that (despite ongoing reports of its decline in the culture) the French see wine as such a part of daily life that they don’t blink at more efficient delivery methods.
I don’t reach for them often, but sometimes a box or bag is just what’s needed. For a picnic recently (one of those recent, oddly warm days), I got a 1.5 liter sack of Chat Fou, a light organic Cotes du Rhone from Eric Texier. It comes with a little handle, like you could hang it off an IV pole. Off you go.
My new favorite is the cheekily named Sandy Giovese. Like the Chat Fou—mostly Grenache—the winemaker’s approach is to start with a lightish red grape (guess which), and lighten it further with a white, in this case 15 percent worth of Trebbiano, a classic white Italian. It’s not that the base grapes here can’t produce profound wines (ie, Chateauneufs and Brunellos), but that they don’t always need to.
Bright and juicy, Sandy Giovese comes out of the Marche region. The winemakers claim that a 3-liter box has one-tenth the carbon footprint of a standard glass bottle. Which is great. It’s just right for having a glass with a quick weeknight pasta, and it can sit in the fridge for a month or so. I love the ceremonies of wine, but if you’re heading outside, or reaching into the fridge, fewer tools is just what Mother Earth had in mind.