Sunday, March 16, 2008

Groovy or Grim?

From, the online Ottowa restaurant guide. The wines tasted were 1 liter packaging which indicates Tetra Pack, but some of these are also available in 3L bag in box:

Boxed Wine groovy or grim?

Ok, maybe it’s just because of fond memories, but I love the idea of boxed wine. My first wine experiences included boxed wine in Australia, where you could get pretty good quality vino in a box. It was so convenient that I brought it just about everywhere with me as I backpacked around the country.

When I returned to Canada after my Aussie travels, I was psyched to try out the local boxed wine. Unfortunately, what I had here was so disappointing; all I got out of it was four liters of cooking wine (I made a lot of mussels). So when Tetra Pak wines showed up on the market recently, I was skeptical. But as more and more selection flooded the stores, I started to get curious again – was this stuff any better than what I had tried a few years back?

Besides my soft spot for wine in a box, there are lots of other reasons why I think boxed wine is a great idea. First, as I mentioned before, it’s convenient. You don’t need a corkscrew and you don’t have to worry about glass bottles, which means it’s perfect for camping, the cottage, or other casual travels.

Then of course there are the environmental and economical considerations. Tetra Pak cartons are recyclable and are actually being recycled in most regions across Canada. In addition to their recyclability, wine cartons are a more environmentally-friendly packaging option than glass because they are based on source reduction, the first and most important component of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle). A Tetra Pak carton weighs 40 grams. A glass bottle weighs at least 600 grams, or 15 times more. Even if you didn’t recycle any of your Tetra Pak cartons and recycled most of your glass wine bottles, the Tetra Pak format would still win out. And because they are so much lighter than glass, packaging wine in cartons reduces both fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, wine in a box creates less waste and less pollution than traditional glass bottles. (Source: Tetra Pak Canada Inc.)

So back to the quality – can you actually get any good tasting wine in a box? The statistics say yes. According to Tetra Pak Canada “The LCBO said Ontario consumers have purchased nearly one million liters of wine in Tetra Pak cartons in the past 10 months, and that U.S. figures show North American demand growing by 30 per cent per year.” Not only that, there are currently 30 wines in Tetra Pak cartons available at the LCBO and because of the demand, another 40 products are now in production.

So, I decided to put these statistics to the test and got a group of wine-loving friends together for a little boxed wine taste test. The results – not bad. Some we enjoyed, some not so much, but overall we agreed that for cottage and camping or for everyday, boxed wine is definitely an option. Will I throw my corkscrew away? Well, not just yet.

our favorite whites

Banrock Station Unwooded Chardonnay (Australia)
LCBO 668954 | $12.50 | 1 liter
Crisp and fruity, this wine is refreshing and food friendly with citrus and stone fruit flavors. This was our favorite wine of the whole tasting.

Three Thieves “Bandit” Pinot Grigio (California)
LCBO 614131 | $13.85 | 1 liter
Light, crisp, and simple, this wine is easy drinking. Nothing too complex going on, but enjoyable nonetheless.

our favorite reds

Banrock Station Shiraz (Australia)
LCBO 668962 | $13.80 | 1 liter
Coincidentally, this was one of my favorite boxed wines during my Australian travels. Classic berry fruit and black pepper, perfect for the bbq.

Red Lips Syrah (France)
LCBO 613968 | $12.85 | 1 liter
To quote my friend Angie “you could easily fall into a box of this” … it’s juicy and ripe with flavors of blackberry, cherry, plum, and vanilla, and a surprising hit of tannin. Ladies, enjoy this with your girlfriends sitting by the lake.

Le Petit Sommelier Shiraz/Grenache (France)
LCBO 619338 | $10.90 | 3 x 250 ml
I’m not sure which is better – the cute mini-carton packaging of this wine (each 250 ml carton gives 2 good sized glasses of wine) or the wine itself – the peppery spice of Shiraz, the fresh, juicy berry flavor of Grenache, and super food-friendly too.

Boxed Wine - Find an Ottawa Restaurant at

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