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Wine: what happened to the bag-in-a-box?

26 October 2018

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WHATEVER has happened to the bag-in-box, or BiB? This invader from Australia arrived on our shores about 50 years ago, not long after it was patented by Angoves, the South Australian winery.

The first troops, under the banner of the brand Botany Bay, failed to make any progress, largely because of problems with the package, however stronger forces arrived and it was not long before they had conquered almost half of the British wine market. Now, however, sales seem to have fallen back.

It was originally designed so that Australians could store in their fridges the maximum amount of wine in the minimum amount of space. Sadly, the average British fridge is somewhat smaller than its counterpart down under; so the BiB we finished up with was a pygmy by comparison. As it was initially a more expensive form of packaging than the traditional bottle and cork, this meant that, if you bought anything less than a 5-litre size, you were paying more for your wine.

I have always been wary of BiBs because I work on the understanding that, whenever you open a wine container, it has to be consumed. This is despite the fact that the current BiBs claim that the wine inside will now not suffer for at least six weeks after opening.

Just a week or so ago, we had our first BiB at home for many years. Severe restraint on our part meant that it lasted four evenings. The wine was Sainsbury’s House Cabernet Sauvignon, at £12.80 for a 2.25-litre Bag in Box: the equivalent of £4.27 for a bottle. It would appear that the packaging cost for the BiB has now come down. The wine is sourced in Spain, and was eminently drinkable. Other red wines at the same price, and in the same sizes, are a Merlot and a Shiraz. White equivalents include a Dry White and a Hock, and are rather cheaper at £12.

While in Sainsbury’s, I looked at what else they had to offer, and it is apparent that you have to be careful when you buy. For example, the Rosé d’Été, from the South of France, appeared to be a particular bargain at £13, but the BiB contained only 1.5 litres, while the Mondelli white wine, at £14.70, might appear to be a straight Pinot Grigio, but a closer look revealed it as a blend in which the Catarratto grape dominates.

Those 2.25 litre packs that did seem worthy of purchase were two Sauvignon Blancs: the South African Clear Springs (£16), and, from New Zealand, the Marlborough Most Wanted (£20). As for reds, I was attracted by the Spanish Caja Roja Monastrell/Tempranillo (£13), and, from Chile, the Camino del Angel and the Australian Banrock Station Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon (£16). I don’t think I will need the six weeks’ guarantee.

For the more moderate drinker, Sainsbury’s also offers an interesting range of quarter-bottles. My two choices would be, for white, the Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (£2.50), and, for red, the Argentine Trivento Malbec (£2.30), but this does mean more expensive drinking — and they do not last six weeks.

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