Time to smash through the bottle fixation
Bubbles on tap. This is an idea I like very much and at Vinoteca, the London wine-barwine-shop-restaurant, they have been serving it for three years. “People love the idea of prosecco on tap,” says founder Charlie Young. “It feels luxurious and it does very well for us – although we’re about to replace it with something else. When it’s good it’s good, but we can’t get the consistency of temperature and fizz we’d like.”
What they are not about to replace are the bag-inbox wines they began to list back in 2010. Defying convention, these do not contain ropy plonk. It’s good wine that would retail for £8 to £10 a bottle: it just happens to come in a bag in a box.
“We’ve done a Crozes-Hermitage, which sold well, a pale rosé from St André de Figuière in Provence [a properly good producer] and a Touraine sauvignon blanc.”
At the moment they’ve got a rich white from the Rhône – a grenache blanc, bourboulenc and clairette blend that works well in a restaurant setting but probably wouldn’t feel quite so friendly at home – and the red is a deliciously fruity, vibrant montsant. A poor man’s priorat if you like: a grenache-carignan blend with some oak ageing, from Spain. These arrive at the table either by the glass or in Vinoteca’s own sterilised, clear glass bottles. The restaurants that buy these wines like it because it’s a good way to serve wine and keep it fresh. The diners like it because they like the wine.
Vinoteca is not the only one at it. At Pizza Pilgrims, which has just opened in Soho, where the sight of fresh dough being slapped into the dome-shaped oven has you salivating like Pavlov’s dogs the minute you walk through the door, most of the wines are on tap, from special kegs that collapse once empty and save a fortune in rubbish collections. Its tweaky Italian merlot and crisp-lined chardonnay veer towards the plonk category; but I tasted them on site with the smell of pizza crust and nduja sausage up my nostrils, and I know, served in a beaker, they are exactly the thing.
So my question is: if some of our most loved restaurants are proving that people love the casual vibe of wine put on a table in a carafe or poured into a glass not from a bottle – why can’t we have better bag-in-box wines at home?
I know at least one decent producer – the resourceful Gavin Quinney of Château Bauduc – is considering it. “I look at all the tons of glass coming into the winery, crate after crate of it, and watch it going out again and know it’s going almost straight in the bin. It just seems silly, as well as an awful waste.”
I hope he does it soon. Research shows 51 per cent of frequent wine drinkers have bought bag-in-box. But only six per cent buy it once a month or more. We want it,
Caption but we don’t go back.
Packaging technology is so much better and so much more diverse than it used to be – we don’t just have bag-in-boxes but also kegs, pouches and cartons. The big problem is a) the wine inside it, which is almost without exception dire to just-below-average, and b) lack of imagination and sophistication in the way it’s presented. If you’ve seen Waitrose’s Diego de Almagro bag-in-box from Valdepeñas, which has the misty colourful look of a box of toilet tissues found in a cheap motel circa 1978, you will know what I am talking about. (And the wine is DNPIM – for those who missed last week’s tasting notes guide: Do Not Put In Mouth.)
It seems crazy that in the minds of those who control what is available for us to buy, bag-in-box has still not escaped Seventies camping plonk status.
Contemporary bag-in-box doesn’t need to be about low prices. More about choice, freedom (as we become more health-conscious about