French Wines… In a Box

I used to think the BiB (or Bag-In-Box) wine concept was some cheesy American phenomenon popularized by Franzia in the late 60s/70s—together with other notoriously cheesy fixtures of American society from that era, i.e. Disco, Jaws, Days of Our Lives, and Barry Manilow.

Not to say being “cheesy” is bad (I love to hustle and to-date have seen Barry 4x in concert)… but isn’t wine suppose to be “elegant” and “refined”—wouldn’t vacuum sealing it in a plastic bag, only then to have it stuffed into a cardboard box, symbolize the greatest of faux pas?

Well, there are people who seem to think so, which has lead to certain misconceptions about BiB wines. However, a trip today to the local Bordeaux supermarket certainly dispelled at least one of these misconceptions: Though Americans may love their Franzia box wines, the French are in fact consumers of bag-in-box wines, as well.

Much of France---in a  box (Côtes de Provence, Bordeaux, Bergerac, Anjou, Médoc, Côtes de Bourg)
Many French appellation wines are also obtainable in a box (Côtes de Provence, Bordeaux, Bergerac, Anjou, Médoc, Côtes de Bourg)

Actually, I was surprised by the large variety of BiB wines in stock at the E.LECLERC supermarché I visited. A lot of these wines were in fact AOC wines from throughout France (as you can see from the picture). Though I can’t say I’ve spent hours browsing the BiB wine section while in the U.S., I certainly don’t remember this much variety (I can only recall Franzia and Gallo), nor do I remember there being the U.S. equivalent of French AOC wines available BiB (Santa Ynez Valley? Finger Lakes?).

So, given today’s revelation while grocery shopping (plus, a little additional research), I’ll now dispell a few common misconceptions I tend to hear about BiB wines:

  1. Box wines are a cheesy American phenomenon. Whether or not BiB wines are “cheesy” is debatable (as is whether or not much of America’s contribution to social culture can also be described using the same adjective). However, the U.S. cannot take credit for inventing Bag-in-Box wines. According to Wikipedia, the first boxed wine was developed in 1965 by a winemaker from Renmark, South Australia.
  2. The French would never dare drink wine from the box. Au contraire—just look at the photo! Grant it, I have yet to see anyone walking around with one in hand, but there is a market for them in France (just give me a little more time to figure out the perfect social setting that calls for their utilization). 
  3. Owners of the Franzia brand hold the patent to the original BiB wine technology. Though Franzia and the term “box wine” have become almost synonymous (at least for many U.S. consumers), it was Penfolds Wines who co-patented the plastic, air-tight tap seen welded into the metallized bladder “bag” of boxed wines.
  4. Franzia promoted itself using the “wine in a box” metaphor. No, when Franzia debuted its “alternative” packaging in the late 70s, it did so with the saying “fresh to the last glass” and used the registered trademark name WineTap® in reference to its new product. (Source: www.franzia.com

So, there you have it. The French also drink boxed wine. Here’s one more photo:

B.I.B. Wine Section at E.LECLEARC (Bordeaux)
Bag-In-Box Wine Section at E.LECLEARC (Bordeaux)

 

 

 
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