It’s in the Bag

Breaking down the boxed-wine mystique and drinking on the edge of a packaging revolution


Photo by Sabin OrrPinot Evil, Pinot Noir, Hungary, 3 liters, $13.50, Total Wine & More,


Photo by Sabin OrrPinot Evil, Pinot Noir, Hungary, 3 liters, $13.50, Total Wine & More,


Photo by Sabin OrrBlack Box, 2009 California Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, 3 liters, $20, Lee’s Discount Liquor,

The mere mention of boxed wine prompts many of us to think back to a certain plastic-spigotted wine/fruit juice cocktail that shall remain nameless. One that sat warm on a dusty supermarket shelf before debuting at a picnic or barbecue, where it was tapped of its sickly pink, red or yellow contents until the foil bag inside crinkled its last and gave no more. Shudder.

Those wine cocktails and industrial wines are still around but, thankfully, the boxed-wine corner of the market has been rescued by a handful of committed producers, environmental enthusiasts and open-minded consumers. While we were busy becoming more accustomed to alternative wine packaging such as synthetic corks and screw caps, these folks were improving boxed-wine technology (bag-in-box, really) and, ultimately, its contents. Maybe it was the Green Movement or maybe it was the Great Recession that finally woke this sleeping giant, a pariah of the wine world, but in my own research, I found enough examples of quality boxed wines—premium even—to fill my refrigerator. But the coolest one by far is being served to a much larger audience of Las Vegans than could ever fit in my humble living room.

The Cosmopolitan gets the credit for being the first Strip property to purchase a high-quality bag-in-box wine (from Italy) for service to its casino guests. And already, says Mike Tadich, Italian wine specialist at Wirtz Beverage Nevada, another property is seeking to be the second.

From Sicily’s award-winning Terre di Giurfo winery, A Mo Pá (“Thanks to my father”), was not created for American consumption; the 3-liter and 5-liter boxes of 100 percent estate-grown Nero d’Avola, a red and Insolia (a white) were intended for Europe and Scandinavia, where space comes at a premium and a stackable box holding the equivalent of four or eight 750-milliliter glass bottles is key. Tadich discovered A Mo Pá a year ago and brought it to Cosmo vice president of food and beverage Greg Waldron, who green-lighted this green initiative.

“We were very impressed with A Mo Pá,” Waldron says. “It presented very well, actually something I might sip on a Sunday, poolside. Our guests continue to comment how good it is.” How green is it? Sip on this: Boxed wine saves importers from paying to import 20,000 pounds of glass with every 40,000-pound shipment, not to mention the supplier’s savings on bottles, corks, labels and labor. “The supplier can put that into the quality of the wine,” Tadich says, something much the world outside the U.S. has figured out and accepted. “I think [consumers] have the feeling the wine is going to be subpar quality. That’s kind of an automatic response: ‘It’s in a box, how good can it be?’”

“It is unreal how good that wine is,” answers Due Forni Pizza & Wine owner Alex Taylor. He opened Encore as F&B director, so he knows a thing or two about what it takes to place a wine in a casino. His own box of A Mo Pá, he reports is “totally sound” after more than three weeks in his fridge.

Unopened, these wines last about a year and after opening can last six to eight weeks refrigerated.

“I’m a great believer that the last three years were not wasted with the recession,” Tadich says. People tasting wine at affordable levels were met by producers making quality affordable wine. The result is an open-minded consumer who might accept this next generation of boxed wines or even another emerging market of premium bag-in-box setups such as that handcrafted in Napa by The20.

Coming to Vegas this year, NorCal-based company The20 puts boutique, small-production wine into an attractive showpiece cask for wine bars, restaurants and at-home consumers. “Premium wine on demand,” The20 co-founder Rion Austin calls his system, a cross between wine-on-tap systems but using gravity instead of inert gases to move the wine from the bota (wineskin) to your waiting glass. And each 3-liter shipment keeps for up to four weeks. Start-up is just $299 for the cask, plus one artisan wine shipment from TheCellar, the store at Or The20s’ red wine club can choose for you, too.

Naysayers will still say “nay” and turn their noses up at wine in anything other than a glass bottle with a natural cork.

“It takes a lot to break through that noise,” Austin says. “It’s going to take time, but I think [with] the percentage of the population that is receptive to the message, you’ll see a large shift.”


Photo by Sabin OrrDimore di Giurfo A Mo Pá, Nero d’Avola and Insolia, Sicily, Italy, $4.75 per glass at the secret pizzeria in Cosmopolitan,


Photo by Sabin OrrFish Eye 2006 California Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, 3 liters, $20 at Albertsons (chardonnay), $11 at Total Wines & Spirits (cabernet sauvignon),


Photo by Sabin OrrWürtz 2008 Riesling Trocken, Rheinhessen, Germany, 3 liters, about $20,


Photo by Sabin OrrWashington Hills, “Paradise Peak” Chardonnay, 3 liters, $20, Total Wine & More,


Photo by Sabin OrrDomenico 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 3 liters, $70,

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