I took a trip to the Drakensberg recently. You know the stuff: brisk morning walks in the taught, bracing air, games of tennis, croquet, gin and tonics, bowls; with evenings of snooker, darts, bingo and good bottles of wine.
Except that one of those things didn’t happen. Being rather astute readers, and realizing that this is a wine column, I am betting you are guessing that it wasn’t tennis or the bracing air that I missed out upon.
No, indeed it was not. The only wine that I imbibed for a week came straight out of a little plastic tap, jutting out of a silver bag that was encased in a cardboard box. Never have I drunk so much wine without hearing that singular thudding pop of a cork, a sound as comforting as a mother’s voice, or the gentle breathing of a lover as s/he sleeps against your chest.
Chateaux Car’ton, Domaine D’Cardboard, die silwer vis – everybody has had a bit of box wine at some point. Some of us have even been lucky enough to know that quite specific pleasure of squeezing the crinkling silver bag, as if trying to restart it’s absent heart, to get a final glass of battery acid down your gullet before blowing it back up again, and using it for a pillow to sleep off the hangover that seems to rudely arrive before you have even finished getting drunk.
It has been a long while since I have taken in so much of the stuff. I was hoping this column could have focused on praising the great developments in box wine; I wanted to be surprised, and encourage you all to go out and buy a few boxes of Carnival Red and Carnival White. Alas, I cannot. Dreadful stuff. Indistinguishable blends, with phony heart-burning acidity, and a finish that was only long because I wished it would be shorter.
Why did I drink the stuff you may be thinking? Or, why am I being such a pretentious git? I drank it because, I hate to admit it, drinking wine has become a habit in and of itself for me. I also wanted to see if I could do it. Prove to myself that I am not so far down the river of wine pretension that I could not, for one short week, drink only that which flows from the cardboard cask. And I did.
I did and it made me sad. It made me sad to think that these products are surely only a vehicle for the journey to the bright lights of inebriation. Nobody really enjoys these drinks, do they? Nobody really lifts a glass of these wines to their lips saying, “Why I do declare, this vintage is surely outstanding, what a tipple, what a drink, never before did I dream of such pleasures being enacted upon my tongue, never could I have imagined such sweet ambrosia could be sourced from within a cardboard box. ”
Well, perhaps, but it would most definitely be followed by:
“SHUT UP CHARLES! You’re shitfaced. That’s your second box today.”
This astounds me, as there seems to be no good reason why we do not have some decent vino in boxes. The packaging is nothing short of genius. I wish all my vices came with a handle and drip free tap.
I’d be most impressed if Reyneke’s Cab Shiraz that I enjoy so much for so little could be encased in a 5l box that I could drink over a few days without a worry for oxidation or cork taint. How much better would WineX be if we could simply move from table to table taking our own samples by twisting little taps, rather than having to exchange them for awkward looks, and a polite few seconds listening to someone babble on about new oak, optimum ripeness, and a singular terroir driven philosophy.
Surely the environment would benefit from having less cheap wines bottled in glass too? Although I imagine some chappie with a socialist bent will start complaining that now the delicious popping of a cork will be only in the ears of the rich and the poor waiters doing the opening. It is a risk I am willing to take.
Decent producers out there, if you are listening, I think the public is ready for good wine out of cardboard. The Scandiwegians have been drinking good stuff out of a box for ages, and I think it is about time we caught up.
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