Box wines are becoming more popular in the US, which has lagged Europe in accepting them. I dug into this a bit to understand the issues. It turns out that there is one technical factor at work:
- The plastic liner of the box wine is imperfect. Box wines will degrade after 1-2 years in the bag because of oxygen leakage. This limits box wines to non-vintage use. The wine must be kept in barrels until shortly before packaging and must be consumed promptly by the purchaser. It is not suitable for long term storage in a personal wine cellar.
For routine table wine use, as is common in Europe, this is not a problem. The box wine is cheaper and just as suitable as the bottled ordinary table wine. It means that the variety of table wines can be much greater, because the box wine is much less expensive to package and ship. Glass bottles are heavy, they consume significant extra energy to ship, significant energy to make, significant energy to recycle, are fragile, and otherwise a nuisance to deal with. Boxes don't have any of these problems. Their only failing is being unsuitable for long term storage.
This deals with some of the concerns in this article about the growing industrialization of winemaking. There is an answer to the eco-costs of shipping wine bottles. Further, in proper no-regrets fashion, it is economically much more attractive to both the wine maker and the wine buyer.
The main barrier in the US is cultural. Routine table wine consumption is not a national tradition. The tradition is that wine is for special occasions and should be a vintage wine. Vintage wines will remain bottled.
But there is increasing understanding of the uses for ordinary table wine, and the much lower price of box wines is driving that use. Furthermore, you are starting to see semi-vintage wines in boxes. These are wines that have been aged in barrels for several years and then boxed. This is increasing the market for box wines. The re-sealability of the box wines is also driving increased use. Someone who has wine with dinner only once or twice per week will waste bottled wine. Even with a stopper, the wine oxidizes and suffers badly within a few days. The box wines have airtight taps, so that they remain OK for several weeks after opening.