First-ever Wine-in-Box Concours International

by Tom Fiorina on May 5, 2015

I've never faced a "wall" of wine at a wine competition before. Each box's polyethylene bladder was removed and placed in a generic box to prevent the tasters' from the producers' names.

I’ve never faced a “wall” of wine at a wine competition before. Each box’s polyethylene bladder was removed and placed in a generic box to prevent tasters from knowing  the producers’ names.

I had the good fortune of being the judge at one of the jury tables in the first international Wine-in-Box competition, which was held this March in Toulouse. Nadine Franjus-Adenis, who teaches wine-tasting at the Toulouse school where I did my oenology studies, was one of the organisers of the event. Besides being an oenologist, Franjus-Adenis is also a journalist and a former winemaker in the Languedoc-Roussillon Corbières wine region.

Co-organizer Anne-Marie Estampe is a winemaker from another Languedoc-Roussillon wine region, the Minervois. These two ladies convinced over 100 wine tasters, including among them two dozen oenologues and several well-known French and Belgian wine writers, to taste Bag-in-box wines (“Bibs” are another name for Wine-in-box wines) for more than three hours in Toulouse’s Hôtel de Région, an impressive municipal building located next to the Garonne River that traverses the city. It was quite a feat organizing this event. French wine drinkers, unlike their counterparts in northern European countries, Australia and the U.S., where Bibs are widely accepted for their environmental, value-for-money, convenience features, view boxes, like they see screw caps—as quaint Anglophone inventions better suited to Coca-Cola or Kleenex facial tissues. But you see more and more Bibs on supermarket shelves in France, and Gallic wine drinkers seem to understand that ready-for-consumption wine might be better suited to a bag than a bottle.

The point of having an oenologue head each jury was to rebut the sentiment that wine-in-a-box wine was inherently flawed or it would have been sold in a bottle. This may have been true when Bibs were launched a dozen years ago, but it certainly is not the case today (and this first Wine-in-the-Box Concours demonstrated that fact).

Unlike most wine competitions where it's taste-spit and then mark down the score, the Best Wine-in-box concours encouraged us to discuss each wine as it was tasted. This brought a collegial aspect to the competition, much like tasting wines with friends.

Unlike most wine competitions where it’s taste, spit and then mark down the score, the Best Wine-in-Box Concours encouraged us to discuss each wine as it was tasted. This brought a collegial aspect to the competition, much like tasting wines with friends.

Just like in any wine competition, the 250 red, white and rosé Bib wines, from a dozen different countries, were, by-and-large, just average. But, that’s the entire point of a competition—to find the outstanding from among the masses.

And there were some interesting wines here. Not exquisitely balanced, complex wines that were worth laying down in your cellar for years and years, but the best box wines were fruity, generously structured, honest wines where the grape variety aromas and flavours shown through unhindered by any winemaking manipulation (apparent acidification, oaky floorboard smells or flavors, excessive filtering, residual sugar, etc.).

Yes, there were some wines flawed by oxidation, or made from over-ripe or under-ripe grapes, with too much sulfites, etc., but the percentage was no higher than you might taste at many wine competitions.

A significant number of the winning Bib wines came from the French discount supermarket chain Super U. Their source: wine cooperatives in southern France.

A significant number of the winning Bib wines came from the French discount supermarket chain Super U. Their source: wine cooperatives in southern France.

Seventy-four of the 250 wines tasted received awards. But the real winners, in my view, are consumers who can pay from two to ten euros a liter for a decent wine that will last up to a month in their refrigerators, protected from oxygen by a polyethylene bladder that collapses as wine is withdrawn from the box. And there’s never a corked bottle to throw away.

Print Friendly

{ 0 comments }

Moonbeams and cow horns: Science looks at Biodynamics

April 4, 2015

Many enologists, scientists who study the chemistry and biology of wine, look at biodynamic agriculture the same way a hydrologic engineer might view a dowser looking for water with a forked stick; with part amusement, part derision. In my two years of French oenology studies (this is the British spelling and, since it’s closer to the […]

Print Friendly
Read the full article →

Harnessing invisible forces: The Villa Dria wines

March 2, 2015

Along with a class of sommelier students from Toulouse, I visited, almost exactly a year ago, the Villa Dria, a 50-ha vineyard in the Côtes de Gascogne wine appellation just west of Toulouse. My notes and photos went forgotten until I remembered them when I received my invitation to the annual Concours du Vins du […]

Print Friendly
Read the full article →

Concours des vins de Côte de Gascogne goes international,
thanks to OIV MSc in Wine Management program students

January 28, 2015

Beginning late January and going through springtime, each French wine region has its Concours des Vins (“wine competitions”) to select wines that may eventually be sent to the Concours General Agricole Paris, France’s largest such competition with more than 15,000 wines submitted from over 4,000 French winemakers. I’ve never participated in this important wine event, […]

Print Friendly
Read the full article →

A rare tasting of Didier Barral’s Languedoc wines

January 7, 2015

Didier Barral, of Domaine Lèon Barral in the Languedoc’s Faugères wine appellation, is known throughout France for his radical soil conservation techniques. Besides making biodynamic wine, he also allows a herd of cows to roam the vineyard after the grapes are harvested, fertilizing the soil and pre-pruning the grapevines. He’s also known for rarely offering […]

Print Friendly
Read the full article →
�� �