Three of the best local box wines, according to a 'Platter's Guide' taster
Fiona McDonald predicts more wine producers are going to go the bag-in-box route and tells us why that's a good thing
Multiple lockdown bans on alcohol sales have hit the South African liquor industry hard, so any sales of wine — either in bag-in-box (BIB), in bottle or by the case — are cause for celebration.
And recent statistics released by the SA wine industry show that, for the first time, boxed wine sales have overtaken those of bottles — though this is purely by volume rather than value.
There’s always been snobbery about wine — and boxed wine has been looked down upon because of its cheap-n-cheerful association. That’s changing.
Why the big uptake of box wines? In a word: convenience. For those who regularly enjoy a glass at the end of a day, boxed wine offers just that. The wine is on tap without having to fumble about for a corkscrew to open a bottle.
Then there’s the vacuum which seals the bag for up to 26 weeks after opening — and boxed wines offer better value for money.
Gone are the days of generic “dry white” or “dry red”. Boxed wine has evolved from the days of Premium Grand Cru to now being available in variety specific offerings, pioneered by producers such as Robertson winery. Consumers are able to choose between sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, merlot, shiraz — or dry white or red.
When you have a retailer like Woolworths convincing top producers such as Diemersdal, Haute Cabriere, Kleine Zalze and Beyerskloof to do a range of bag-in-box wines offering name recognition, great wine and great price allied with ease of access, it’s a winning formula.
I foresee more producers going this route, which is a good thing for wine drinkers who are looking for both value and convenience.
Something else to keep an eye on is wine in cans. Looking at the way in which cans have already been accepted by the market — and the uptake by producers, both locally and about the globe — it has the potential to make the boxed wine sales growth potentially look pedestrian.
THREE OF MCDONALD'S FAVOURITE BOXED WINES
KLEINE ZALZE CHENIN BLANC
R124.99 for 2l
Stellenbosch producer Kleine Zalze is the current top-performing winery in the 2021 Platter's South African Wine Guide, a feat it achieved by having the most five-star wines in the book: seven overall.
If there's one thing it is known for, it's chenin blanc, and it was supportive of Woolworths' attempt to premiumise boxed wine.
Kleine Zalze's marketing head Carina Gous said this is the same wine as the bottled version — and what's not to love about the eminently drinkable tropical fruit-toned wine?
It is chock-full of stone fruit, ripe nectarine and apricot with a creamy breadth and refreshing acidity to balance.
Look out for the Diemersdal sauvignon blanc, Beyerskloof pinotage and Haute Cabriere Tranquille in the same two-litre range at Woolworths.
TWO OCEANS SAUVIGNON BLANC
R129 for 3l
South Africans love sauvignon blanc. If there's one wine that screams “Summer's here!” it's this perky, zesty, fresh and lively wine.
Harvest is now in full swing in the Western Cape and traditionally sauvignon blanc are some of the first grapes to be plucked off the vines to preserve that vibrant, lip-smacking acidity.
Two Oceans is one of mega-producer Distell's global brands, represented in something like 80 countries.
Sauvignon blanc is known for its tanginess and succulence — but this one marries that refreshment with a riper, tropical note. Say granadilla, a touch of tangy pineapple and then the more typical gooseberry and lemon flavour, all with trademark acidity.
R169.99 for 3l
The old association with boxed wine was of generic “dry white” or “dry red”. Consumers never knew what specific grapes went into the making of it.
Robertson winery changed that when it introduced variety-specific offerings — merlot, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and others.
In the everyday popularity stakes, merlot is the red counterpart of sauvignon blanc. Everybody loves merlot!
This example is a more than halfway decent drop — even receiving some oaking. (So, because of the volumes required to keep up with demand, it's not individual barrels but rather oak staves that line the large stainless-steel tanks.)
And the oak is well integrated, providing a subtle backbone to the generously ripe plum fruit.
Twenty percent of the wine is unoaked, which means there's a bright freshness and fruit purity too. It's soft and rounded with a light cocoa/coffee note from the oak.
Overall, just delicious.
• McDonald is the former editor of 'WINE' magazine, a 'Platter's Guide' taster and chairs the South African panel of the Decanter World Wine Awards.