The future of wine packaging part 2: Bag-in-box, bang up-to-date

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned a company called Sfuso who supply a couple of the shops in London that offer wine refill services. I met with the owner, Marina Janković,  to taste through her small range of wines in her shared office space in East London. The company sprang from her experiences living in Italy buying ‘sfuso’ wine i.e. taking refillable containers direct to the winemaker to fill up straight from the tank, much like the French ‘en vrac’. Compared to buying bottled wine in the UK, it was much cheaper, and much better for the environment. Her aim is to supply wine like this direct to businesses and individuals in the UK.

The company’s strong ethical stance is at the core of everything it does, so to begin with, the winemakers are paid a fair price for their produce, and all their wines are organic. They work with ‘anti-pizzo’ (anti-mafia) co-operatives to ensure the payment finds its way to the right pocket. To reduce the weight of the containers, and therefore the carbon footprint, bag-in-box is used as opposed to the more typical hard plastic containers (it also helps keep the wine fresh for longer). The unbleached cardboard boxes are sent flat-packed to the wineries along with the internal bags, who then fill them up, and palletise the boxed wine. These are then shipped by train from Italy to the UK to further minimise carbon use from shipping.

But what of the wines? They are akin to the wines you would refill your plastic container with at the local winery; relatively simple quaffing wines, but with authenticity and a sense of place. Perfectly decent for mid-week drinking or for big parties. Often the complaints about bag-in-box wines on the market is that they are mass-produced, anonymous, characterless or poorly made. This is not the case with these examples.

Like bag-in-box, the screwcap was long a pariah amongst wine drinkers, mostly because it was indeed a sign that what was in the bottle was crap. This was until some forward-looking producers, convinced of its value, started using it, and we drinkers caught on to its benefits and learned to love it. Surely this is the future story of bag-in-box – it keeps wine fresh for weeks, and ecologically speaking, clearly is a better option than heavy glass bottles that take huge amounts of energy to manufacture and transport. But the quality and value of what is in the package is paramount – and Sfuso have just about nailed it. Fine wines for long ageing will continue to require glass bottles and corks for the foreseeable future, but these top-end wines are only a tiny proportion of global wine production. As long as what is in the box is good quality, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t see more everyday wines moving in this direction in the not-so-distant future.

For more on bulk wines, Andrew Jefford has recently written this excellent article on the Decanter magazine website.


The wines:




Organic Rosso Toscano IGT 2010
A blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Tuscany, Italy
£22.19 for 3 litre bag-in-box (£5.55 per bottle equivalent) available at Sfuso (

Bright ruby colour with an attractive perfume of cherry and red fruits. Medium-bodied with good acidity and medium levels of chewy tannin. Fresh, with some depth of red and black cherry fruit. 87 points, good value.

Organic Nero d’Avola IGT 2010
100% Nero d’Avola grape from Sicily, Italy
£23.99 for 3 litre bag-in-box (£6.00 per bottle equivalent) available at Sfuso (

Plummy, with some black cherry and a hint of tar and licorice. Medium-bodied, fairly light in tannin with medium acidity. Fruity yet savoury finish. 86 points, fair value.




Organic Bianco Toscano IGT 2010
100% Vermentino grape from Tuscany, Italy
£22.19 for 3 litre bag-in-box (£5.55 per bottle equivalent) available at Sfuso (

Floral, slightly herby peach and apricot on the nose. Medium-bodied, with a silky mouthfeel. Well balanced. 86 points, good value.

Organic Catarratto IGT 2010
100% Catarratto grape from Sicily, Italy
£23.99 for 3 litre bag-in-box (£6.00 per bottle equivalent) available at Sfuso (

Medium yellow-gold in colour. Perfumed apricot with a hint of peach and orange peel. Small oxidative element, no more than you would expect from a natural wine from this region due minimal sulphur use. Medium- to full-bodied with a slightly chewy texture. Appetising, with good balancing acidity. 86 points, fair value.