The Great White North Heads South with Bag-in-Box Wine

Bag-in-Box Wine

Committed to producing 100% organic wine in Okanagan Valley, Summerhill Pyramid winery decided to package a couple of their wines bag-in-box. Largely driven by environmental considerations and providing consumers with fresh, quality product, you would expect many to embrace their good intentions. Instead, the B.C. Wine Authority pulled their B.C. Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) designation on bag in box wines.

The winery decided to go bag in box because it is environmentally friendly and easier to transport than bottles. They also selected it because they know that merchants are happy because the package seals out air leaving less chance for oxidation, which helps with wine freshness, especially for those who sell wine by the glass. All good intentions, right?

So why would the B.C. Wine Authority take away their B.C. Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) designation? Well, according to their regulation, only bottled wine can be VQA. Both wines in question made by Summerhill Pyramid qualify for VQA designation as long as they are in bottle—anything packaged via bag in box looses that designation.

Put very simply, the BC VQA designation on the Wines of British Columbia is a guarantee that you’re purchasing 100% BC Wine. Introduced in 1990, the BC VQA is an “Appellation of Origin” system that guarantees authenticity of origin and stipulates minimum quality standards for Canadian wines.

I do not think the VQA is calling out the quality in this instance as much as it is getting hung up by a term found in the packaging regulations, “produced in glass bottles.”  This is where I would defend the winery and ask that the VQA consider revision of the packaging regimens. What do you think—should packaging matter when calling out quality?

If we were having this discussion ten years ago, I would understand the wine authority’s stance on this issue because box wine has been uniformly bad. However, bag in box has come a long way to reinvent itself, which, in turn, piques my curiosity. Is it appropriate to ask wine authorities to start thinking proactively by investigating issues that might affect wine law so that they can construct regulations before we need them, avoiding situations which might punish wineries that mean well?

Overall, this regulation isn’t the most idiotic considering the wacky laws that exist in the U.S.


About the Author:

Editor and co-founder of, Pamela is a sommelier and former restaurant manager and wine buyer with Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), Court of Master Sommeliers & Center for Wine Origins certification. She has contributed to or been quoted by various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Sommelier Journal, Vegetarian Times, VIV Magazine, UC-Berkeley Astrobiology News, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, NPR and USA Today. True to her roots, she seeks varietal and appellation integrity and is always passionate about finding the next great bottle of wine.


  1. Jack August 15, 2011 at 6:00 PM - Reply

    I don’t think it should matter what packaging was used to determine quality. I’ve had crappy wines in bottle and crappy wine bag-in-box as much as I’ve had really good wine in bottle and bag-in-box, so the package shouldn’t matter!

    • enobytes August 15, 2011 at 7:02 PM - Reply

      Good point Jack.

  2. ficklefreek August 15, 2011 at 6:06 PM - Reply

    Packaging shouldn’t matter!!!

    • enobytes August 15, 2011 at 7:02 PM - Reply

      :) In this case it did!

  3. Jennifer K August 15, 2011 at 6:48 PM - Reply

    I don’t know, I’ve had a lot of bad box wine which sort of tells the story?

    • enobytes August 15, 2011 at 7:06 PM - Reply

      I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more about this issue in the future! Box wine has been uniformly bad, but lately, many producers are filling these boxes with pretty tasty juice! This particular producer has boxed an Organic Merlot 3L for $80 and a Ehrenfelser 3L for $70.

  4. Doug August 16, 2011 at 7:24 AM - Reply

    Should packaging define quality? Some would say they wouldn’t drink a wine under screwcap. This is a great question.

  5. 偵探社 August 19, 2011 at 1:31 PM - Reply

    There is nothing wrong with box wine. It is what it is.

  6. winecountrydog September 5, 2011 at 2:19 PM - Reply

    Finally ave gotten mum to respond! Ere’s wot she sez:

    “Whether justified or not, the B.C. VQA folks audit wine in bottles, not bags.

    Some might infer that Summerhill Pyramid didn’t care about retaining a B.C. VQA designation. Anyone might wonder about this after reading through the VQA certification info at It’s no mystery that bag-in-box wine does not appear to be acceptable VQA packaging at this time.

    Bag-in-box packaging is something I’m not comfortable with. I don’t yet know which bag brands *might* be okay. (And I’m not seeing which bag brand Summerhill is using.) I won’t be seeking out bag-in-box wines unless I find proof that the bag and tap (wine spout) plastics are stable, allergen-free, organoleptically neutral, and more eco-friendly than other types of packaging.

    Well, is the bag-in-box concept more eco-friendly? Good question. Different bag brands might be called recyclable, but recycling is a complex issue when it comes to plastics. And what about the metallized-film bags and plastic taps (and glues) welded onto the bags?

    Besides, how can anyone eco-rate plastic packaging versus glass packaging when wineries and wine consumers haven’t been very recycling-compliant?

    There are product quality questions as well. E.g., the closure’s oxygen transmission rate is of interest — even if a box of wine is not going to be laid down for aging. So, even if my resistance to bag-in-box were to be crushed, I’d want to know more about the closure (the tap) before purchasing Summerhill Pyramid’s $80 3L box of Merlot.

    Two undeniable bag-in-box advantages: It makes a smaller carbon footprint than glass in shipping, and the bag cannot contaminate wine with TCA.”

  7. Pamela Heiligenthal September 5, 2011 at 3:16 PM - Reply

    You bring up some great points, corgi, a well-balanced debate! Thanks for dropping by, I appreciate your comment.

    …another advantage: no corkscrew needed! :)

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