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.