Drinks News

Cask wine is making a comeback at Sydney venues

If you think wine in a box is a 20th-century embarrassment best left in the past, James Hird, the wine guy at Icebergs and its sister venues, is here to convince you otherwise.

By Emma Breheny
Bag in Box Barbera

Whether you associate it with your first hangover or your grandmother's drink of choice, box wine doesn't have the best reputation. But James Hird and Maurice Terzini, of Sydney venues including Icebergs Dining Room & Bar and The Dolphin Hotel, have hit the reset button on the humble cask, releasing a biodynamic Barbera that comes in a plastic pouch and a smart-looking black box. It's about as far as you can get from Fruity Lexia.

Dubbed Bag in Box, the wine by Piedmont producer Carussin is now pouring at `Icebergs Bar`, Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta, Bondi Beach Public Bar and The Dolphin Hotel at the very reasonable price of $9 a glass. Affordability is the main motivation behind the range, according to Hird, who's the sommelier across all four venues and has been working on the idea for about a year with Terzini and collaborator Giorgio de Maria.

"The same wine would literally be 50 to 60 per cent more in a bottle," he says.

The main reason for the price difference comes down to shipping costs, which soar when it comes to European wines, although there are also savings made on packaging when corks and glass bottles are replaced by cardboard and plastic. The carbon footprint of box wine is also slightly smaller, according to Hird.

But it's what's in the box that matters. And for this first release, Hird and Terzini spent many months working with Giorgio de Maria to track down the right producer. Carussin's wine, made from 100 per cent Barbera d'Asti predominantly from the 2016 vintage, is biodynamically farmed and offers a real sense of place, Hird says.

"People have been like 'I can't believe you're doing this'," he says. "But traditionally it's been a really poor quality product that's been put in that packaging."
In fact, the packaging gives the wine a much longer shelf-life. Once opened, Hird estimates the wine will keep for two weeks at room temperature and up to three weeks in the fridge.

Cask wine 2.0 isn't necessarily new. De Maria, who imports and sells wine under the name Giorgio De Maria Fun Wines, has been selling boxed wine to venues and individuals for over a year now while over in Burgundy, Australian couple Andrew and Emma Nielsen of Le Grappin produce a Bagnum, 1.5 litres of mostly single-vineyard reds, whites and rosés.

For Hird and Terzini, the debut box of Barbera is just the beginning. Keep an eye out for a Provence rosé in time for summer, followed by an orange and a white wine down the track. Hird estimates all Bag in Box wines will be available for between $7 and $10 a glass, rivalling the price of beer at many pubs.

And if you really want to turn heads, buy a box take-away from The Dolphin Bottle Shop or online from DRNKS and plonk it on the table next time you dine BYO with your pals. At three litres, one box is about the equivalent of two magnums. Strap yourselves in.

Bag in Box available by the glass at Bondi Beach Public Bar, Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta, Icebergs Bar and The Dolphin Hotel. Take-away available at The Dolphin Hotel Bottle Shop ($55 for 3 litres) and online from drnks.com ($70 for 3 litres).