Summerhill COO Ezra Cipes extols the benefits of a 3 litre bag in box vs. four 750 ml. bottles

Is it just a storm in a wine glass? Or is there more to this than meets the eye?

Summerhill Winery (besides being infatuated with shapes Cheopic) is well known for its penchant for all things organic and environmental, so it came as no surprise to hear that the view-kissed East Kelowna winery, that greets you with a giant, tilted champagne flute, has taken the plunge into the sometimes mirky world of boxed wines

Last week, Summerhill COO Ezra Cipes announced the launch of Alive, a new line of organic wines in 3-litre bag in boxes. And the reasons cited, among several (plus the possibility they might just have a bunch of wine to sell), included the obvious: that this method of packaging is far more environmentally responsible than the equivalent of four 750 ll. glass bottles, and all which that entails.

There’s only one snag. As per current VQA regulations, Summerhill can’t label the boxed product as VQA wine, even though it insists it’s the same juice that goes into the winery’s bottled product. The rule has far ranging implications for Summerhill and others. For one thing, the wines can’t be sold in VQA stores, and they’ll only serve to muddy the waters further when it comes to matters of Canadian origin on restaurant wine lists.

You can see the packaging regs below.

Cipes is quick to say that in some cases only glass will do:  “The one negative thing is that you can’t age wine in bags. For cellaring you still need glass bottles.”

To be on the safe side, the Summerhill package suggests the wine be consumed within six weeks.

Behind the scenes, it appears the BC Wine Authority is dragging its feet on this one, just as it did when it came to approving screwcaps for VQA: Only when it became clearly apparent that the screwcap was here to stay did the powers that be move beyond their parochial stance and declare the technology VQA approved.

There’s no shortage of so-called ‘Cellared in Canada’ brands (not made with 100 percent BC grapes) that arrive on local shelves. And a few bona fide BC estate wineries, such as Hester Creek and Pentage have also enjoyed success with bag in box wines.

Here’s the clincher. If we use VQA to make the distinction between 100 percent BC wine and Cellared in Canada bottled product, why wouldn’t we do the same for bag in box?

Ironically, whatever you may think about bag in box wines, the foolproof Aussie developed technology has been around for a whole lot longer than screwcaps even.

Hopefully, the authority will get its act together quickly to amend the regulations on this one… although, we’re not holding our breath.

When it comes to moving with the more environmentally responsible times, Canada and BC already lag well behind other wine producing nations, such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Wonder what on earth they’ll do when the plastic bottle hits town

More here, in the North Shore News


Packaging requirements for BC VQA wines

56 (1)

All BC VQA wines must be bottled in glass bottles of a standard size.

(2)  Only the following bottle closures may be used:

(a) natural cork;

(b) pore-filled (colmated) natural cork, filled with resin or with dust;

(c) cork composite made with natural cork discs;

(d) cork composite (particle or agglomerate);

(e) 100% synthetic;

(f) screw top;

(g) crown cap.

(3)  All varieties of cork closures must be of a traditional cylindrical shape of any colour except corks for fortified and liqueur wine, which may be in the shapes that are traditional for those wines.

Bottles of a standard size include bottles of 50, 100, 200, 250, 375, 500 or 750 millilitres, 1, 1.5 or 3 litres and a bottle of any other size authorized for use under the Food and Drugs Act (Canada) and the Food and Drug Regulations.