If you’re looking for a nice wine to buy for yourself or as a gift, odds are you probably avoid wines that come in a box. Boxed wine — or really any wine not in a glass bottle — carries with it a stigma: quantity over quality.
A new company in Walla Walla, Washington is hoping to overthrow that stigma with an e-commerce line of bagged vino. Irreverent Wines is a subscription service that chooses to package their wine in bags because it’s cheaper for the consumer and better for the environment. The service launched today and is now shipping nationwide.
Irreverent’s founder, Chris Dukelow, was a former CFO for tech startups in the Seattle area and began making wine out of his garage a few years ago. He then got the idea to start putting wine in pouches, which he said are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than bottles. “A pouch is a great container for wine,” he told me over the phone last week. “It’s recyclable, self-standing, can sit in the refrigerator or counter, [and is] great to throw in your backpack if you’re going camping.” In short, it can do most things that wine bottles can, but is lighter and more easily recyclable.
All of Irreverent’s wines are sourced from independent and family-owned vineyards in Washington and Oregon, including Irreverent’s own grapes. The company offers the full gamut from reds to whites to rosés (though no sparkling because the liquid wouldn’t keep its fizz in the pouch). According to Dukelow, the wines Irreverent ships would retail for around $30 a bottle.
By putting them in pouches, Irreverent is able to sell the wine for a significantly cheaper price. A 1.5-liter pouch (the equivalent of 2 bottles) costs $39-$49 a month, and a 3-liter pouch (the equivalent of 4 bottles) costs $49-$59 per month. There’s also an option to add an additional pouch of wine to each shipment for $39. Members mark their wine color preferences on Irreverent’s site and the company sends them a different style or blend every month.
Bagged wine stays fresh for four weeks by keeping the wine away from oxygen; consumers use a spout at the bottom to extract only as much wine as they want right then. That means you can have a glass with dinner without having to worry that the wine could go bad. “It’s more flexible,” Dukelow told me. Bottles of wine, on the other hand, generally only last a day or two once opened. Bagged wine is also easier and cheaper to ship than bottles, which are heavy and breakable.
I was able to try Irreverent’s bags wine and found the whole experience frictionless and — most importantly — delicious. The wines arrived in a fully recyclable box; since they didn’t need to be chilled, I didn’t have to dispose of any pesky ice packs or styrofoam. I popped the rosé in the fridge and kept the red wine out on my counter. Over the next week, my roommates and I enjoyed grabbing as much or as little wine as we wanted in the evenings from the pouches. Both wines were light and crisp — perfect for warmer weather — and the wines stayed fresh for days.
Irreverent isn’t the only company trying to make shipping liquids easier. In Italy, Olivery ships olive oil refills in plastic pouches that can fit through a mail slot. So can the flat wine bottles from Garçon Wines.
Considering our current global state, improved shipping methods are actually critical. As much of the country continues to shelter in place due to COVID-19, consumers are increasingly looking for ways to get goods delivered so they don’t have to brave crowded grocery stores. Considering many of us are also drinking more during quarantine, Irreverent Wines just might be coming around at the right time to upend our notion of boxed wine.
Dukelow told me that they were already planning to start Irreverent this year, but that COVID-19 had definitely “accelerated” the timeline. “It’s a good time to launch.”