Today I overheard members of the cultural elite discuss something that will strike terror into all those who consider themselves just a little bit classy – and frankly, don’t we all? Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the return of cask wine, or as it’s known in other corners of our globe, the bag in a box.
The goon bag, or whatever delightfully evocative name you want to give the wine cask, was one of Australia's most successful inventions. It took the world by storm back in the 60s and 70s – with a slight return in popularity among students in the 90s. Then, like a BYO bottle of cheeky Spatlese Lexia “for the lady” to take to an Italian trattoria with garlic bulbs hanging from the ceiling, it went out of favour. Casks of cheap red were relegated to the back of the pantry, hidden there with the Metamucil because you couldn’t possibly let the dinner guests know that you’d drink such stuff, even though you do. “Oh, that’s just the wine for cooking,” I hear you say. Bollocks, is my reply.
So it’s time to embrace the cask again. They’re doing it in The Europes, it seems, so you should too. Slow food magazines will write stories about you being ahead of the curve and shunning pretension. Twitter users will hashtag tales of your #bravery.
Honestly, I thought the only people using cask wine were grandparents who still have a box of cheeky Chablis in the fridge left over since the rained-out street party of 1997. And students, who also used the blown up silver innards to decorate share house couches. I feel bad. The cask of wine (or, as I called it in my house back in the day, the Lonely Lady) was always there for me. When wine bottles had all but been drunk or gone off, she was waiting in the fridge. When bottle shops had closed and I’d just got home from work, there she was. As I poured wine from her plastic teat into a glass with a gentle tinkling sound reminiscent of a miniature horse pissing, my cask of Lonely Lady passed on her magic healing powers in times of need.
It was my snobbery that killed her. Cask wine lost favour about the time Australia was trying to be a bit posher. More sophisticated, like. Wine (like coffee today), had become a national obsession. Drinking it was all about the process; the sommelier popping the cork, the drinker sucking those flavours through the teeth and then rolling the liquid towards the back of the mouth.
These days, most bottles of plonk come in a screw top. Since a wine from a screwtop bottle can’t be corked, tasting wines is pretty much redundant. It’s more about the theatre of the thing.
So, the cask is ripe for a revival. And it’s happening. Right now. For environmental reasons, mainly. In terms of packaging, a wine cask saves a whole lot more space, which helps reduce shipping space and cost. You can also keep the wine if you haven’t finished it, which means less waste. It all makes sense. Sure it’s not a top of the range drop, ever, but let’s be honest, most of us don’t buy anything over $10 on a weeknight, so who are we kidding?
It’s an image makeover that’s needed, and it’s already happening. Gents in east London with twirly moustaches who source their grapes from an obscure region in Spain are currently boxing it up in artfully nondescript packaging, because simplicity, not complexity, is oh-so-hot right now.
Personally, I’m tickled pink. It’s like being reunited with a long lost friend. I can now also pull out my old plastic Décor four-litre wine cask cooler from the 80s that’s also up the back of the pantry. Because taking a bag out of a box and putting it in another larger, plastic box, is pure class. And I’m one classy broad.