13th June 2019

Prettygate

Jim’s Fryer used to be our go-to Friday night supper. The Chippy van parked up in the Prettygate pub offered simple fare, properly wrapped in old newspaper with my old man always partial to a bag of ‘scraps’. Undoubtedly this helped inform his burgeoning heart disease, but it kept us fed and gave Mum a night off the cooking.

The Prettygate is an unprepossessing boozer set next to a parade of shops servicing the Post-War estates of West Colchester. It had a post office, a Martins for pick’n’mix, a co-op, a wool shop and a hair dressers with ladies in rollers, heads under the driers thumbing the latest Women’s Weekly.

My Godparents loved the Prettygate and captained the darts teams for years. I remember fags, ashtrays stuffed full of fags, plus Bernie making homebrew of all strengths and flavours for times when they weren’t actually in the pub. Aunt Aud received an MBE for her services to midwifery, delivering both myself and my older brother into this world. I miss them both terribly.

The Prettygate was the sort of pub where you could get a take home if the Landlord wasn’t up for a lock in and the homebrew was still doing its thing in the airing cupboard. Two pint ‘beerhoppers’ of dairycard, shaped like an old tetra-pak of milk, just capable of remaining watertight with a frothing ale for the stagger home.

More Wine recently experimented with the conversion of these flat-packed cardboard vessels into ‘winehoppers’ in our quest to offer our refill wines in the most sustainable fashion as possible. It was not entirely successful, as appealing as they are this compostable packaging is not designed for transporting a litre of red home in the motor. The current manufacturers did though reveal that 1-pint hoppers exist and that these historically had been used for buying sherry ‘loose’; straight from the ‘butt’ from off-licences and public houses. Who knew?

More Wine is a specialist importer, wholesaler and retailer of high quality, low intervention wine in bag in box (BIB), pouch and even can. We save the unnecessary import of 1000s of heavy glass bottles each and every month. The majority of wine consumed is of the most recent vintage. If you’re not looking to age the wine you don’t need to import, transport of dispose of glass bottles.

Most of us have some sort of recollection of bag in box wine in pubs. Stowells of Chelsea led the way and their bag in box wine could I think be dispensed from a ‘gun’ alongside post-mix lemonade, coca-cola and soda. Time moves on and technology thankfully improves. You are now mercifully, unlikely to get an out of condition, warm pint of Greene King IPA in your rural boozer. In much the same way bag in box (BIB) wine now affords the end consumer a range of excellent wines with the festival organizer, craft beer bar owner, forward thinking restaurateur able to offer such wines by the glass or carafe with much more surety of the quality of the end product than ever before.

The material used for the inner bags is much improved allowing no ingress of air and reflecting away sunlight. The patented Vitop taps now successfully minimize the air entering the bag, preventing the wines deteriorating from contact with oxygen. As a consquence it is very rare for our wines to go out of condition whilst in bag in box. If carefully stored, so away from direct sunlight, heat sources, cool and dry, then BIB wine will stay fresh for at least 6 months unopened and up to 30 days once the seal is cracked.

Bag in box wine is environmentally sound. Packaging wine in this manner decreases the overall weight by 25% compared to the same volume of wine in regular glass bottle. Greater stacking efficiency by not using inherently fragile glass also enables a further 25% of wine to be loaded per pallet. The carbon footprint saving of BIB wine is large, not least as all the bag in box packaging will arrive flat-packed to the winery.

Perception remains our biggest challenge! Swimming against the tide is how someone expressed the issue of launching a bag in box wine company. Stowells, warm wine, most likely out of condition and probably not great quality to start with is the benchmark objectionable memory. Then consider that ‘Goon’ is know to just about every Aussie I’ve ever met or to anyone who has travelled the Gold Coast. Cheap plonk in a bag, the lowest quality juice available. Drain the drink, blow up the empty bag and use it as a pillow. Enough negative connotations? On no, consider the curiosity of the Frat-House favourite ‘Slap-the-Bag’ which makes Beer Pong look the height of sophistication. Not much to it from what I can make out other than a drinking game, involving entry level wine in a bag.

More still from a highly regarded and very successful biodynamic wine maker from South Africa. His take on BIB wine was that there was again too much negative background noise. ‘Dopstelsel’ the practice by which agricultural workers in the Western Cape were paid some, if not most of their wage in alcohol a ‘dop’, delivered in, you guessed it plastic bags or ‘papsuk’. The ensuing alcoholism amongst the workers, issues which to some extent persist today, are most definitely not something of which the modern-day SA wine industry is proud.

So how has the sector reinvigorated itself? As outlined the packaging technology has vastly improved and consumers, plus winemakers are now very in tune with their carbon footprint. Forward thinking producers keen to emphasise a minimal intervention approach to winemaking in both the vineyard and in the winery, now accept BIB and pouch as showing their light environmental touch. The fabulously packaged Raisins Gaulois is a shining example of this, now produced by Marie & Matthieu Lapierre in Beaujolais. Domain Lapierre’s wines have been cultivated organically since 1981, with Marcel Lapierre at the forefront of the now burgeoning ‘Natural’ wine movement. In the vineyards methods respect ancient traditions; chemical fertilisers and synthetic products are eschewed in favour of compost, ploughing the vines and non-aggressive treatments to preserve the natural yeasts on the grape skins. Intervention in the winery is also kept to an absolute minimum, no yeasts are added and wines are filled unfiltered with only a very small addition of sulphur to stabilize the wines. The Gamay grape yields joyous easy drinking light bodied red, redolent of soft berry fruits and great slightly chilled.

In most of the rest of Europe, bag in box wine is much more commonplace and not so looked down upon. Sales account for nearly 30% of sales in France, reaching nearly 50% of sales in Norway and Sweden. Admittedly in the latter two countries the supply of alcohol is controlled by the state, which having conducted a very detailed study on the impact of differently packaged wines concluded BIB to be by far the most environmentally friendly.

In the UK, we are still playing catch up, but thanks to the pioneering work of a few, things are most definitely on the up. Du Grappin, coined the hashtag #Bagnum for their Vins de Soif in 1.5 litre pouches. A husband and wife, micro-negociant team making exceptional low-intervention wines from small parcels of grapes. Appellation level Macon-Villages, rich, rounded, minerally Chardonnay or fruity; easy red from Beaujolais-Villages, not to mention a ridiculously drinkable pale rose from the Southern Rhone.

In small BIB, When in Rome set the pace and now have their ‘Craft Wines’ in 2.25 litre size available from Waitrose and Harvey Nichols. Small Italian producers making low intervention single varietal wines for a new generation of box wine drinkers. St John, the world-renowned restaurateur and champions of nose to tail eating, import their own range of BIB wines for by the glass and off-sales.

More Wine lists over 40 different bag in box, pouch and canned wines. Our very own label Rogue Wines sold out quick last year, RAGTAG our 2019 offering will be available from mid-Summer. We even have fizz covered with our playful semi-sparkling naturally fermented single serve can – QUELLO!.

Enjoy!