Boxed Wine 101: Interview with Heather Pyle, CalNaturale

http://www.motherearthliving.com/Food-Matters/boxed-wine-101-calnaturale-heather-pyle.aspx

While I’m by no means a wine aficionado, I do consider myself a wine enthusiast—and my enthusiasm does not discriminate against wine that comes in boxes.

Though I may avoid some boxed wines that remind me of early college, boxed wines—especially those that come in Tetra Paks— are getting more and more sophisticated thanks to innovation in winemaking and organic farming.

One of the leaders in organic boxed wines is CalNaturale (a past favorite at Natural Home & Garden). I love keeping the smaller Tetra Paks on-hand for weeknight dinners (for use in recipes and drinking!), and I find that the smart packaging allows for more room and portability.

CalNaturale’s head winemaker talked to me about how organic, boxed wine is keeping up with traditional, conventional and corked/bottled wine at the liquor store. See what she has to say about drinking from the box!

CalNaturale winesBoxed/non-glass packaged wine carries a stigma in some circles. Do you think this stigma is easing? 

I think this is a battle already won with the consumer. While “un-natural” corks in glass bottles still have a mountain to climb, a complete switch of packaging to convenient, lightweight, eco-friendly, aesthetic values seems to be an easy conversion for the younger consumers at least. Once purchased, CalNaturale’s concentration and serious quality speaks for itself with regards to class.

How do you educate new-to-wine consumers on the advantages of organic winemaking? What do you say to established wine drinkers who don’t want to give Tetra Pak wine a chance?   

I frequently get the chance to educate interested consumers on organic. They are interested in treading lightly on the earth but don’t want to give up “quality” to do so. I tell them that the organic farmer is an astute observer and that attention to detail in the vineyard and the winery are keys to the success of organic wines. 

Less able to rely on quick fixes, the organic farmer needs to take the long view to improve his or her soils, promote a diversity of insect and plant species in the vineyard. Taking the long view and attention to detail resonate with quality for most wine consumers.

Many converts to CalNaturale have embraced the wine and its Tetra Pak packaging as a result of trying it either in store or at consumer events. I often hear the response at tastings of “wow, that’s really good” followed by “where can I buy it,” and this is frequently from consumers who were initially skeptical about the packaging.

To bottle wine drinkers, particularly those with an active lifestyle, I say “take a chance,” you won’t be disappointed. I tell them that they don’t have to forego quality for packaging that preserves wines' best qualities, is easy to transport and is easy on the earth.

Freelance writer and editor Kim Wallace can be reached at kim@kimberlyloc.com.