1.8 billion single-use wine bottles come into the UK each year and Mike feels partially responsible. Is boxed wine the answer?

mcith_When-in.jpgThe UK is the world’s largest wine importer, that’s 1.8 billion single-use wine bottles each year. I feel partially responsible. Perhaps boxed wine the answer?

I’m at the launch of When in Rome’s latest grape variety in their range. They say they have a mission to start a box wine revolution here in the UK. The venue is Enzo’s Kitchen in London’s west end where I meet wine expert Chris Cooper from Drinkonomics.

He has been brought along to help us with the background and tasting notes and tells me the Grillo grape is native to Sicily and has a thick skin to withstand the hot and dry conditions. It is widely used in Sicilian wine-making, in particular, for making sweet Marsala, but if harvested earlier, he says a fresher and dryer wine can be produced.

We are served a glass and sniff it – it’s certainly fresh and grassy. We taste and Chris uses his wide vocabulary to describe it as having floral aromas, peach flesh and silky, lemon oil.

I use all my wine vocabulary to describe it as a decent dry white wine. Chris says it is good with seafood, grilled veg or Mediterranean salads heavy with olive oil.


I kind of associate wine boxes with cheap plonk but CEO of When in Rome, Rob Malin tells me those days are over. His wines are all drunk by thousands in Italy so it’s not the lesser quality stuff put to one side for Johnny English foreigner. Yes, it’s’craft’ wine.

I ask him how it all works and he tells me that When in Rome select hand-picking premium quality wines from some of Italy’s best smaller family run independent producers (less intensively produced so kinder to the land).

 They box it in the vineyard and send them to Verona where around 1,800 of them – equivalent to around 12,000 bottles of wine – begin a seven-day journey across Italy to the UK.

Boxed wine is far lighter to transport than bottles and they come by train (rail freight produces 76% less CO2 emissions than the equivalent HGV journey) The box packaging can be recycled too, so they’re pretty focussed on sustainability.

Once opened each box stays fresh for up to six weeks and it fits in your fridge door (they also sell refillable glass bottles), so it’s actually better for people who prefer just the one glass of wine per night like we’re meant to believe they do in the Mediterranean.


I’m more of a “wow that big box is empty already – should’ve bought two” man, but maybe that’s not sustainable on a personal level.

As we leave, I ask Rob what the phrase “When in Rome” translates to in Italian and there follows much discussion with his Operations Manager Lorenzo Canali.

Eventually it is decided that there is no expression in Italian giving the same meaning of “When in another culture adapt to that culture”.

 I’m not surprised. The closest they have is: “You should always take a wife or a cow from your own village”, so Italian and so unsustainable.

wheninromewine.co.ukBuy your box at Waitrose