The sherry box wars

Few consumer products are influenced more by their packaging than drinks, whether beer, wine or soda, although being a conservative lot the producers are hardly adventurous.

The sherry region must be more conservative than most, discouraging any innovation, particularly if it could harm the image of the wine. As a result, the traditionalists' noses were put very much out of joint when the possibility of sherry being sold in box started to gain popularity. Boxed wine is one of the fastest growing sectors of the trade, and in every country 'bag-in-the-box' sales increase yearly. For convenience and price it is one of the drinker's greatest amenities.

The big sherry boys did not think so, and have been fighting a battle through the courts for years to stop bodegas using 'boxes' to package wine.

So, lined up on one side we had the big sherry producers that sell zillions of bottles a year, and on the other the smaller wineries, mainly from Sanlúcar de Barrameda's manzanilla region, longing to exploit a market hungry for draught sherry.

There is no problem with 'garrafas', the 5-litre glass containers that have always been in use, so why are the 'bag-in-box' wines prohibited? Spain must be the only country in the world where the law courts have decided how the bodegas are allowed to package their wine.

Obviously King Canute of Sherryland cannot hold back the tide of progress for ever. In the same way that wine boxes prove more popular each year, the same applies to other novel presentations. Wine in cans has got young people who considered wine to be an older person's tipple back to drinking it, and it cannot be long before a small can of ice-cold manzanilla will be in everyone's fridge or knapsack. The older Jerez generations have always complained that their offspring are not attracted to sherry, so what better way to keep them off it for ever than insist on it being served only in the traditional manner?