Drink wine from a box. Save the planet.
That's the message behind a new campaign by The Wine Group, whose products include boxed wines made at the big Franzia Winery near Ripon.
The company points to a study last year on the environmental effects of wine packaging, done by the American Association of Wine Economists. No surprise, the traditional glass bottles are heavier than boxes, so it takes more fuel to transport them to stores.
The study found that wine boxes, which include a plastic bag inside, result in 85 percent less packaging waste than glass. And, it said, the manufacturing of boxes contributes only half as much as glass toward climate change -- which appears to be resulting from fossil-fuel emissions.
"For consumers and the environment, the savings could not be clearer," Wine Group President David Kent said in a news release. "This savings directly impacts distributors and retailers interested in environmental impacts."
The company timed the campaign to the launch of its latest boxed wine, Boho Vineyards. At a suggested $24 per 3-liter box, it's an upscale product compared with Franzia and several other boxed brands.
Still, this is the equivalent of just $6 for a standard 750-milli-liter bottle. And the company notes that the bag-in-box technology keeps wine drinkable for at least six weeks after opening.
The Wine Group, based in San Francisco, also boxes wine under the Killer Juice, Angel Juice, Fish Eye, Glen Ellen, Pinot Evil, Corbett Canyon, Casarsa Vineyards and Pacific Peak labels.
It's not the only such producer here in boxed wine country. E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto makes it under the Peter Vella and Carlo Rossi labels. DFV Wines in Manteca, the new name for Delicato Family Vineyards, puts out Bota Box.
Although all three companies sell plenty of bottled wine, they can expand the boxed part of the business with appeals to green-minded drinkers.
"Packaging that appeals to consumer desires for convenience and environmental sustainabil-ity is likely to be popular," said Danny Brager, a vice president with the Nielsen market research company, in the news release from The Wine Group.
This column is called From the Vine, but that doesn't keep it from switching to gin when the mood strikes. For the rest of the way, let's call it From the Juniper Bush.
The Bee reported Wednesday about Gallo's launch of New Amsterdam Straight Gin. The product is distilled from grain and flavored with juniper berries and citrus. It is the company's first foray into hard liquor besides brandy, which is distilled from wine.
The move is a smart one, said Jon Fredrikson, a wine industry consultant based in Woodside, San Mateo County. He said profit margins tend to be large in the liquor business, and spirits are less tricky to make than wine.
"Gin is pretty straightforward, and it's mostly marketing, which is Gallo's expertise," said Fredrikson, who worked in the spirits business in the 1970s and now follows the wine industry at Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.
That said, Fredrikson doesn't think Gallo will develop a large portfolio of liquor products, as fellow wine giants Constellation Brands and Diageo have done.
Here's an item that nicely mixes the last two topics -- environmental virtue and hard liquor.
An e-mailed news release informs us of a vodka flavored with organic fruit, from Charbay Distillers in the Napa Valley. It comes in blood orange, Meyer lemon and pomegranate.
Now all you need for your Earth Day Bloody Mary is some organic tomato juice and a stalk of organic celery. Oh, and a tiny umbrella made of paper from a sustainably logged forest.
To submit items to From the Vine, call 578-2385, send a fax to 578-2207, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.