How many half-drunk bottles have spoiled in your fridge because you just wanted a glass, and then forgot about it? Or worse, you drank the whole bottle so that wouldn’t happen, and woke up hungover the next day?
How many times have you wanted to serve good wine at a dinner party, until you’re standing in front of the shelf trying to justify buying four $40 bottles? Even if you can, do you really want to spend $160 on wine tonight?
I ran into these problems all the time. And yes, these were problems. Not the big, existential problems we face as a society, but personal problems nonetheless.
I’ve always loved the idea of boxed wine, because it solves these problems. Boxed wine stays fresh for a long time after opening, and is much more cost effective per bottle to buy. But whenever I bought a box, I was always really disappointed in the quality. Boxed wine brands just weren't good, and that ultimately was a dealbreaker for me.
In early 2021, I was hanging out with my wife, brother, and some friends in a park, and we got on the topic of boxed wine. We started asking the fundamental question: “well...why isn’t there really good boxed wine?” It was something I’d been tossing around in my mind for a while, but I always assumed there was a technical reason why you couldn’t do it.
This time, my interest was piqued enough to dive into researching it, and I went down the rabbit hole. The more I read, the more I realized that it was a cultural problem more than a technical one. In the United States, producers have been putting low-end wine in boxes for decades, creating a stigma and misconception about the format. In Europe, however, boxed wine is commonplace, both in restaurants and as a house wine at home. And it’s delicious.
I also learned that it’s MUCH more environmentally friendly than bottled wine, by a whopping 50%. The New York Times put out a study that said switching to wine in a box for the 97% of wines that are made to be consumed within a year would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2 million tons. That's the same as removing 400,000 cars from the road every year. Aha! There WAS a big existential problem this would help solve.
The idea was simple: take what’s great about boxed wine -- freshness, lower cost, and sustainability -- and significantly improve the glaring hole in the product -- the quality of the wine. My vision was amazing wine at an amazing price in a superior format for the consumer and the environment. Win, win, win, win.
And we didn’t want to stop there. I also saw the growing trend in people buying wine directly from producers. Alcohol distributors in this country hold an enormous amount of power, which drives prices up for consumers. If we could ship our wine directly to our customers, we could invest even more in the quality of the wine rather than paying the middleman. Another win.
The next day, I called my friend Allie Ketcham, owner of Ketcham Estate, a beautiful 10-acre sustainably farmed vineyard in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. I told her about my idea, and she loved it. Allie and the vineyard's General Manager (or "Director of Happiness" as they more eloquently call her), Renee, started introducing me to the people they work with to make and produce their wine, and the idea started to grow.
By July, we had a finished package design and had pieced together the supply chain for the inaugural run. And most importantly, we had an absolutely beautiful Pinot Noir from Ketcham’s vineyard that far exceeded the quality of the other boxed wines on the market.
I decided to run a pilot in Cincinnati, OH to kickstart the brand, work out the kinks in the process, and get consumer feedback on all aspects of the business. The Cincinnati community embraced the brand immediately, and I felt both humbled and excited when our first run sold out in just five days. We were onto something that people really wanted.
We learned a LOT from that first run. Like that it’s hard to ship wine, licensing laws are complicated, and the broad perception that boxed wines are mediocre can’t be understated. We also learned that people really, really like this wine, and can't wait to get their hands on more. That was more than enough. Many of our first group of buyers have been generous in providing feedback, both good and bad (which is often more valuable), which will help us make better decisions as we start to grow.
After a second sell-out limited launch in November, this time nationwide, we knew it was time. After searching far and wide, tasting more than 50 wines for our next release, we found an absolutely beautiful 2019 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon for our first broad release.
We have a big vision to disrupt the wine industry and show people why boxed wine is better. We have a long way to go, of course, but we’re incredibly motivated by our first few groups of customers.
- Jake Whitman, Founder, Really Good Boxed Wine