Ryan Sproule, Founder of Black Box Wines
Got Tannins is happy to present our readers an interview with Ryan Sproule, the founder of Black Box Wines. Ryan founded the company in 2002; one of his intentions being to reverse the reputation of premium wines always having to be in glass bottles.
Boxed wines are experiencing a renaissance. NPR's recently ran a segment on All Things Considered talking about the growing popularity and the future expecations of boxed wines. You can listen here.
What was the first memory you have of wine?
My parents used to serve wine when they had guests for dinner. When I was a teenager, my mom sometimes let me taste it. I remember being very unimpressed.
What was the first wine that you considered to be good wine?
In my early twenties a friend who worked as a server in a high-end restaurant introduced me to a good and reasonably priced Italian red from Valpolicella. It really changed my perception of wine and resulted in me becoming a regular a wine drinker.
Do you think it's the taste of a good wine or the experience while drinking the wine that makes it good? Why?
Definitely both. Wine has the good fortune to be prevalent at many get togethers and special meals so it really benefits from this positive association.As wine becomes more mainstream in the US, and people consume it more as an every day beverage, taste becomes the paramount factor.
How big is your cellar?
I don’t really have one. I have never have much more than a half dozen bottles on hand. They always seem disappear before they have a chance to age.
What is your favorite varietal (i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot)? Why?
I don’t really have a favorite. I drink about 50/50 red/white depending what I am in the mood for. I usually drink the classic table wine varietals, but I also enjoy sweet dessert wines.
What is your favorite region for wine (i.e. Napa Valley, Margaret River, Montelcino)
I do not have a clear favorite, but overall Sonoma County probably offers broadest range of both excellent white and red varietals.
What is your favorite vineyard or brand?
Clearly Black Box ;). I created Black Box to cater to exactly what I wanted as a daily consumer of wine: unbeatable value and convenience. If I did not own the brand I would be probably be its most loyal customer.
Do you have a favorite bottle? (varietal, region, year)
Nothing stands out. If I am going to drink a really high-end wine I tend to opt for a Napa Cab.
What wine are you saving for a special day?
At this point, nothing. The wines that I hope to save for that “special occasion” always end up being a casualty when friends come over and we open that second bottle.
Where do you buy the majority of your wine? (Retailer, Direct, etc. Feel free to name the store you shop at or the site you buy from)
Now that I live in the suburbs it’s usually my local Safeway. The have a large selection of quality wines.
Have you ever had an organic wine? Did you like it?
Very rarely. I have never noticed any particular difference from non-organic.
What is the most you've ever spent on a bottle of wine?
Probably around $200 for business dinners that were expensed. As for purchasing at a retailer, for my own personal consumption, probably $25. I’m too frugal to spend much more than that.
What was your favorite wine experience (or one of your top experiences)?
When Michael Mondavi was the chairman of Mondavi Wines he invited me to their Napa winery for a private luncheon. He had his chef prepare a gourmet meal and brought out their best wines. The wines were exquisite and the multi-course meal perfectly complemented them. It was a beautiful summer day and we dined for two and half hours on a private terrace overlooking the lush vineyards. The combination of food, conversation and atmosphere made this my most memorable wine experience.
What one wine do you recommend for our readers to try?
If you were looking for a high quality wine that is affordable for every day drinking and will stay fresh after opening, I would highly recommend Black Box.
How do you think the perception of boxed wine has changed in the last year to two years? How does this perception vary in regions around the world?
In the U.S. the image of boxed wine is in the process of a very successful makeover. The availability of high quality bag-in-box wines is making the consumer aware that the being in a box no longer means the wine is lower end. Consumers are understanding that the package does not effect the taste of the wine, and they are embracing the benefits of the box which include: lower price than bottled wine for the same quality; a vacuum sealed pouch that keeps the wine fresh for 4 weeks after opening as opposed to a couple days with an opened bottle; a far more portable and practical package for wine drinkers who enjoy outdoor activities like camping, boating, etc. In Australia and Europe where per capita wine consumption is much higher than the U.S., the revolution has already happened and premium boxed wine has become commonplace. In Australia over 50% of the wine sold is in box.
How do expect this to change over the next few years?
As consumer awareness in the U.S. increases, the category will continue to grow. Lower packaging and shipping costs allow boxed wine producers to sell the wine at a lower price than the equivalent quality bottled wine and the greener environmental foot print of boxed wine appeals to persons concerned about the future of the planet. These factors have resulted in premium-boxed wine becoming the fastest growing product category in the wine business.