There are many reasons to thank the ranks of independent merchants and assorted journalists that pepper the wine world. Both parties, offering benign generosity, seek to reduce the intimidation that the complex world of wine often creates amongst the enthusiastic consumer. Although they frequently deserve our gratitude, both on occasion are no strangers to periodic forays into the wistful realms of wine grandiosity.

Never were the battle lines so fiercely drawn or the prose so ostentatious as when the screw cap first declared war on the traditional cork. Cork was subjugated by the word ‘closure’ as contentious phraseology drew battle lines between the traditional claret quaffers and the technology hungry, new world garagistes. At the start of this heated encounter the science was young and the effects of ageing and storage could not be adequately monitored – however few allowed the early absence of facts to get in the way of a flurry of nostalgic fiction.

The aluminium screw cap, or Stelvin closure, was initially berated as the enemy of the civilised world. The idea that the languid pop of an oak cork could be supplanted by the metallic click of the screw cap was beyond contemplation for many detractors. The old guard, brought up on Latin declensions and weekend cricket, likened it to the thwack of leather on willow being replaced by the shake of a biscuit tin full of cutlery.

As science arrived, exhorting the perils of our carbon footprint and highlighting the increasing failures in natural cork stoppers – the screw top found new ambassadors. Winemakers, from both the new world and the old, found this novel engineering allowed their precious ferment to reach their equally precious customer in the same condition it left them. The new breed of wine bar that sprang from the decline of the traditional public house, needed wines that could be sold by the glass and a closure that allowed the residual liquid to remain in a drinkable condition for longer. The burgeoning new domestic audience for wine – which in turn caused the choice of wine available in the off-trade sector to grow exponentially – did not necessarily wish to finish an entire bottle in one sitting. With a dazzling variety of experimental closures becoming available, the wine lover wanted to effortlessly reseal their precious bounty for consumption another day. For them the screw cap was, and still is, a boon. Yet it took some of the wine commentators a painfully long time to settle down and reflect upon its practical merits rather than its apparent sociological defects.

So, if it is not to be laid down, why do we yearn for the precious cork, the heavyweight glass bottle, the lead capsule and the engraved label? Why indeed. Some of the commentators encourage us to believe that these expensive and outmoded attributes guarantee some kind of mythical quality in the bottle and a certain status on the dinner table. Regrettably, a little of this nonsense still prevails.

Oxygen is wine’s worst enemy and the passage of ageing often requires near laboratory conditions. A perfect natural cork set in a well-cellared bottle will probably never be replaced. Indeed such elusive alchemy is obligatory for wines than require decades in quiet containment.

But 80% of the wine we buy in the UK is consumed within twelve days of purchase – the bulk of which is drunk within twelve hours!

So if we are to understand that it is the wine that speaks, not the obscure trappings or arcane technology that surround it, how do we want such a wine delivered?

In perfect condition and ready to drink, coupled with a capability for faultless storage and a cocked eye to the effects of a sizeable carbon footprint perhaps? Well if the answer is yes, the ever-resourceful marketeers in the wine industry have already provided the answer – Boxed Wine. Here was a method that claimed to keep a couple of litres of wine up to eight weeks in neutral conditions – although I personally have never put it to the test as my consumption rate is a trifle quicker.

Now we find boxed wine, or bag-in-the-box, has walked straight onto the field of conflict from which the screw top had recently and triumphantly withdrawn.

Many wine lovers and commentators were led to believe that boxed wine contains only the cheapest form of plonk and that bottled wine is automatically of a superior quality. Odd then to contemplate that if you have been drinking a carefully selected bottle of one of the many brand leaders from California, France, Australia or Chile, you may already be consuming bag-in-the-box wine. But this particular polyethelene bag regularly carries 24,000 litres (the equivalent of 32,000 bottles) and this box is called a sea container. Many leading supermarkets regularly import a proportion of their wines in such vast containers, all neatly lined with a condom-like balloon, and which are subsequently decanted into bottles within the UK. Ironically even more is transferred from large box to small, here on our shores.

I am sure there can be but few left in the contemporary wine world who would wish to continue the shipment of thousands of tons of glass around the planet, but fewer I imagine would readily dispense with bottles altogether. But apart from wines that require years, even decades, to mature within glass, eco-friendly containers of 2, 3 and 5 litres are fast becoming the order of the day for informal slurping. With boxed wines providing a 91% reduction in packaging materials and a 79% reduction in carbon emissions, we have already witnessed many of our environmentally sensitive winemakers embracing the concept of wine in boxes rather than bottles. With a concomitant decrease in costs, what we may now hope for is that many more of them will be brave enough to dramatically increase the quality of their contents. What havoc would this play with critical commentary?