The greatest catalyst of the modern wine box from Italy is the Super-Tuscan variety. Prior to the advent of the Super-Tuscan, most Italian wine boxes were more vintage and rustic. Nowadays they have a newer, more modern look probably due to the non-Super Tuscan wineries' need to compete. The Super Tuscans have changed the landscape of Chianti dramatically. During the middle of the 20th century the Chianti region was producing simple table wines. That same region now is making treasured vintages for investment or for exquisite personal consumption. The 21st century wooden wine box from Italy has followed suit and doesn't seem to be looking back.
Most wooden wine boxes from Italy are medium sized (holds six 750ML bottles). There are many different pine woods that are used in the making of them depending on the type of pine on the vineyard's property. Some of these boxes have rich and dark wood colors while others are ultra-white (and everything in-between). Many are heavy and others weigh very little, but all have lots of character.
When we started Winepine we were able to source and acquire lots of Italian wine crates almost on demand. Times have changed quite a bit since then. Now we're lucky if a few dozen come in once a month and they sell out quickly. I believe this has to do with how much Italian wine is being bought up by investors and held in the box for future sale at auction (You get a higher profit if the wine is complete in the original wine box).
I started wondering why I was writing this piece because most online shop keepers discuss products they can actually sell. Currently I'm unable to sell any Italian wine boxes to anyone because we're all sold out. We've been getting many requests for them lately and it makes me miss the days of a full inventory...
So here's 9 of my favorite ones from the days of old. They're characterized based on detail and uniqueness, not necessarily on quality of wine or price per bottle:
9. Oreno (Super-Tuscan) - Branded on all four sides and lid. The wood grain color is light, and the small design is of an old-world style Roman Pillar.
8. Pieve Santa Restituta - Also branded on all four sides and lid. The design of the vineyard isn't highly detailed, but the crate sides and lid is beveled with grooves all around. One-of-a-kind unique
7. Sassicaia (Super Tuscan) - Possibly the most sought-after Super-Tuscan winery, but the four sides of the crate are embossed with the simple and elegant Sassicaia lettering. The lid is engraved with the iconic star logo. The sides are dovetailed.
6. Falletto - One of the more highly detailed designs on a wine box. The front and back sides have an intricate 3D inspired picture of the winery and vineyard
5. Michele Castellani - One of the more highly detailed designs on a wine box. The front and back sides have an intricate 3D inspired picture of the winery and vineyard. The sides are dovetailed.
3. Marchesi Di Barolo - This is a unique one with a flip-top style lid and latch with an intricately detailed picture of the vineyard castle. The front, back and lid of the crate is branded with the design. The is a classic Barolo, and the sides are dovetailed.
2. Ornellaia (Super Tuscan) - Ornellaia is my favorite Super Tuscan and I don't quite know why. The box doesn't have a particularly high detail design, the wood grain color is medium and it's not especially unique. It may be that the little picture in the center of the logo seems to take me to the vineyard for a moment. That little picture is of the winery and vineyard with a mountain backdrop. If your dreaming of a place to visit, I don't think you'd go wrong with the Ornellaia vineyard. It's on my bucket list..
1. Solaia - I realize that we're not ranking wine boxes based on quality of wine or price per bottle, but there's no denying that Solaia is questionably the best winery of Italy. Some say it's the "First Growth of Tuscany". The lid, front and back sides are branded with the small but highly detailed cote of arms logo of the Solaia vineyard
So there's my 9 favorite. There aren't alot of Italian vineyards that make wooden wine boxes (Perhaps a few dozen more) as winemakers are also businessmen. The cost to make one would have to justify the price of the bottles inside, so there's a whole lot of wine being packaged in cardboard rather than wood. These are really pieces of art and history. There's nothing quite like an Italian wine box.