A Box of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou: 6 Box Wine Comparisons
What on earth inspired me to try boxed wine?
A five-liter box of wine can sell for as little as $11. As a Wise Bread reader, I am sure you understand the pull of a bargain. I confess that, for years, I snubbed it. Boxed wine is nothing new, but I wouldn’t give it the time of day. For that matter, I was also slow to come around to synthetic corks and, (gasp!) screw-tops. However, I could no longer ignore that price sticker. Was it drinkable? I set out to investigate. A heart-warming side note to this story was the ease with which I found assistance in my research. My husband, my daughter, and my friend, Anne, kindly and enthusiastically agreed to sip wine and take notes. I appreciate their sportsmanlike attitudes. Another close friend, MZ, summed up her (and, I’m afraid, my) prejudices:
“Wine in a box? I guess if you find something really good, let me know; maybe I'd get it for a camping trip or something like that. I think I'm too much of a snob to just buy it to have around the house. It just seems wrong - like something a redneck would do.”
So why put wine in a box? Well, for several reasons. It is economical. It is easy to store. Because it is actually in a plastic bag, which collapses inside the box as it is emptied, the wine is exposed to less oxygen, so it keeps longer. Finally, box proponents assert that it’s eco-friendlier than bottled wine. Bottled wine is heavy, which impacts its fuel cost. Some vintners use unbleached paper and soy-based inks in their packaging.
It takes a little getting used to. Seeing frothy (temporary) bubbles on top of my wineglass threw me a little. We theorize that the bubbles occur because of the speed at which the wine shoots out of the small spigot when the box is full. (My old science teacher would probably use terms like fluid velocity and Venturi effect, but this isn’t a science blog.)
We tried six red wines. Here are our results. (Please note that the prices quoted are from Hawaii. Mainland prices should be lower, depending upon your location.)
Vella Burgundy: $13.48, Safeway, five liters.
Once dispensed (one says “dispensed,” when talking about boxed wines since you can’t pour wine from boxes, and you certainly can’t decant), we agreed it had a pleasing, deep burgundy color. We noted tones of cherry, berry, and a nice, light anise finish. There was no astringency in the aftertaste. We would buy this, again.
Franzia “Chillable Red”: $15.99, Sack N’Save, five liters.
Wow. Holy smokes, this wine is SWEET. My husband said I should have been tipped off by the “Chillable” description. The color was very light, almost a pink. If you like a chunky red, this is not for you. Even our daughter, a wine neophyte, said “It’s like juice!” If you like a really sweet wine, feel free, but this isn’t one to our tastes.
Black Box: $23.99, Kmart, three liters.
It has a very beautiful, deep burgundy color. There were very nice berry overtones to this wine. What it was lacking, we felt, was complexity in the “finish.” One enjoyable aspect to drinking good wine is to be able to taste various flavors – like cherry, berry, maybe even chocolate, etc. But this wine just didn’t seem to have much of that. It was “okay,” though, and the price was reasonable.
The “Wine Cube”: $9.99, Target, 1.5 liters.
A product of Trinchero Vineyards, we suspected we had a winner. We were right. This has a woodsy nose, with flavors of plum and chocolate. Nice, long finish. Not only would I buy this again for us, but I would buy this as a gift – the packaging is pretty fun. This would make a good hostess gift.
Bota Box: $13.99, Costco, three liters.
My friend, Anne, pegs this wine as a good value. (Our Costco does not carry this particular wine.) “I think cheap Zinfandel tends to be better tasting than other red wines that need more aging to be enjoyable.”
As to Bota’s Chardonnay, she wrote, “The Chardonnay was very tasty. I prefer a more ‘oak-like’ flavor but what do you expect from a box? I read the description from the box after I tasted it and was in full agreement with their description: ‘This Chardonnay is full of tropical aromas and flavors of fresh pineapple, citrus and a touch of vanilla.’ What I like about the boxed packaging is that the flavor stays pretty good for up to 3 weeks. Most of the cheap stuff I drink in a bottle may be OK when first opened, but goes downhill really fast.”
Would I really buy these products, again? Yes. In fact, I have. I certainly wouldn’t say we are total converts at this point, but we have lost some of our snobbery about boxed wine.
Like many other innovations that have come along in this stubbornly traditional craft, boxes have been slow to catch on; but also like many other innovations, the practicalities of the box are difficult to ignore. So, while I wish there were more varieties to choose from now, there probably will be more choices as the box gains acceptance. If readers have tips on other wines available in boxes, please chime in.