Box wine with serious bang for the buck
June 25th, 2011
02:45 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant - and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

A lot of people say that Burgundy, in France, is where the most pitfalls lie for the unwary wine drinker—the Burgundians have a rep, it seems, for separating saps from their shekels. I’m going to disagree. I think boxed wine is where people ought to watch their step.

Of course, this wasn’t always the case. It used to be that all boxed wine was bad. That was easy. Now things are trickier, because a number of producers are actually putting good wine - and sometimes really good wine - into boxes. It’s actually possible to go out there, trade your twenty bucks for a 3 liter (that’s four bottles-worth) box of wine, and end up not only with something you can tolerate, but something you’ll actually enjoy quite a bit.

Plus, you get the basic box benefits on top of that: The wine stays fresh for up to three weeks once you start dispensing it; boxes leave less of a carbon footprint, so your green friends will love you; and there’s no glass involved, so you can take your box o’ wine to the beach with you. That’s an excellent thing, given that it’s almost July and we’re all about to start roasting.

Because I’m a nice fellow, I tasted through a bunch of boxed wines so that you wouldn’t have to, and sorted the bad (and the really, really bad) from the good. Here are the best:

2009 Bota Box California Chardonnay ($19)
An easy-to-drink, appley Chardonnay in a box made from 100 percent recycled cardboard. With soy-based inks, no less.

NV Pepperwood Grove Big Green Box Chardonnay ($20)
In your face Chardonnay, in an old-school California way: it’s big, ripe, oaky, and luscious. If you like that style, this one’s for you.

2008 Würtz Riesling ($22)
This is a trocken Riesling, a German term meaning steely, dry, and not-the-icky-sweet-stuff-so-don’t-worry. It’s flinty and crisp, and packaged in an all-black box. Very Bauhaus. Download an old SNL episode, and drink it while you watch Sprockets.

2008 Banrock Station Shiraz ($19)
Classic Aussie “good juice.” A lot of blackberry flavor, not much in the way of tannins, a nip of pepper on the end. This one’s ideal for cookouts.

2008 Powers Cabernet Sauvignon ($24)
Proof, yet again, that Washington State’s Columbia Valley is a great source for inexpensive but surprisingly impressive Cabernets. A jolt of Syrah (about 12 percent) adds some oomph and spice.

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soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Finger Lakes gal

    I'm rather new to wine drinking but I live in the Finger Lakes region of New York and we have some awesome wineries here. I've been trying different wines from different wineries weekly and have found a few favorites. When I discovered some of them were available in a box for a much better value, I gave them a try and they are exactly the same as the bottled wine. I noticed that there were no NY wines in this article, yet NY wines are delicious! Some of my favorites are Red Cat from Hazlitt and Sweet Walter (either Red or Rose) from Bully Hill.

    December 5, 2013 at 8:46 am | Reply
  2. BarbaraAnn

    Take the bladder out of the box to really save space. Also fun to float the bladder 'o wine in the pool. Another cool product is Sofia Cupolla's sparkling wine in CANS. Yes, you heard that right. Cute widdle pink cans with widdle straws in a cute box.

    June 18, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Reply
  3. mark blaylock

    An interesting article, but I agree with some of the other feedback in that it barely touches all the points. One of the key reasons why you see less people reaching for boxed wine, is an element of 'snobbishness'. They don't want to be seen by neighbors as serving what might be perceived as cheaper wine. However, there are new products out there in the marketplace that are looking to address this issue. The Boxxle for instance: http://www.boxxlebox.com.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Reply
  4. Neil

    Yellow + Blue delicious organic wines in a 1 liter tetra pak. Check them out.

    June 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Reply
  5. kathy backus

    Boxed wine – apparently my sister in law has been onto something in her long-time love for boxed wine. She's a White Zin lover. I'm a red drinker, so I will check out some of the reds you suggested. And, will have to see if our local fav restaurant – Mountain Town Station – carries any boxed wine in their wine room.

    June 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Reply
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