Box Wines Aren't So Soggy After All

Reluctantly embracing the concept that not all good wines come from a bottle
Apr 27, 2011

Wine in a box never seemed like a great idea to me. Maybe it’s a generational thing. I spent most of my adult life trying to forget the nasty jug wines I drank for fiscal reasons back in college.

Times change. Even though I’m the first in a crowd to champion a good value, I was a holdout until I started tasting the new generation of box wines in blind tastings for Wine Spectator. Some are damn tasty for the price, the sort of no-nonsense wines you’ll find by the carafe at a neighborhood bistro in France.

Some names you can generally depend on in box wines are Black Box, Bota Box, Bandit, Boho and Wine Cube. They typically sell for about $20 to $25 for a 3-liter box, which is the equivalent of four 750ml bottles.

Still, there’s plenty of dreck dressed up in snazzy new boxes, so it pays to shop carefully, even at that price.

(WineSpectator.com members can read our 2009 tasting report on rising quality in box wines and can also search our online Wine Ratings Search for reviews of the above-mentioned brands and others.)

If you’re new to the concept, the wine isn’t really in a box. It’s in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag inside a box and dispensed through a tap. The bag collapses as the wine is dispensed, preventing oxygen from getting inside and preserving the wine for several weeks. If you’re a casual drinker and enjoy a glass or two a night, it’s just the thing.

One of my current favorites is Bota Box California Old Vine Zinfandel 2009, which sells for $19 for a 3-liter box. It’s loaded with juicy, friendly cherry and vanilla flavors. It’s a great little everyday red for new wine drinkers, and even veterans who aren’t too snobby will enjoy a glass. I rated it 84 points, non-blind.

Bota is made by Delicato at its large facility in California’s Central Valley. The blend is 77 percent Zinfandel, mixed with hearty reds like Alicante Bouschet and Petite Sirah, all harvested from vineyards in the Central Valley. The wine never saw the inside of an oak barrel—at that price you can’t get picky—but it was aged in stainless steel tanks lined with a 50-50 blend of American and French oak staves to add the impression of oak aging.

Have you tried any of the new-generation box wines? Do you have a recent discovery to share?

Packaging Boxes / cartons

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