We have never reviewed box wines in this column, until I recently noticed a few familiar names being offered in “bag-in-the-box” format. The price seemed right, but how about the wines?
The concept makes sense. You put wine into a collapsible plastic bag, which is protected by a colorful cardboard box. There will be a handy spout of various styles that take a little getting used to. You are rewarded with one or two extra bottle equivalents. And you don’t have to worry about spoilage if you only want one or two glasses.
A lot about this concept makes sense, but much like screw caps there is consumer resistance, and that can be a big hurdle. The biggest problem is not the delivery system; it is the quality of the wines being offered. Initially these were very low-end wines, cheap industrial blends, and some of them still are. That’s OK, they have found an audience and everybody’s happy. But gradually we are seeing recognizable labels with better than average wine being offered in this practical format (the Big House line, Folonari, Kysela, La Vielle Ferme).
According to an article on WineBusiness.com, box wine sales doubled from 2009 to 2014, but the big hurdles are consumer resistance and the fact that wine producers are reluctant to experiment with the format. We are getting closer but could still be 5-10 years away.
Some of these wines were better than average and better than what is served at a lot of weddings and fund raisers. If you are in charge of an event you might want to consider a few of these (maybe keeping the box below the counter.We tasted 16 different boxed wines and rated the better ones here for your consideration. For the whites we really liked the La Petite Frog Picpoul de Pinet from the local co-op in Pinet (France) but @ $29.99 you were only getting one extra bottle, well below the typical discount offered by most. Picpoul de Pinet @ $10 a bottle is already a good deal, but we want more, right.
While most offered 3 liters (4 standard bottles) for around $16-$20. Big House White was another favorite along with several pinot grigio and chardonnay. So, for parties, family gatherings, and mid-week quaffing these wines can make a lot of sense and keep you on budget. No more pouring out half-empty bottles.
White wine in the bag-in-box format makes the most sense because they can be stored in the fridge, while reds are a little more problematic. Reds should get a slight chill before serving. This can be solved with the use of the little liquid filled multi-colored balls that you refrigerate (Bed, Bath & Beyond or World Market). Just put one or two into your glass of red wine and let it hang out for about 10 minutes. You might even like what it does to the wine. Actually one of my favorites was a blend of the Loft cabernet and the Loft merlot, ½ & ½. You can play around with these box wines without worrying about spoilage.
When you are in your favorite wine store and you see a strange guy with a big nose and fake mustache, come over and introduce yourself, I would like to meet you, but please don’t tell anyone you saw me with a couple of boxed-wines. In the mean time, pay attention to some of these offerings. We won’t break-through to consumer reacceptance until you do the “boxed-wine” thing a few times.
Box wines are ideal for parties, tailgates, poolside, etc.. Try one or two and I think you will be surprised.
|La Petite Frog, Picpoul de Pinet||***½||Just Like the Bottle||France||$30|
|Big House ’13 White||***½||A Tasty Drink!||California||$17|
|Loft ’13 Chardonnay, Monterey||***½||Another Favorite!||California||$17|
|Cuboid Chardonnay||***½||If you like Oak||California||$22|
|Bota Brick ‘13 Pinot Grigio 1.5 Lt||***||Nice Pinot Grigio!||California||$9|
|Fantini ’13 Pinot Grigio 3 Lt.||***||Another Best Buy!||Italy||$16|
|Loft ’13 Cabernet, Lodi||***½||A Best of the Reds||California||$18|
|Black Box ’13 Cabernet, Chile||***½||Another Top Red||Chile||$22|
|Big House Pinot Noir||***½||Good Pinosity! A Fav!||California||$17|
|Folonari ’13 Toscana (IGT)||***½||Good Value Here!||Italy||$14|
|Loft ’13 Merlot, Lodi||***||This is Worth a Look!||California||$18|
Our four-star rating system and how it might compare to the WS 100-point scale:
* Decent (80-83)
** Good (86-87)
*** Very Good (87-89)
**** Excellent (90+)
All ratings are only the opinions of our tasters and not meant to offend your personal favorites.
To contact Richard Fadeley, write him at firstname.lastname@example.org