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What Is The Best Boxed Wine To Buy


When you think of boxed wine, there's a good chance that the first thing that comes to mind is the college days of head-ache inducing Franzia. The sickly sweet Fruity Red Sangria option made a frequent appearance at college parties I attended for good reason: it can serve a crowd and it's extremely budget-friendly.

That's true of most boxed wines. As certified sommelier and wine expert Alisha Blackwell-Calvert notes, "In a party or picnic environment and in a chef's kitchen, boxed wines have proven to be a fuss-free addition."

Not to mention that they're popular with campers since they're more packing- and environmentally-friendly than their glass bottle counterparts. Many boxed wines will keep for 30 days to six weeks after being opened, which is great for anyone who likes to have a casual glass at a time without needing to worry about having a bottle go bad.

With those benefits of boxed wine in mind, I set out to discover if Franzia was really as bad as I remembered (it was) and if there were better options I would actually enjoy sipping on (there are!). Blackwell-Calvert also gave me some handy tips on what to look for in a boxed wine to get me started.

While I'm no sommelier myself, I've done plenty of wine tastings over the years both in-person and virtually, plus I've taste-tested my way through a good number of canned wines. And, if we're being honest, no real wine snobs are putting wine boxes in their cellars, so most boxed wines are made with casual wine enthusiasts in mind anyway. I enlisted the help of my fiance and some friends to help me taste-test on a (socially distant) outing to a nearby park where we sipped and compared a range of options to choose our favorites.

Found in eco-friendly and relatively easy to transport boxes, Bota Box conveniently comes in three different sizes: 3 liters, 1.5 liters, and a "mini" size of 500 milliliters. The three-liter option is the more traditional boxed wine size and your best bet for serving several people. But the minis still come out to three glasses of wine and provide a compelling case for an easier option to take on a picnic or a short weekend camping getaway.

Bota Box was a particular favorite of our taste-testing day. While every option we tried received praise from the group, the Cabernet Sauvignon was particularly tasty and the Malbec was my personal favorite of every boxed wine I sampled. It featured notes of blueberry and blackberry and had just the right amount of spice while still being easy to drink.

Bandit was another standout favorite brand for the group. Clearly marketed towards outdoor enthusiasts and those taking boxed wine on-the-go, these wines come in smaller one-liter and 500-milliliter options. The brand was founded in 2003 as an adventure-ready option and is based out of California.

I discovered House Wines as a favorite when sampling canned wines, and its boxed wines don't disappoint either. Created in Walla Walla, Washington, House Wine is the brainchild of an ex-rock n' roll manager and embodies the true casual drinking spirit.

Sold in large three-liter boxes with easy-pour spouts, House Wines are a convenient option whether you stock them on your kitchen counter or the back of a truck bed for a tailgate. The rich and smooth Pinot Noir paired well with our picnic cheese plate. In general, the boxed rosés weren't my favorite, but the House Rosé was one of the best with crisp floral and fruity notes that were particularly refreshing.

Keeping with a suggestion from Blackwell-Calvert to opt for wines from specific regions rather than general countries, I opted to try this rosé from Provence and was rewarded with my favorite of all the boxed rosés I sampled. If I hadn't poured it out of the box myself, I would have been shocked to find out it didn't come from a bottle.

Vin Vault specializes in boxed wine and features a portfolio of award-winning varietals. Its head winemaker has noted that he enjoys crafting wines that benefit from the unique qualities of a box. This certainly came across in the wines we tasted, which lived up to the hype.

While I typically stay away from blends, the Red Blend was a unique and delicious flavor profile with an interesting dark roast coffee finish that really came through and made it stand out. White wine enthusiasts will also enjoy the Chardonnay, which is rich but with fruity notes that keep it from being too heavy.

While it can be harder to track this option down in its boxed version, it's well worth it if you can find it. From the Aragon region of Spain, this wine is from vineyards planted on a plateau of the Huecha river.

Like House Wine, Waterbook is based out of Walla Walla, Washington. Established in 1984, the winery features a 49-acre vineyard and the two namesake ponds. You can sample the wines at its tasting room or in some restaurants, or you can have the wine make an appearance at your next gathering courtesy of its boxed options.

I found the Chardonnay crisp and easy to drink thanks to tropical fruit flavors and a hint of vanilla. Meanwhile, the Cab Sav has a bold and slightly acidic profile that those looking for a dryer red wine will enjoy.

Black Box is a fairly well-known brand but may come as a surprise that it's the standard house wine at some restaurants. While it may not be the fanciest wine in town, it's still a big step up from Franzia. For a no-fuss, easy red or white option, Black Box is an excellent choice. And, after all, boxed wine really is all about no fuss.

"Fresh, unoaked varietals fair better in a box," she explains. "Typically, a producer's best juice isn't going into a box, but I recommend looking for one with a more specific region than 'country wine,'" she says.

While boxed wines from great foreign wine regions can be harder to track down and aren't always as readily found online or at local stores, Blackwell-Calvert particularly recommends boxed wine from countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Sicily for great values. "Because those countries are not in high demand, you can get delicious wine at a reasonable price," she notes.

While I preferred rosés and bubbles when I tested canned wines, I was surprised to find that overall, the reds were actually my favorites of the boxed options. However, tastes and favorites will of course vary from drinker to drinker.

Blackwell-Calvert echoed these cautionary sentiments adding that it's even easier to overindulge because "with boxed wine, the contents are usually not visible to the consumer," unlike with traditional glass bottles where you can see exactly how much is gone. "That makes it is easier to overindulge and lose track of how many glasses are consumed," she says.

Since many of the boxes are made of thin cardboard, they became soggy and some actually tore apart leaving us to awkwardly use just the bladders. I suggest using ice packs instead if you do plan to keep your boxed wine in a cooler.

On the flip side, boxed wine does have a shelf life. Most companies recommend pouring it out no later than six to eight months after purchasing. As a best practice, we recommend buying boxed wine as you intend to consume it versus stock-piling in the garage corner for a rainy day.

Once hidden away from judging eyes behind coffee machines or cookie jars or stashed deep inside refrigerators, box wines have begun to come of age and can represent the ultimate value for wine drinkers. The only problem is winnowing the wheat from the chaff because as we found firsthand -- there's still a whole lot of boxed plonk out there.

1) Convenience is a major factor. The typical box is three liters (3L), which is the equivalent of 4 bottles. Boxes are easy to buy, easy to transport from the store (seriously, try carrying 8 bottles of wine in your arms and then compare that to just two boxes), easy to use (no corkscrew necessary), and always on hand and ready to please whether you just want a smidge or you need to (discreetly) fill your Starbucks Trenta cup.

2) Cost! Not only do you generally save purely because you are buying in bulk, but bag in box packaging costs a fraction of traditional glass bottlings for the same amount of wine. In addition, with the box packaging itself weighing about the same as a single glass bottle there are massive savings in shipping costs which in theory get passed on to you.

3) It's environmentally friendly. Thanks to the aforementioned lighter packaging, box wines are much lighter to ship at all points in the supply chain and have a carbon footprint less than half that of the equivalent bottles.

4) It stays fresh for 4-6 weeks. Even the best preservation methods for a bottle of wine will only save it for a few days, but with the vacuum sealed pouches used today your wine stays as good as new for weeks after you pour the first glass.

5) And last but not least, box wine puts an end to worries about cork taint which affects a surprising number of bottles. (Probably unknowingly to most consumers -- they just assume the wine was no good and don't buy it again.)

Because of these advantages it's no surprise that sales of box wines are increasing year over year at a double-digit rate (10+%) in the USA. Even with this increase; however, adoptance in the U.S. is still quite low at less than 10% of sales. In Europe, on the other hand, box wines make up about 20% of wine sales and in Australia, the land of the screw cap, it's an astounding 50%!

After tasting hundreds of boxed wines, we find that they generally seem to divide into two camps -- those that focus on keeping the wine as cheap as possible (which are not always the brands you would expect) while still producing something relatively good versus those that are focused more on the quality of the wine but turn to the box for convenience or because of environmental concerns. As you might guess the quality of wine is significantly better in the second group.

It's also interesting to note that while the trend in bottled wines has been to higher alcohol reds, very few of these boxes cross the 13% alcohol level. My guess is that this is simply another cost saving measure, as the excise tax for wine increases once alcohol level hits 14%. This does raise some concerns as it could mean producers are putting too much focus on their costs rather than on quality -- i.e. are they sacrificing the quality of the wine to keep the alcohol percentage artificially low I have my suspicions, although no definitive answers, but it's certainly something to watch for in this growing segment. 59ce067264


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