Boxed wine?!

Posted by on January 29, 2012

Ok, I’m going to go out on a limb here, and hope that my wine-loving family and friends don’t completely write off my judgement after this post. The subject, which is obvious from the title, is boxed wine. 

I’m a big fan, in theory, of wine from a box (well, technically a BiB, or bag-in-box, but you already knew that). I like the idea of being able to have a single glass on a weeknight without worrying about finishing off a bottle — the opened boxes last for about a month. I like the efficiencies of distributing wine in compact, lightweight, energy-saving packaging. About the only thing I don’t like is losing the ritual and anticipation that you get as you uncork a long-awaited special bottle. But on a normal night, when I just want an easy glass of above-average wine, a box is perfect.
I’ve read a few articles (in Wine Spectator and elsewhere) about rising quality in boxes, so I’ve set out to try a few lately. My first one was a California Cabernet by way of a Bota Box. Overall, not bad, but not really what I like in a wine — it was too fruity for me, with a bit of cloying sweetness. Not a “dump the rest in the sink” failure, but not something I’ll likely buy again. However, if you like a lot of juicy, berry fruitness and not a lot of tannic acidity, this might be the right one for you. 

The next time I was in Binny’s, I asked one of the guys what he thought about the boxed wines they carried. Having talked to this particular person before, I trusted what he had to say, and was interested to hear him recommend “any wines that aren’t made in California”. The rationale here was that many other countries don’t ascribe the same stigma to wines that come in a bag, and therefore feel like they can box some of their decent products. This in mind, I chose a Tempranillo (the grape from Spain that is used in Rioja) called Charla.

I’m drinking a glass now, and I’m very happy with the choice. Charla has much less of the fruity sweetness that I didn’t care for, and more of the back-of-your-tongue, balanced tannins that I really like in a wine. It’s exactly what I look for in an everyday bottle, and it comes in the vastly superior (at least for weekday wine) bag format. It pairs perfectly with some casual stemless wine glasses for some no-nonsense, “I’m in it for the wine, not the snobbery” drinking.

Give boxed wine a shot. I’m tossing around the idea of throwing a wine tasting party, and I might sneak in some Charla and try to win a few converts. As more people buy into the format, more good products will come. At the very least, the research is far from grueling.

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