For Good Value Wine, Think Inside The Box
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t judge the wine by its packaging. Don’t prejudge the wine by its screw cap.
And, I will add, don’t judge a wine by its box.
Yes, I’m writing about wines that come in a box because they are some of the best values on the market.
At a recent wine tasting for the trade, I made it a point to taste all the wines that came in boxes – not just to make a point, but to find out where the real value is for everyday drinkers.
There are plenty of wine drinkers who turn up their noses at wines that come with screw caps. As far as wine from a box, there are those who don’t even consider it wine, much less consider actually drinking it! Yes, it’s cheap, but so what? Do you think you can’t find something enjoyable, quaffable, thirst-quenching and cheap at the same time?
Well, I’m here to tell you that they not only exist, but that they over-deliver in terms of value.
Let’s talk about the vessel itself, if you can call a bag a vessel. Way back in the B.C. days, how do you think they transported wine? In amphorae or casks?
Nope, those would be too large to haul around, especially if you don’t have any beasts of burden, and in most cases the wine would go bad before they get to drink it all.
They carried the wine in skins. This is certainly something I wouldn’t recommend now, but that’s how they did it. Now we have plastic polymer bags that are sterile, clean, durable and lightweight. They are easy to transport, difficult to break and easy to chill down.
The bag takes up less space for its size. And for the “greenies” in the crowd, that means there are fewer emissions from transporting the wine. And perhaps the best thing about them is that they do not allow any air to get into the bag, so there are no oxidative effects going on with the wine, unlike wine bottles where air takes up the space in the bottle once you pour the wine out. The end effect is that your last glass is just as good as the first glass you poured out of the bag. The proof is in the bag.
Let’s take 2009 Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc, for instance. This box retails for under $20 and holds three liters of wine. That’s four bottles in one bag in a box.
Where does it come from? Well, only the most famous place that Sauvignon Blanc is grown: Marlborough, New Zealand. And it is a stunningly delicious wine. It springs from the glass with wonderfully ripe grapefruit, lemon and lime zest, and sweet pineapple and guava notes. It is light and zingy with a long, fresh and vibrant aftertaste. With all due respect to all other $20 bottles of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, this one rocks and is one-fourth the price!
Everyday red wine lovers will jump for joy when they find 2008 Big House Red in a box. This one costs less than 20 bucks, too. They don’t say what grapes are in it, but at this price you won’t care. It has a juicy, plump, red fruit nose that first grabs your attention. Then, when you put it into your mouth, it explodes with sweet red currants, a hint of strawberry/cherry jam, a round and filling texture and pleasant finish. It is medium-bodied and pleasurable. And it will be even more pleasing to your pocketbook.
I often think of doing a blind tasting of wines from a box versus more recognizable and more expensive wines that come from the bottle (both fresh and previously opened) with some sommeliers or wine professionals to see what they think.
Watch out, wine geeks, here I come! Despite my mischievous intent, I am a big believer in the quality of box wines.
Also look for Black Box Chardonnay from Monterey ($20), which is another great value.
Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org