Whats with those box wines?
By Joe Scutella, wine columnist
In the hard bitten economic reality that is slowly forming whatever our new normal will be, the most asked question of us wine merchants might well be, “what’s with those box wines?” Wine drinkers who once could not even forsake a cork for a screw cap are suddenly now curios about what’s in the box. The truth, like almost any thing else in life, is a mixed bag of good, bad and just plain ugly.
The first thing to note is that the wine is not actually in a box. The box contains a plastic bladder which holds the wine and is supposed to be air tight. Because the bag shrinks, allowing no air in as the wine is poured from a self-closing spigot, the theory is that it will last 6 to 8 weeks sitting on your kitchen counter or in your fridge. In my experiments with the products I have found that time frame to be somewhat exaggerated. Perhaps a couple of weeks for the reds and maybe a month for refrigerated whites is more realistic; though some do better than others. The second thing to note is that these wines are not built to last. They are fresh, “drink them as you buy them” wines, and many even contain a sort of expiration date worth looking for. That said, these bag in a box wines have a practical function, are utilitarian and some can even be pleasing under the right circumstances. Perhaps if you’re tailgating, throwing a pool party or hosting a very casual barbecue, box wines might fit well the bill. Here are some of the best that I have found for quality, value and durability.
Esporao Alandra Tinto or Branco, 3 liter bag in a box wines, $24.99
Made from indigenous Portuguese grapes, the red version is medium bodied, fresh and vibrant, with lots of red berry fruit and nice spice. This wine stayed on my counter for 18 days and the last glass was as fresh as the first. The white is also honed from indigenous grapes and has a lovely citrus and pear nectar quality, as well as very nice mineral notes. It too was able to retain its freshness, in its case for three weeks.
Vinchio Kroara Red or White, 3 liter bag in a box, $22.99
These wines from Italy’s Piemonte were a pleasant surprise when we found them. The red is 100 percent Barbera, the region’s workhorse grape. It possesses a very plum-cherry profile and a fleshy, velvety mouth feel. It has been on my countertop for 12 days thus far and so far so good. The white is made from the Cortese grape, famous for producing the region’s Gavi wines. It has a lovely apricot and crisp pear fruit palate with some tingly minerals in the finish.
Domestically there are any number of wines in this format; though not any quite as good as those previously mentioned. This technology continues to improve however and we are seeing a wider array of wines using it and they are getting better and better, so keep an eye out as new ones seem to appear almost daily. As always, consult your wine merchant for advice. Box wines may not have the romance of the bottle and cork but pour them in a nice decanter or a carafe, light a candle, cook a nice cozy dinner, turn off that other box, and then do your best to summon up the romance yourselves.
‘nuff said, Joe Scutella
Joe Scutella is manager and buyer at Mallory Lane Wine & Spirits in Franklin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on: 9/23/2009