By now most of us have seen it. Wine in a Box. What’s next? Plastic squeeze tubes of caviar? Kind of takes the romance out of it if you are gooshing caviar right into your mouth from a disposable tube. So how good can boxed wine be?Well, not so bad, thanks for asking.
In fact, the wine doesn’t really come in a box. It comes in a plastic bag in a box. And therein lies the whole reason for it. The wine is in a vacuum-sealed bag which is packaged in a box. The bag has an airtight spout that lets you pour as much wine as you want while the rest of the wine stays in the bag out of the reach of wine-killing oxygen.
Of course, as we all know, oxygen will spoil a wine sooner or later. More oxygen means faster spoiling. I am told that since the air pressure outside the bag is greater than the air pressure inside the bag (which is zero), the bag collapses as wine is dispensed from it. Sorry about the physics lesson, but it is a very simple and very effective process if you are interested in preserving wine you want to drink later.
If the boxed wine itself were lousy, Food & Wine Magazine in its September 2011 issue wouldn’t have an article on Chardonnay in a box. They review 4 Chards, 2 from California, 1 from Chile, and one from France. Each box contains the equivalent of 4 750 ml bottles. This seems to be the standard size for wine in a box. They call the 2009 Bota Box Chardonnay “appley”, and the non-vintage Pepperwoood Grove Big Green Box “superrich”. Both are around $19-$20. The 2010 Crucero, from Chile, is “zesty with creamy pear notes” it is $25. The French Chardonnay is from Burgundy and comes in a wooden box. The reviewers believe the French wine justifies its higher price – $49.
In this issue Food & Wine did not mention one the best known of the boxed wines, Black Box. Black Box has a full line of 5 or 6 varietals, and they have received some accolades for the quality of the wines. I have tasted their Cabernet Sauvignon and their Chardonnay. Each was highly rated; the Chardonnay has a 90 from Wine Spectator. The Cabernet was good as well, but I thought it needed some decanting. I am a big believer in decanting most red wines. Exposure to that nasty old oxygen for half an hour or so softens the wine and it just tastes better if you decant it. Decanting from the box is easy. Just dispense the amount you want into a decanter, a glass or whatever and leave it alone for a little while.
The box is a bit cumbersome on the table with a meal. But at a party or a BBQ in the back yard, it makes perfect sense. So far, boxed wines are not “serious” wines requiring deep thinking, head nodding, and introspection. They are pretty much for drinking. And packaging wine in a box is not illegal no matter how unsophisticated it is. Boxed wine will keep you from spoiling a wine when you don’t drink all of it. It fits very neatly in the refrigerator, and it won’t tip over in the refrigerator door. What’s not to like?
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