Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Castelmaure Corbieres Rouge

Since I just posted the Washington Post piece mentioning this wine, I will add this post to the big list of bag-in-box wines.

Castelmaure Corbieres Rouge 2004
From S.C.V. Castelmaure, Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd, importer
Languedoc, France
5 liter box, vintage dated (also available in 10 liter)
About $30 - $48

50% Carignan, 35% Grenache, 15% Syrah. Ripe blueberry, cherry and garrigue flavors.

Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd.: S.C.V. Castelmaure

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More Party Wine Ideas from the Washington Post

There's a boxed wine among the holiday party wine recommendations from Ben Giliberti in today's Washington Post, and it is neither 5 liter plonk, nor any of the usual suspects in premium 3 liter boxes from California and Australia. This is a 5 liter French import from Kysela Pere et Fils.

Big Bottles That Won't Break Your Party Budget
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Price is usually the major consideration when buying wines for office parties and other large holiday functions, which is why jugs, magnums (1.5-liter bottles) and bag-in-box wines are popular choices for such gatherings. Although in general the quality is truly abysmal, a select few big-bottle wines deliver tasty holiday cheer without breaking the party budget.
. . .
Don't worry about deciding between cork, screw cap or bag-in-box. The only thing that matters is what's inside.

BEN GILIBERTI - Big Bottles That Won't Break Your Party Budget -

Here is Ben's boxed wine recommendation:

Castelmaure 2004 Corbieres ($36 for 5-liter bag-in-box; France; Kysela Pere et Fils Ltd., 540-722-9228): This exceptionally tasty bag-in-box wine is similar to a good Cotes-du-Rhone, with soft fruit and light notes of Provencal herbs.

BEN GILIBERTI - Big Bottles That Won't Break Your Party Budget -

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Boxed Wine Winners - California State Fair Wine Competition

The California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition is the oldest wine competition in North America, and claims to be the most prestigious as well. Boxed wines are judged side by side with 750 ml bottles, and this year (Aug 11 - Sept 4) there are five boxed medal winners.

Here are the 2006 boxed wine winners, and their awards and ratings. (Check out all the winners here.)

Killer Juice Chardonnay 2005
California, Central Coast (South)
3 liter box, $17.99
Silver 88 points

Black Box Chadonnay 2005
California, Monterey County
3 liter box, $18.00
Bronze 87

Fish Eye Pinot Grigio 2005
3 liter box, $14.99
Silver 92

Glen Ellen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2004
3 liter box, $14.99
Silver 92

Black Box Merlot 2003
3 liter box $18.00
Bronze 86

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fish Eye Pinot Grigio 3 Liter Box

A California addition to the growing list of bag-in-box wines:

Fish Eye Pinot Grigio
From Fish Eye Winery, the Wine Group
3 liter box, vintage dated
About $15 - $18

The aromatics in this bottle are like a tropical adventure in paradise! There's a spirited & fresh infusion of ripe melon, apricot and white ginger with intense citrusy notes of juicy red grapefruit and mineral that lingers on the finish. Pair with sushi, shellfish, crisp salad or anything that calls for some zing.

Fish Eye Wines

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Wine Cube Sauvignon Blanc 3 Liter Box

Another addition to our list of bag-in-box wines:

Wine Cube Sauvignon Blanc
From Target/Trinchero Family Estates
California, Napa
3 liter box, vintage dated
About $16

Naturally crisp and refreshing, with appealing herbal aromas and fruit flavors of citrus and green apple, Sauvignon Blanc is a sassy yet sophisticated sipper. This wine shines when it’s produced from cooler-climate coastal grapes. A wine for all seasons, it can be enjoyed poolside or fireside.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

More Party Wine Suggestions for Holiday Entertaining

From the San Francisco Chronicle, W. Blake Grey offers a number of wine recommendations for holiday entertaining, including three in 3-liter boxes. See the full article here.

Party wines that won't bust your budget
W. Blake Gray
Friday, November 24, 2006

The wines below will impress your friends with your good taste, without forcing you to tap deeply into your gift funds.

When one bottle isn't enough, bring a quality 3-liter box of wine.

Banrock Station and Black Box Wines are two good brands that sell for about $15 to $20 for the equivalent of four standard 750-ml bottles.

The 2006 Banrock Station South Eastern Australia Chardonnay ($18) is nicely balanced between lemon tartness and vanilla smoothness, and it's interesting enough to drink on its own. And the bag-in-box format prevents the wine from oxidizing, meaning the wine will stay good as long as four weeks -- if you can keep the party going that long.

Also consider:

2005 Banrock Station South Eastern Australia Shiraz ($18)

2004 Black Box Wines Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($18)

WINE / Party wines that won't bust your budget

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Boxed Wine Helps Make Holiday Parties Easy

From today's Journal (Martinsburg, WV) comes an article on boxed wine's convenience for holiday parties.

The focus on the plonk big three (Franzia, Almaden, Peter Vella), and the mention of Black Box and Trove almost as an afterthought has me thinking. Will we ever see a really good 5 liter box in North America? In France there is a great deal of decent AOC labeled and vintage dated wine in 5 liter bag-in-box packaging. We are still trying to buck the stigma of the box in any form; but will we ever buck the 5 liter stigma? I frequently find myself advising that the short rule-of-thumb is stay away from 5 liter, and choose 3 liter packages. But nonetheless, Franzia is still the biggest seller ever in the US.

Party in a box: Boxed wine helps make holiday parties easy
By Samantha Oester / Journal Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG — Boxed wine is gaining integrity. Previously thought to be a hokey substitute and for non-wine connoisseurs, wine in a box is becoming more popular and beginning to be held in higher prestige. Some fine wineries in the United States are even boxing their reputable selections.

“It’s more convenient than bottles of wine,” says Cheryl Perdue, a manager for Penn Liquors in Martinsburg. “Especially for parties, ... after you re-cork a wine bottle, it usually won’t fit in the fridge, but boxed wine sits neatly in the corner.”

Storage is actually one of the major benefits of boxed wine, not only its ease of being tucked away, but maintaining the freshness of the wine.

Inside a wine box is a vacuum-sealed bag containing the wine and it is tapped, which prevents oxidation of the wine. After a bottle of wine is uncorked, it can lose its freshness in a few days, but boxed wine stays fresh in its bag from four to eight weeks if tapped correctly.

(If the spout is opened when the box is on its side or upside down, however, it will oxidize the same as an open bottle of wine.)

Boxed wine is also usually cheaper per glass than most bottle wines, when compared to popular brands found at liquor and grocery stores.

“(Boxed wine) sells pretty good, and it’s really not bad,” says Perdue.

At Penn Liquors, the popular Franzia can be found. Regailed for its affordability, Franzia is sold in 5-liter boxes in a variety of reds, whites and blushes a little on the fruity side. (One 5-liter box is equivalent to about six and a half to seven regular bottles of wine.)

Franzia claims to stay fresh after tapped for six weeks and is made in California.

Also sold at Penn is Almaden, made in California and available in varieties of reds, whites and blushes, ranging from sweet to dry, and recently added a variety of sangrias. Almaden mostly sells a little more expensive than Franzia and is comparable to the brand.

Some wine retailers in the Eastern Panhandle, like Big Apple Liquors, have recently begun to sell higher end boxed wines and are waiting to see if they take on the popularity of the cheaper favorites. “I think they’ll sell pretty well,” says Sharon Bass, an employee at Big Apple. “Boxes are so much more convenient.”

Big Apple also sells Almaden, and Bass says Peter Vella, another comparable brand, sells very well. Among pricier boxed wines sold at Big Apple are Trove and Black Box, both sold in 3-liter boxes.

Black Box proclaims itself as half the price of bottled wine of the same quality and stays fresh for up to four weeks after opening. Sold in reds and whites, the California wine has won several awards at wine competitions, festivals and fairs.

Trove, sold in reds and white, claims the slogan “Premium wine by the glass.” This California wine stays fresh for up to a month after opening. Boasting rich flavors, Trove also claims to be cheaper per glass than wines of the same quality and to be one of the innovative brands transforming the boxed wine industry.

Big Apple also has 500 milliliter boxes of Vendange. A premium wine sold mostly in bottles, Vendange added these small boxes to their offerings in 2004. Containing a little more than three glasses per box (similar to a small bottle of wine), Vendange comes in lightweight containers meant for convenience (no corkscrew necessary, like other wine boxes) or to be given as gifts. Vendange boxes offer reds and whites.

While better wines are getting bagged and boxed, leaving out the cork and taking on cardboard, data released by the industry indicates a growth of three-liter boxed wines by 29 percent in 2005, with monetary figures increasing by more than 60 percent.

High-quality boxed wine is old news in Europe and Australia and steadily increasing in the United States. But whether a high or low-price tag, boxed wine could be a better bet for parties, dinners or even tailgating in style, with lower prices for the quality, convenience of serving and storing and longer-lasting leftovers.

The Journal

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

SF Chronicle Reviews Boxed Merlots

Here's another good article from the past out of my file drawer. Last month, I pulled out of my files an article from the San Francisco Chronicle. Last March in 'Volvo' Vino: Boxy but good, W. Blake Gray recommended three Chardonnays in boxes. Not to ignore the red wine lovers among us, a month later he looked at Merlots. In Think inside the box for inexpensive Merlots, Gray lists three in boxes worthy of mention. They were: Black Box Sonoma County Merlot; 2003 Black Box California Merlot, and 2004 Delicato Merlot.

Last month, I wrote about Chardonnay, some of it in boxes, and the main response I got from readers was, "What about boxes of red wine?"

You ask, we deliver. Well, not literally. You'll have to go to the store yourself to pick up any of this week's recommended bargain wines. But if you're a Merlot fan, it'll be worth the trip.

Despite flat sales growth, Merlot is still America's favorite red varietal, and second-favorite wine overall, after Chardonnay.

Merlot sales in large U.S. food stores actually dropped 0.2 percent over the last year, according to ACNielsen, while overall table wine sales climbed 3.3 percent. But Americans still bought about 60 percent more Merlot than Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel (not the pink kind) combined.

Bowing to the market, I tasted 35 bargain-priced Merlots from eight countries recently; these were the best 10 wines.

My very favorite came in a box. The nonvintage (NV) Black Box Wines Sonoma County Merlot ($24 for 3 liters) is an outstanding wine for this price range; a true bargain superstar. While $24 may not seem cheap, consider that the box holds the equivalent of four standard 750 ml bottles. This wine is both fruit-forward and complex, with flavors and aromas of black and red berries, a floral note and a measured touch of oak. The fruit tastes more red than black on the medium-long finish. Plenty of $24 bottles of Merlot aren't as good as this.

I also liked the 2003 Black Box Wines California Merlot ($18 for 3 liters), which was earthier and a bit sweeter than the Sonoma County version.

The winery's Web site,, has a nice summation of some of the advantages of boxed wines, including the fact that the wine can stay drinkable up to four weeks after opening because it's contained in a vacuum pack inside the box which deflates each time you draw a glass. The site also answers that ever-popular question "Where can I buy this wine?" with a search bar that lists California stores in locations from Alameda to Yuba City.

Wine in a box is more an accepted part of daily life in Australia than in the United States, so it's no surprise to find a good boxed Aussie Merlot. The 2004 Banrock Station South Eastern Australia Merlot ($18 for 3-liter) is simple but easy to drink, with a smooth, mild blackberry flavor.

In sampling boxed wines, one thing I keep discovering is that for whatever reason, they often taste different than the bottled versions.

Case in point: The 2004 Delicato Family Vineyards California Merlot ($7) in a bottle tastes of slightly sweet red fruit -- strawberries and red currant. In contrast, the 2004 Delicato Family Vineyards California Merlot ($18 for 3-liter box) is much oakier and more tannic, with flavors of blackberry and wood and decent acidity.

Delicato also owns the Monterey-based Monterra label. The 2004 Monterra Monterey County Merlot ($9) in a bottle offers sweet cherry flavors with oak and slightly gripping tannins; a simple but decent wine.

I tasted some other boxed Merlots, but they didn't make the cut, and our Wine section policy is to not write about wines we don't like. Fortunately, I found plenty of good Merlots in bottles to recommend.

The 2004 Fusee California Merlot ($6), from Sonoma negociant Don Sebastiani & Sons, is my second-favorite wine on this week's list. It definitely shows the effects of oak, with flavors and aromas of blackberry, cedar and lots of vanilla, but it's a whole lot of bold flavor for less than the price of a matinee movie ticket.

California's McManis Family Vineyards caused a stir in Europe recently when winemaker Jeff Runquist admitted to Agence France-Press that he uses oak staves and nylon mesh "tea bags" of oak chips to flavor his wines, rather than the traditional practice of aging them in barrels. The use of oak chips was at the heart of a recent wine trade agreement between the European Union and the United States, in which Europe basically caved to American negotiators and recognized the technique as legitimate. Runquist's unapologetic admission gave European wineries a person to criticize, rather than a method.

To which I say, hey, whaddya expect for $10? Sure, I'd rather drink a hand-harvested, barrel-fermented wine than a factory-processed, flavor-manipulated wine. But I'd also expect to pay $18 or more for it, and many people can't afford to spend that every night. Plenty of other wineries competing in this price range are doing what McManis is; I commend Runquist for his honesty.

Moreover, now I understand why all McManis Family Vineyards wines taste similar, regardless of grape variety. At least they're onto a formula that works. The 2004 McManis Family Vineyards California Merlot ($10) is like most of the Ripon winery's red wines: rich, enticing aromas and flavors of cherry and vanilla. Those of you who decry the international style of winemaking, avoid it. But for people who just want a delicious wine at a good price, it delivers. And McManis is hardly corporate; this is a family-owned, family-run winery competing with the big guys by using the same tools.

Speaking of the big guys, it's easy for longtime enophiles to make fun of Constellation's silly critter label 3 blind moose, but the world's largest wine company is doing the industry a service by wooing young drinkers away from beer and sweet cocktails with these easy-to-drink, slightly sweet, entry-level wines. The 2003 3 blind moose California Merlot ($10) is typically simple but drinkable, with flavors and aromas of cherry, cherry candy and red currant.

You don't expect to see Merlot from Italy, but the huge American market for the varietal has driven growers there to plant it, and the 2004 La Francesca Delle Venezie Merlot ($7), with a cherry flavor and slight herbaceousness, shows it can be a decent value.

Once you start bowing to the market, it's hard to know when to stop. I could decry the internationalization of Italian wine, as the country makes so many wonderful varietals of its own that it has no need for Merlot.

But if Europeans have to live with American oak chips, Americans should accept Merlots from Italy -- until Merlot sales go from "flat" to "plummeting." Unless there's a sequel to "Sideways," Merlot will probably stay America's favorite red wine for a while. We might as well pick the good ones -- even if they come in a box.

Think inside the box for inexpensive Merlots

I love Gray's reviews. He appreciates the place affordable wines have in the world, and has no "box" phobia.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Stonehaven Shiraz Review from the Box Wine Guy

Today the Box Wines blog posts a review of the Stonehaven Shiraz in the 3-liter box from South Eastern Australia. I haven't seen this one in my part of the US yet, but I will definitely keep an eye out for it, because the Box Wine Guy rates it highly, giving it 8.5 points out of 10. Sounds excellent, and a bargain to boot! Here's what he had to say (be sure to see the entire review at the Box Wines blog).

The nose of this medium-bodied Shiraz is mostly cherry fruit. The wine’s flavor has cherry and plum notes, with some of the expected pepper and a hint of vanilla. The finish adds some oak. The tannins are balanced, and for an inexpensive wine, this Stonehaven Shiraz has good structure.

Wines » Stonehaven Shiraz - Box

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Promessa Rosso Salento 3 Liter Box

From Italy, another addition to our list of bag-in-box wines:

Promessa Rosso Salento
Fusione (Mark Shannon & Elvezia Sbalchiero)
Italy, Apulia (Puglia)
Negroamoro (85%), Primitivo (15%)
3 liter box, vintage dated (also available in bottle)
About 17 euro (Germany)

No website found. Tasting notes from Bennetts Wines (UK) and Noel Young Wines (UK)

The wine shows fruitiness and silkiness on the palate, with notes of plum, raspberry, cherry, vanilla and toasted hazelnut.

Bennetts Booklet

Ripe berry fruit, quite warm and spicy with some creamy oak. It's full of brambly fruit, easy drinking and soft. The oak is a little confected and there is a slight odd 'tizer' like character, boiled sweets. It's hard to fault it though because it's a big juicy mouthfull and well priced, it just seems at this stage to be a little confected.

Noel Young Wines - Award Winning Suppliers of Fine Wines

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Boxed Wine at Turkey Training Camp

The San Francisco Chronicle has always been marvelously open to including boxed wines in it's food and wine pages. Yesterday Stacy Finz included a box, the 2005 Black Box Wines Monterey County Chardonnay, among six wines chosen by the Chronicle's wine writer, W. Blake Gray for sampling at the SF Chronicle's Turkey Training Camp. The five Chronicle readers who participated in the camp favored the Riesling, and were apparently underwhelmed by the Black Box Chard.

Riesling wins trainees' favor
Stacy Finz, Chronicle Staff Writer

. . .
We figured that while we had them here, we'd use them as guinea pigs to test wine that our expert W. Blake Gray chose to pair with our menu of turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, vegetables and cranberry sauce.

With all those textures and flavors, finding the right wine is not easy. So Gray chose six:
  • 2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Eroica Columbia Valley Riesling ($20)
  • 2004 Castle Rock Lake County Sauvignon Blanc ($10)
  • 2005 Black Box Wines Monterey County Chardonnay ($22 for a 3-liter box)
  • NV Gallo Family Vineyards Twin Valley California White Zinfandel ($5)
  • 2004 Frog's Leap Napa Valley Zinfandel ($25)
  • NV Fox Creek Vixen McLaren Vale Sparkling Shiraz ($20)
He selected wines he thought would most complement the food, but were still affordable enough for entertaining large crowds. He chose the Riesling and White Zin because their sweetness balances well with Thanksgiving fare, the Sauvignon Blanc because it goes well with green vegetables, and the Chardonnay because of its value. The Zinfandel was a symbolic choice -- America's traditional holiday deserves the grape that's most associated with the United States. The sparkling Shiraz is both a fun wine and a great Thanksgiving pairing, and Aussies drink it with their turkey.

Gray suggests serving a few different varietals at dinner so there is something for everyone.

As members of our training camp sampled the meal they had slaved over, they swirled and sipped the wines. We didn't tell them what they were drinking, hid the boxed wine and disguised the bottles in brown paper bags.

Unequivocally they picked the Riesling as their top choice.

. . .

And no one seemed too impressed with the boxed Chardonnay. But at that price they may rethink it.

TURKEY TRAINING CAMP / Riesling wins trainees' favor

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Friday, November 17, 2006

A Euro-Style Boxed Wine Dispenser

Here's that dispenser mentioned in the Cool Hunting item I posted earlier today. It comes from (Netherlands):

Wine "bag in box" Dispenser

Design: Patrik Svanberg

Bag-in-box Wine dispenser - Tired of the less good looking wine dispenser and want a smooth looking alternative? Wine dispenser made in metal and available in white red or black.

Buy a carton of wine (most of the time 3 litres) and remove the carton and put the winebag in the wine dispenser. It looks nice and is very handy.

Size: W 103 mm, H 345 mm, D 180 mm

Available in: Black, Red and White colour.

It sells for 39 euros, plus another 24 for shipping. The only functional advantage I can see is that it lifts the valve up so that the glass can be positioned underneath; the box needn't be perched on the edge of a table or counter. Whether it is more attractive than the cardboard box may be a matter of taste. The dispenser certainly does not disguise the fact that the wine came from a box; it only makes it anonymous.

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The Basic Black Box and Some Accessories

From Letizia Rossi, November 16, 2006, the Cool Hunting blog takes note of the boxed wine trend.

Boxed Wine
The fastest growing sector of the American wine market, boxed wine is starting to shake off its stigma as the gauche alternative to bottles. Wines that actually taste good can now be found in ecologically-sound, well-designed packaging without sacrificing quality. Here are a few of the better boxed wines featuring latest packaging innovations and some accessories to go with them.

Black Box
Black Box Wines feature grapes from renowned California growing regions. Unlike bottle stoppers that don't do much to stop oxidation, the spigot design prevents air from contacting wine until its poured, keeping it fresh for almost a month. Three-liter boxes (more than triple the volume of a bottle) sell for $18 and a couple varietals are available from BevMo.

Bag-in-box Wine Dispenser
A perfect fit with the Black Box three-liter bags, the Bag-in-box Wine Dispenser conceals your secret with its sleek design available in black, white and red. Designed by Swedish designer Patrik Svanberg, the Bag-in-box Wine Dispenser's European heritage is no surprise—boxed wine has long been popular on the continent. Available online for €40.

Cool Hunting: Boxed Wine

There's lots more in the way of accessories. I'm particularly curious about the bag-in-box wine dispenser, and will look at that further later on.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Box of Wine - A Cultural Icon

Many of the Franzia wine box Halloween costume photos I posted in October came from the website Box of Wine - A Cultural Icon. This website is a must-see for anyone curious about the whole boxed wine phenomenon. Writer, composer, and musician S. K. Waller is gathering info for a big full-color glossy coffee-table book about boxed wine. On the site's front page, Waller comments on wine-snobbery:

"I'm darned tired of wine snobbery. Wine should taste good. It's that simple. You don't need to know how to swirl a glass, or inhale the vapors as the wine sits on your tongue (that little pantomime makes you look like a demented fish, anyway). All you need to know is, do you like it? If not, it's a bad wine. If so, it's a good wine. And who the hell cares how much it costs? I took a $6.99 bottle of Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc to a wine tasting party a few years ago, where all the bottles were hidden inside paper bags so no one would know their identities. It won 1st place over dozens of other wines, including a $45.00 bottle of some California-wannabe-French wine. That night I learned a valuable lesson -- and won a fancy corkscrew as first prize besides." -- S.K. Waller

Box Of Wine - A Cultural Icon

The often disparaged box of wine has won a place in the hearts of one out of five wine drinkers worldwide. Why? Is it because of its lack of pretentiousness? Its ability to fit in with nearly any group or party? Certainly, it has less to do with economy than one might think at first consideration, because people the world over seem to love having their picture taken with a box of wine under their arm, suspended over their open mouths and even holding it front-and-center as they would a baby, a pet, or a treasured possession. Many people even dress up as a box of wine for costume parties. It's apparent that the simple, satisfying box of wine has become a cultural icon, recognizable to all and loved by many.

Box Of Wine - A Cultural Icon

Well, the if National Trust of South Australia officially names the bag-in-box wine cask a "heritage icon" for it's contribution to South Australia's cultural identity, then why not a coffee table book? Take a moment to visit Waller's "Boxxo" site!

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Gravel Mine Pinot Noir 3 Liter Box

Another Washington State Pinot Noir addition to the list of bag-in-box wines:

Gravel Mine Pinot Noir
From English Estate Winery
US, Washington, Clark County
3 liter box, vintage dated (also available in bottle)
About $87

3L BIBB 2002 Gravel Mine Pinot Noir. A clean, fresh wine with great tannin that balances the underlying cherry, strawberry and rosey character. This wine displays the characteristics we expect from our Gravel Mine Vineyards, but it also reflects the extremely long, 5 month, drought we experienced in the summer of 2002, stressing the vines and concentrating the flavors.

3L BIBB 2002 Gravel Mine Pinot Noir

Thanksgiving Is Pinot Noir Season

With Thanksgiving approaching, Pinot Noir is on my mind. For me, it has always been the perfect classic choice to complement the traditional American Thanksgiving feast. And with a good sized crowd gathering, I think a box (or two or three) is just the answer. Red boxed wine is not just about Cab, Merlot, and Burgundy. There is actually very fine Pinot Noir in a 3 liter cask (some of it even way to "fine" for my limited budget) from English Estate Winery (Washington). Not too easy to find, but available by internet order. If I don't get around to ordering a box of Pinot Noir, I can always fall back on a Syrah. There are now a number of premium 3 liter Shiraz boxed wines with broad availability around the country. Brands that come to mind are Black Box, Delicato, Wine Cube, Hardy's Stamp, Fish Eye, Corbett Canyon, and Banrock Station.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will concentrate on adding some more of these wines to my big list of boxed wines (well, it's not exactly big yet, but it keeps growing).

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Friday, November 10, 2006

El Paseo Valencia Red 3 Liter Box

A Spanish addition to the Boxed Wine Spot list of boxed wines:

El Paseo Valencia Red
El Paseo Winery (Precept Brands)
Spain, Valencia
3 liter box, (also available in bottle vintage dated)
About $16

Vintage Note
Vinters throughout Spain enjoyed an excellent harvest in 2004. The vintage was marked by grapes with deep color, excellent aromatics and concentrated flavors. A spring frost and hot summer temperatures ripened fruit to perfection. A reduced crop size with ideal autumn weather conditions gives the wines intensity and richness.

Tasting Note
Deep purple red in color with an intense nose of strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, spice and resin. The palate is clean and fruity with a feel of tannins and a long, wide finish.

Variety Blend: 100% Tempranillo
TA: 3.1%
Ph: 3.67
Alc: 13.5%
Available sizes: 750ml bottle, 3L cask

2004 Valencia Red | El Paseo | ¡Savor Life!

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

2005 La Petite Frog, Picpoul de Pinet, 3 Liter Box

From France and available in the US thanks to Kysela Pere et Fils, here's another very interesting addition to the list of bag-in-box wines. I just posted this yesterday on this wine, as it is Denver Post's Wine of the Week, so here are the particulars:

2005 La Petite Frog, Picpoul de Pinet
From Hugues Beaulieu, Cave de Pomerols
France, Pomerol
3 liter box, vintage dated
100% Picpoul (aka Folle Blanche)
Wine Spectator 87
About $34

100% Picpoul, aka Folle Blanche. Pale yellow color with green tints. Fresh and fine aromas of grapefruit and exotic fruit. Lime flavors, with typical focusing acidity, are hallmarks of Picpoul. Our best value, this wine impresses novices and hardened geeks equally. Known as “the Muscadet of the South” in France, this is to the Mediterranean coast of France what Albariño is to northwest Spain…the default wine for fresh shellfish & seafood.

"Fresh and crisp white with citrus, apple and Asian pear flavors. Well-balanced and structured, with hints of spice on the finish. Fine match for shellfish. Drink now." —K.M., Wine Spectator (August 31, 2006), 87 pts - BEST VALUE

Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd.: Cave de Pomérols

Interesting to note that, if you go to the Cave de Pomerols website, the 2005 Picpoul de Pinet is shown in 3L and 5L BiB packaging, but not under the name "La Petite Frog". It would appear that the label was created especially for the US market, to appeal to our affection for "critter wines". I can't help thinking though, that it is a strange choice of critters, as the French word for frog is actually grenouille, and "frog" is also a derogatory term for a French person.

Twelve Boxed Wine Favorites

Three food writers, and over 40 boxes of wine. Eating Well has recently been "Thinking Inside the Box". Sounds like fun!

In the not-too-distant past, box and screwtop wines held roughly the same ranking in the wine pantheon as barely drinkable jug brands—the perfect choice for college kids. Screwtops have already made the leap to respectability—plenty of high-end vintners have forgone natural cork in favor of screwtops that assure predictable quality. But is box wine really ready to undergo a similar Cinderella transformation? The answer is unequivocally “yes”—and the revolution has already begun.

Thinking Inside the Box - Eating Well

So what were those 12 favorites? Six Chardonnays (ho hum) and six reds, mostly Cab and Merlot.

The Bottom Line

We tasted over 40 wines in several tasting sessions and have selected our Top 12 favorites from the group. All our picks in the white category were Chardonnays, which was primarily a function of availablility; of the 17 whites we found, five were blends, two were Pinot Grigios and the rest were Chardonnays. There were more varietals available in the red category. While we are not ready to give up bottled wines, there are some eye-opening discoveries to be made in boxes. The joy of uncorking a nice bottle of wine is deeply ingrained in many of us, but the days of judging a wine by its cap or container are clearly numbered.

Top Whites

Delicato, Chardonnay (California) 2004 $16 This rich Chardonnay is full of tart apples and pineapple mellowed in young wood with a hint of vanilla.

Carmenet, Chardonnay (California) 2004 $17 Tropical fruit, bananas, vanilla and a bit of oak burst from this golden-colored wine. Light bitter and sour tastes balance out the big Chardonnay flavors.

Stonehaven, Chardonnay (Australia) NV $17 Butter-yellow-colored wine, with soft oak and warm Golden Delicious apple scents. This smooth wine is medium-bodied with just a hint of acidity for balance.

Hardy’s, Chardonnay (Australia) 2005 $18 Straw-colored with a heady aroma of gardenia, melon and fig, this full-bodied and syrupy wine bursts from its box to fill the glass with heavy tropical fruit flavors of pineapple and mango. A rather hot finish.

Black Box Wines, Chardonnay (California) 2004 $22 Pale color and a rather delicate aroma characterize this crisp, clean Chardonnay with just a subtle suggestion of oak. It has a sweetscent of honeysuckle and sun-warmed fruit with nicely balanced splashes of golden apple and pear.

DTOUR, Chardonnay (France) 2004 $37 We tried to stick with wines available nationwide but this one was so good we had to break the rules; it’s only in New Jersey, New York and Maryland stores to date, but distribution will be expanded across the U.S. in the next year. This light, crisp wine has green apple, mild vanilla and light yeasty flavors.

Top Reds

Delicato, Merlot (California) 2004 $16 Redolent with berry and dark plum, this deep-colored wine smells like a bowl of fruit, rounded out with light oaky notes.

Carmenet, Merlot (California) 2002 $17 The rich garnet color foreshadows its deep fruit tones of raisin, black cherry and blackberry with hints of roasted coffee, clove and cedar. Fruit and spice play off one another so surprisingly well, you’ll want to pour another glass.

Voyage by Origin, Cabernet Sauvignon (California) 2004 $20 Dry, but not dry enough to strip your mouth, this sophisticated wine has bright black-cherry flavors and a whiff of sea air.

Washington Hills, Rainier Red (Washington) NV $20 A red blend full of flavorful fruit balanced by powerful tannins and just the lightest hint of sweetness on the tip of the tongue.

Black Box Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon (California) 2003 $22 A robust-colored red with tastes of cherries and a touch of smokiness. This full-bodied wine has a pleasant lingering finish.

Black Box Wines, Merlot (California) 2003 $22 Bakery-aroma wine that entices you to enjoy it with crusty pizza or grilled vegetables. Surprisingly complex with a nice balance of berries and a touch of fresh herbs and green pepper.

Thinking Inside the Box - Eating Well

And what about 5 liter plonk? It was not excluded, and the result does not surprise me. Almaden actually produces the best wines in 5L box. The Almaden Cab is a fine choice for a big outdoor picnic, and is good for cooking.

To be fair, we did include some of the value wines in our tasting. (We were pleasantly surprised by the Almaden Cabernet Sauvignon in the 5-liter box, though it didn’t make our Top 12 ranking.)

Thinking Inside the Box - Eating Well

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Provence, France Embraces the Box

In France boxed or cask wine is referred to as "outre a vin" (which actually means "wineskin") or just "BiB" (which stands for bag-in-box). Availability, variety, and acceptance all exceed what we find in the US. I recently read yet another article about boxed wine that expressed the mistaken assumption that the box concept is heretical to the French. In August of 2005 the Wine Terroirs blog showed us the comfortable place boxed wine actually holds in daily life in Provence.

8 pm, somewhere in Provence, the aperitif begins... Summer is BiB time . Warm and sunny days . Long evenings with friends and family . Preferably outside . Right time for aperitif, summer's N° 1 rosé wine festivity in Provence, is, say, 7.30 pm . I mean, the start of it : From then on, 2 hours at least of talk, jokes, to enjoy and relax in a cooler atmosphere as the sun slowly goes down . These lines are dedicated to the BiBs, our summer best friends . Here, straight from the refrigerator to the table outside, a 5 liter BiB of Rosé B_escfrom the Chateau de L'Escarelle, a 120 hectare Coteaux Varois estate located in La Celle, near Brignoles . Good value at about 13 Euro at the Domaine .

Wine Tasting, Vineyards, in France: BiB means Summer

Three liter boxed wines can be bought directly from the neighborhood winery, or from the local supermarkets. This supermarket photo could be in my own southeast US neighborhood, except the boxed selection is far better, and the boxes are unabashadly displayed together instead of shyly tucked among the bottles.

This picture shows the BiB side of the wine section of a medium size supermarket near a provencal village . Most are 3 liter BiBs, with price per liter often higher than the ones from the family wineries I selected .

Wine Tasting, Vineyards, in France: BiB means Summer

We Americans have a long way to go to buck the box stigma. Follow the link and check it out - pouring rose directly from the fridge, and pouring a Syrah-Grenache from the box into a bottle at the kitchen counter. The wine-insecurities of so many Americans cause them to look down on such a casual relationship with wine. People who can openly enjoy "everyday wine" are the people who will enjoy wine every day.

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La Petite Frog, Denver Post's Wine of the Week

Ooooh! I just saw this one last night on the Kysela Père et Fils website, and now here it is this morning, Denver Post's wine of the week!

Wine of the week, 11/8
La Petite Frog Picpoul de Pinet, $34 for 3 liters
This is the wine to stock in your fridge for the entire holiday season. Light and tangy as limeade, it's a no-brainer for that first glass of wine when you get home from work, as well as a brilliant refresher after a long day of shopping. It's as good with takeout Chinese (essential when holiday burnout hits) as it is with celebratory oysters (it's practically designed for oysters, having grown in vineyards around the Etang de Thau, a lagoon in the south of France with prime oyster beds). And the box, which holds four bottles of wine, will stay fresh for weeks after it's tapped.
Imported by Kysela Père et Fils, Winchester, Va. - Wine of the week, 11/8

Thanks to of importers like Kysela Pere et Fils, and sourcing companies like JuiceBox Wine, French wines just making their way into the US market. What a joy to be able to enjoy these wines as "a glass a day wine" (after that long day of shopping) or as "party wine" or "outdoor wine" (that oyster party at the beach). I was intrigued when I found this on the Kysela site. Now I must find some, as oyster season is just coming into full swing here! The words "brilliant refresher" have grabbed me!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

L de Chateau Mercier Bordeaux 3 Liter Box

Another addition to the list of bag-in-box wines:

L de Chateau Mercier Bordeaux
Chateau Mercier
France, Cotes de Bourg, Bordeaux
3 liter box, vintage dated
Available in France

Balance, harmony of the fruits, flexibility of the structure.

Chateau Mercier

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Forget the Corkscrew, Tap the Box

On August 3, 2005, Randy Buckner reviewed several boxed wines in Forget the Corkscrew for These Up-and-Comers, for the Tacoma News Tribune. It's nice to see a tasting list that ventures outside of the Black Box - Delicato - Wine Cube neighborhood. The Avery Lane wines come from Washington, and El Paseo is, of course, Spanish. Buckner's favorite was the Avery Lane Chardonnay. In his 100 point scale rating system, the first number indicates quality, and the second is relative value.

NV Avery Lane, Red Blend, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 3-liter cask.
A blend of four red grapes, the wine gives off aromas and flavors of black cherries, berries and vanilla. Crisp acids and soft tannins make it an easy quaffer; 81/81.

2004 Avery Lane, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 3-liter cask.
This is the best of the box wines that I tried. Pears, apples and citrus notes float on a crisp, creamy background. This is perfect for those block parties; 83/85.

2004 Block Wine, Chardonnay, California, $10, 1.5-liter box.
Straw-colored, crisp and clean, the wine offers apricot, pear and oak aromas and flavors. This will make an ideal, inexpensive beach party quaffer; 80/80.

NV El Paseo, Valencia Red, Spain, $16, 3-liter cask.
The wine is 100 percent Tempranillo. It’s a simple but easy quaffer, with raspberry and blackberry fruit and smooth tannins; 80/80.

NV El Paseo, Valencia White, Spain, $16, 3-liter cask. Pale yellow in color. You’ll find floral aromas and pineapple nuances on the nose and palate. Nutty, figgy characters linger on the finish. Simple but slurpable; 80/80.

Forget the corkscrew for these up-and-comers | | Tacoma, WA

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Has Robert Parker Ever Boxed?

A reader recently left a comment on a post which was put up prematurely, and then deleted. It was a great question, so I'll try to answer to the best of my knowledge at this point.

A Thing of Beauty asks: Is there a boxed wine that Robert Parker has liked? What about Steve Tanzer?

I do have some info on ratings of some boxed wines in the serious wine press. Here are several boxed wines that have ratings from Wine Advocate (Robert Parker), Wine Enthusiast, Wine Report, and Wine Spectator (Steve Tanzer) (oops, correction - Tanzer not represented in this list - Thanks A Thing of Beauty).

The Chateau de Pena Cuvee de Pena 2003 has gotten a lot of attention

Chateau de Pena Cuvee de Pena 2003

The Wine Spectator
Ripe, dark fruit flavors dominate this medium- to full-bodied red, with lovely chocolate pudding notes and smoky elements on the finish. Drink now through 2007. 20,000 cases made. Score: 87. —Kim Marcus, August 31, 2005.

The Wine Advocate
Available in a 3-liter bag-in-a-box, the 2003 Cuvee de Pena reveals plum and blackberry aromas. Light to medium-bodied and silky-textured, this excellent value (3 liters for $20 comes out to $5 a bottle!) displays spicy dark fruits intermingled with hints of cedar in its expressive character. Drink it over the next year. Score: 86. —Pierre Rovani, June 2005.

Chateau de Pena Cuvee de Pena 2003 - Market Fine Wine and Spirits - Wine and Spirit Retailer

Avec Restaurant in Chicago actually has the Cuvee 3 liter box on the wine list ($89)!! Dr. Vino says they are completely unabashed about it:

Eduard Seitan, Avec's co-owner and wine buyer, likes the wine so much he keeps three boxes on display at the bar. "I'm very proud of it," he said.

Dr. Vino's wine blog: Drinking inside the box

Does anyone out there know of any others that I've missed?

Black Box Pinot Grigio 3 Liter Box

Another addition to the Boxed Wine Spot's no-frills list of bag-in-box wines:

Black Box Pinot Grigio
Black Box Wines (Pacific Wine Partners, Constellation Brands)
3 liter box, vintage dated
About $17 - $20

Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Gris as it's called in France, is a light and refreshing wine perfect for that warm summer day or as an aperitif/cocktail wine. Clean and crisp, it primes the palate for food, pairing well with all seafood, whether raw, lightly sautéed, or served with a light cream sauce. Our 2005 California Pinot Grigio "displays aromas of lemon peel, pear and a dollop of fresh peach. Juicy flavors of citrus and apples lead to a finish that is bright and delicious."

Pinot Grigio Wine

Reviews in the press

Craig LaBan, December 6, 2006, Philadelphia Inquirer (vintage unknown, box)

Party Worthy . . . Black Box pinot grigio ($23.99)

Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/06/2006 | Wine in a box: A taste test

Reviews in stores and newsletters

IAS, August 23, 2006, Unfiltered (The Wine Source, Baltimore, MD) (2005 vintage, box)
Black Box was one of the first successful producers of vintage dated box wine from California designed for retail shelves. They have struck pay dirt once again with their newly released remarkably vibrant 2005 Pinot Grigio. The rather translucent color belies a subtle creamy richness and varietally characteristic mineral note. Try this delicious wine next to a host of insipid mass-produced Italian Pinot Grigio and you’ll be shocked by the cleanliness and verve of this spectacular value.

winemail issue 17, August 23.p65

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AC Nielsen on the Box Wine Boom

There's been lots of talk since last summer about the ACNielsen report on trends in the wine market. The focus of all the buzz has been the phenomenal growth of the boxed wine segment. Since we all keep talking about it, I thought I'd go ahead and post some of the article, Three-Liter Boxes the Fastest Growing Wine Packaging Segment, from Wine Business Insider.

According to scan data from ACNielsen, premium three-liter boxed wine sales are the fastest-growing premium wine packaging segment, with 204 percent growth since September 2003. In terms of volume, premium three-liter boxed wines have grown 107 percent over the same timeframe.

While the growth has been phenomenal, it is still a very small category in terms of market share - three-liter boxed wine sales account for less than 1 percent of overall dollar sales and just 1.5 percent of total volume. Then again, in September 2003, three-liter wine market share was about half what it is now.

There are myriad factors for the rapidly increasing sales of the three-liter category, but one of the main reasons has been the increased acceptance by the trade.

While the greatest volume of three-liter boxed wines is seen in the under-$12 category, those priced above $12 are showing the greatest growth rates. Wines in the under-$12 have grown 72 percent since September 2003, while those priced between $12 and $15.99 have grown 126 percent in the same time period. In terms of market share, the lowest-priced three-liter boxes account for fully half of all three-liter box sales, while the mid-tier, priced between $12 and $15.99, claims under 10 percent of the three-liter market.

Three-Liter Boxes the Fastest Growing Wine Packaging Segment

Even with the growth, note that 3L box still accounts for only 1% of dollars, and 1.5% of wine volume. That's a far cry from the percentages in Australia and the Scandinavian countries.

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Clark County Premium Pinot Noir 3 Liter Box

Another addition to the Boxed Wine Spot's no-frills list of bag-in-box wines:

Clark County Premium Pinot Noir
English Estate Winery
Washington, Clark County
3 liter box, vintage dated
Also available in bottle
About $65

2002 Clark County Premium Pinot Noir. Our second Clark County Pinot Noir blend is a well-balanced, easy to drink wine. The grapes came from 3 vineyards in Clark County: about 45% from our own Gravel Mine Vineyards, about 45% from La Center Vineyards and about 10% from the relatively young Yacolt Valley Vineyards.

3L BIBB 2002 Clark County Premium Pinot Noir

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Wine Box Holder

Regarding the previous post, the article mentions a wine box cover.

The article was originally published in December 2005, and since that time, the wine box cover has disappeard from the shopping sites (Target, Marshall Field's, Amazon). This cover is an item that apparently fell flat rather quickly.

If it is that important to "dress up" the box, I can think of easier ways to do it. A decorative fabric cover, for instance.

I had the sales copy and photo in my files, so for what it's worth, this is what it looked like:

Our stylish stainless steel holder is designed to cover boxed wine but still allow access to the carrying handle. Good Wine, Good Friends, Good Times is etched on the front. Fits most 5-liter boxes. 10-3/4Hx4-1/4Wx10-1/4D.

Wine Box Holder News Search

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Judge Not Wine by its Container

In the Danville, IL, Commercial-News, August 31, 2006, Julia Megan Sullivan writes about the latest wine packaging trends in Judge Not Wine by its Container.

Let’s look at the evolution of wine containment systems.

First we had goat bladders. They were fashionable in their day, but constantly leaking on the original Ug boots.

Then came barrels; not as easy to transport, but no animals were harmed. They were also good for hiding secret passages (see any classic Scooby Doo episode for a demonstration).

Next came the bottle. Stuffed with a cork, this made the wine mobile again. However, only the true professional was able to open them without “seasoning” the wine with “cork sprinkles.”

From there, some genius decided a screw-top was better, but was forced to sacrifice the stay-fresh-ability of the vino.

Which brings us to modern day, where we have reached wine containment nirvana: the box.

Box wine has gotten a bad reputation, but in recent years, there has been a grass-roots movement to overcome that negative perception. No more shall you feel the urge to throw your coat over the contents of your cart to cover your cardboard-encased beverage when spotted by a co-worker! No more! Judge not the wine by its container.

Box wine is now (I’m not making this up) referred to as “cask wines” by those with distinguished tastes who yearn to dispense their beverages with a tap instead of a corkscrew.

In case you don’t know, box wine consists of a sort of “bladder” encased in an easily-stackable cardboard box with a handle grip on the top for portability, making it the genetic superior of all of its predecessors.

After tearing along the perforation, you expose a tiny cooler-like tap. And instead of that “orange drink” that was forced down the throat of every kid who ever played soccer, it dispenses wine!

Granted, the wine is usually of an extremely low alcohol percent (less than 10), but it usually is very low in price. Locally, you can get 5 liters of Franzia for about $8.99. Head to Their intro text says it all:

“Black Box Wines makes America’s highest quality boxed wine. …You can now enjoy excellent tasting wine in a 3-liter box for about half the price you would pay for a bottled wine of the same quality. As an additional bonus, our bag-in-box package protects your wine, keeping it fresh for at least 4 weeks after opening.”

Ready to serve a box or two at your holiday party, but still doubtful that your box wine will be able to impress your hoity-toity friends? Wish that there was some way to dress up the box even more?

How about a wine box cover? It’s available from Signals, a catalog that offers everything from inspirational bracelets to replicas of the leg lamp from “A Christmas Story.”

For the low, low price of only $39.95 you can enjoy their “stylish stainless steel holder … designed to cover boxed wine, but still allow access to the carrying handle.” As if that wasn’t enough, there’s an etching on the side that reads “Good Wine, Good Friends, Good Times.” Brilliant.

Can’t wait to buy it? Take the shortcut at

So what is next for wine containment? Well, I got a preview at a local grocery store. There on the shelf was a box of wine. But this was no 5-liter wine system. It was closer to 20 ounces.

Undoubtedly inspired by astronauts, this personal box was all-too-reminiscent of a Capri-Sun pouch. The only kicker? You have to buy the straw separately.

The Commercial-News, Danville, IL - Judge not wine by its container

More about that wine box holder later.

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'Tis the Season for Cabernet Sauvignon (in a Box)

W. Blake Gray, wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, recently tasted 45 budget Cabernets, and reviewed several of them in Friday's edition of the Chronicle. In Cool Weather Means Cabernet Sauvignon Season Is Here, Gray included the 2004 Black Box Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon from Black Box Wines among his 10 selections from the field of 45.

For great packaging, it's hard to beat the 2004 Black Box Wines Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($18 for 3 liters). Not only is the eponymous black box sleek and attractive, it contains a collapsible plastic bag that keeps the wine fresh for up to four weeks -- a great thing for people who only want to have one glass per night. Because the box holds the equivalent of four standard 750-ml bottles, this is the cheapest wine by the ounce on this list. Yet this is not a pick solely on style or price: It's a food-friendly Cab with flavors of blackberry and black plum that stands on its own merits.

Cool weather means Cabernet Sauvignon season is here

Astica Tempranillo Malbec 3 Liter Box

An addition to the Boxed Wine Spot's no-frills list of bag-in-box wines:

Astica Tempranillo-Malbec
Bodegas Trapiche
Argentina, Mendoza
3 liter box, vintage dated
Also available in bottle
Found available in Scandinavian countries

No tasting notes found on website.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Corbett Canyon Chardonnay 3 Liter Box

The first addition to the Boxed Wine Spot's no-frills (just the facts, ma'am) list of bag-in-box wines:

Corbett Canyon Chardonnay
Corbett Canyon Vineyards (The Wine Group)
3 liter box, vintage dated
Also available in bottle
About $10 - $15

Our Chardonnay is medium bodied, brimming with crisp apples and pears. Enjoy its smooth finish with grilled seafood, roast chicken and cream sauced pastas.

Corbett Canyon Vineyards: Chardonnay