Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This Is No Boxed Wine - It's Just Twisted!

On Sunday I went to a huge pig pickin' in downeast Carolina, and saw something quite surprising. A gentleman who drove all the way from New York to attend this annual event showed up with his supply of Twisted Tea in boxes!

I tried some. Not bad, if you are heavily into caffeine with your alcohol. This guy was a caffeine fiend (caffeine seems to be a required drug for computer geeks). He told me he bought the liquor store out in late summer when they told him there would be no more boxes this season, and he said Twisted Tea is discontinuing the boxed product because a few boxes "exploded". Now, I've never heard of that before. I can't imagine how it would happen. I have dropped a wine bag of lemonade from a height of twelve feet with no damage.

Anyway, the box is still pictured on the Twisted Tea website. We will see what next summer brings. The TT loving computer geek says if he can't buy it, he will bag his own, and I told him where he can get the bags!

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Men's Vogue Reviews Boxed Wine

In August there was an entertaining little collection of boxed wine reviews in Men's Vogue. In The Art of Box Wine Lawrence Osborne commented on six bag-in-box wines in a collection of reviews that included a couple of juice boxes as well. It was an odd mix of brief and entertaining writing that alternated between damning with faint praise, and flaming with vivid and bizarre olifactory imagery of New York City radiators in winter, and California asphalt in summer.

Lawrence Osborne has pulled out the tap, torn off the foil and pressed the button on an array of box wines. His tasting notes accompany the images below.

Hardys 2005 riesling
"This 2005 riesling ($18; from South Eastern Australia wasn't at all bad for a bad riesling—sweet, flaccid, and devoid of acid, but adequate served very cold with fish and chips."

Delicato 2004 merlot
"This merlot ($18; suggested the British black-currant squash drink Ribena, with top notes of Hershey's Kisses: not enormously delicato, but sturdy enough fort sunny picnic on the beach in Big Sur."

Dtour 2004 chardonnay
"New York chef's Daniel Bouloud's Dtour 2004 chardonnay ($37; is a basic, very apple-flavored table wine."

Dtour 2004 côtes du rhône
"Dtour's flagship ... was, by far, the best of the whole group. Amazingly, it managed to stay fresh and structurally intact for three weeks."

Banrock station 2003 shiraz"Turning to the affable Down Under, I discovered that Banrock Station's 2003 shiraz ($18; had tones of blackberry jam, along with subtle notes of New York City radiators in the dead of winter."

Black box 2004 cabernet sauvignon
"Out of Paso Robles, this 2004 cabernet ($18; has hints of summer asphalt, warmed by the California sun."

the art and craft of box wine: Cellar:

Well (sigh), I don't think I would let any of that frighten me away from tasting, as I like to make up my own mind, but it sounds like the cotes du rhone is a solid bet.

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Tried Box Wine? Didn't Like It?

I saw something sad in a blog a few weeks ago.

I am ashamed to admit it, but this week, I purchased boxed wine. I keep hearing rumors that it's gotten better lately, and sometimes I just like to have one glass of wine, and not worry about what I'm going to do with a whole open bottle before it goes bad. So, I bought a Wine Block which was recommended by the store owner. It's such a great concept, but as I feared, not so great in actual drinking quality. I have now learned my lesson. Just say no to boxed wine.

The Almond Branch: September 2006

So, let's say you hadn't tried boxed wine since drinking Franzia when you were in college. Then you heard there's good wine in boxes now, tried a 3L or 1.5L box, and didn't like it. Here's what you should do:
  1. DO NOT say "I have learned my lesson: Just say no to boxed wine!"
  2. Set it aside for a day and get over it.
  3. Decant some so it can breathe. Reds in boxes are as a rule types that are meant to be consumed young, and so they benefit even more from breathing than cellaring types. If you don't have a decanter with a broad base, then pour with 10-12" of fall, and swirl liberally.
  4. Put it into the fridge. 20 minutes for reds (to about 55-65 degrees). 1-1/2 hours for whites (to about 40 degrees). For chard, take it back out for 20 minutes (to about 50-55 degrees).
  5. Now try it again.
  6. If you still don't like it, try another boxed wine. Wine is an individual taste, and you don't like every bottle you open either.
One more thing, don't store the box of white in the fridge. Too cold a temp can hide all the aromas and encourages formation of bitartrate crystals, which make the wine tase "simple and flat". On the other hand, maybe you can store the plonk in the fridge, it might taste simple and flat anyway. Just don't do it to the good stuff.

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