Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It had to happen

Bag in box, without the box. From Arniston Bay Wines in South Africa comes a 1.5 litre pouch:

Take it easy with Arniston Bay wines in pouches

Just in time for the party season, Arniston Bay wines have laid up a surprise for wine lovers. They are presenting two of their fine wines in new easy to carry resealable 1.5 litre lifestyle pouches, holding twice as much as a traditional bottle at a fraction of the weight. The good news for those who are concerned about the environment is that Arniston Bay’s pouches have 80% less of a carbon footprint and take up 90% less landfill compared with a glass bottle equivalent.

Party goers and outdoor enthusiasts who want their wine in lightweight, easy to carry packaging can now take it easy. As can spectators at events where alcohol is permitted only in non-glass containers. Quick chilling, the pouches look good enough to serve with pride to friends at home.

Top selling

Arniston Bay Chenin Chardonnay 2007 is a masterfully blended white wine with lovely pineapple and ripe melon aromas and flavours of fresh lime. Delicious served chilled on its own, this wine is versatile with foods like salads, barbecued fresh fish or grilled chicken kebabs.

Arniston Bay Pinotage Rosé 2007 is as evocative on the eye as it is on the palate where delicious strawberry and violet flavours entice and then gently linger. Excellent served chilled as an aperitif, or with grilled prawns, salads and cocktail snacks.

Arniston Bay - Escape to Arniston Bay

Peter May at the Pinotage Club blog reports that at the Morrison's supermarket chain in the UK, where the pouch was trialled this fall, sales were exceeding expectations.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Delicato Announces Bota Box Goes Green

The newly redesigned Bota Box from Delicato Family Vineyards is showing up on the shelves. It appears that Delicato is spinning off the Bota Box Wines as a seperate product line, distancing it from the Delicato name. I searched for "Delicato" on the box, and if it was there, it was well hidden. I did not find it.
Bota Box Wine Goes Green

NAPA, Calif., Oct. 1 /PRNewswire/ --

In a response to a growing consumer demand for Eco-friendly products, DFV Wines announced today that their successful Bota Box wines have received an extreme green makeover with a new look. The award winning Bota Box is a 3 liter wine in a box with a new package that is more environmentally-friendly from a container that is made with 95% post consumer fiber and the box is recyclable. The print on the package is now done on unbleached Kraft paper and the ink used is water based versus petroleum based and the paper layers are held together with cornstarch instead of glue.

As a leader in the fastest growing category in the wine industry, Bota
Box is vintage dated and is available in the five popular varietal types:
Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio for the white wine offerings; Merlot, Shiraz,
and Cabernet Sauvignon for the red wine selections. Bota Box is available
nationally and the suggested retail price is under $20 in most markets. The
Bota Box borrows its name from bota bag, the old world custom of
transporting a beverage in a pouch usually made from an animal skin which
became quite popular in the '60s and '70s to concert goers, hiking
enthusiasts, campers, and other outdoor recreations.

"DFV Wines are committed to the consumer. Bota Box is one of the ways
to respond to wine drinkers that choose an eco-friendly package that is
convenient as well," says Chris Indelicato, CEO - President. "Our family
winery is dedicated to sustainable farming, smart winemaking, and
responsible marketing and we believe that our new Bota Box is the right
package at the right time."

DFV Wines has farmed premium vineyards in California and produced wine
for over 80 years. It continues to be family owned and operated by the 2nd
and 3rd generation Indelicatos. DFV Wines include Bota Box, Clay Station,
Delicato, Gnarly Head, Irony, Joe Blow, King Fish, Loredona, 337, Twisted,
and Chateau Maris.

Bota Box Wine Goes Green

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Boxed Wine Growing in Popularity Since 2002

This is from Wines & Vines, May 2002
Is it time for wine boxes? - bag-in-box wine growing in popularity
Wines & Vines, May, 2002 by Larry Walker

Tony Norskog, owner and winemaker of Nevada County Wine Guild in Nevada City, Calif., has a challenge for some daring Napa County winemaker: Bag it. That is, put a Napa County Cabernet Sauvignon in a bag-in-box. "The first Napa County Cabernet Sauvignon sold in bag-in-box will reap a million dollars in publicity," he said.

Norskog is something of a pioneer himself when it comes to bag-in-box. His 1.5 liter Our Daily Red is, as far as can be determined, the first organic wine ever to be sold in a bag-in-box.

I admire his courage (and his wine, too), but it must feel kind of lonely out there. People in the wine trade know that most U.S. wine sold in a box is, to put it mildly, not likely to win any gold medals. The attitude in California (unlike Australia) seems to have been "any wine will do as long as it hasn't actually turned to vinegar yet."

But there are signs that may be changing. Jon Fredrikson of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates noted that the overall market for bag-in-box in 2001 grew about 2%. However, the interesting numbers are for box varietals. White Zinfandel grew by 14%, and on a small base, box Chardonnay grew by 16%. There is a new box Shiraz from Franzia, and Franzia and Almaden box Merlot are both doing well, Fredrikson said.

Also, he believes that the average consumer seeking value is attracted to the 5-liter box where wine can be found that would cost only about a $1.60 a bottle in a 750m1.

"We have an enormous supply of wine around now, waiting for somebody to come out with a good quality wine, even if it was priced at the equivalent of $3 a bottle," he said.

Fredrikson said that technically bag-in-box is better than ever as a means to keep wine fresh. "I guess the paradox is that even though it is a good package, people in the United States won't pay more because of the box image."

Fredrikson said that 17 million units (5-liter bags) were sold in food stores last year at a dollar value of about $171 million. Fredrikson estimated that the 5-liter bag accounts for 95% to 98.5% of the market.

The Major Players

The three major players in the market are Franzia (which has a number of different labels), Canandaigua (Almaden) and Gallo's Peter Vella. Industry sources calculate that Franzia holds some 60% of the market; Almaden, 22%; and Vella, 17% but moving up fast. In fact, Peter Vella appears to be the leader in the White Zinfandel and Chardonnay market segments.

On Jan. 1, 2001, a change in regulations led to a major change in the market, Fredrikson said. Until that time, the "other special natural wines," which are wines with added flavoring and no minimum actual wine content, were allowed to list a wine varietal on the box. "The big story last year was the loss of that market," he said. "When they had to conform to minimum varietal labeling standards, Gallo jumped it."

Norskog said his organic box was selling well. When I spoke to him in February, the product was sold out in the San Francisco Bay Area. But it has the advantage of following the success of Our Daily Red in a bottle, which sells for about $6 on the West Coast and about $8 on the East Coast. The wine is made from Central Valley organic grapes. No sulfites are added, and the wine has good distribution in natural food stores.

Asked why he went for the box technology, Norskog said, "I've always thought the box was an abused package. Look at Australia and how well they do with 'cask' wines. It just has a low quality image in the U.S."

(Our Daily Red is a blend of Carignane, Cabernet franc and Carmine. It's a deep red color with lively blackberry and black pepper spice on the nose; it's medium weight in the mouth, with added dark berry fruit and a lingering finish. In short, a wine that I would be happy to have in my glass anytime. Or in my bag.)

Norskog added that the trade itself has more bias toward the package than the consumer. "You know, in the U.S., we have to sell wine three times. First to the distributor, then to the store and finally to the consumer. Only about half of my distributors picked it up, then about half the stores picked it up. That's one problem I'm facing," he said.

"I think the consumers really appreciate it for what it is. They can buy a box wine and drink a glass a day or a glass a week," Norskog said. He said he has tested the package and found the wine was still good a year after being put in the box.

Norskog said he had not made a decision yet about continued use of the box despite some success in the market. "The cost of producing one 1.5 liter package equals the cost of bottling a case of bottles," he said. Each box must be assembled manually, another person fills the interior bag and another stuffs it into the box and glues the box shut--a labor-intensive operation for sure. Norskog uses a Scholle AF900 semi-automatic, single-vale filler and a DuraShield 45 Scholle bag. Norskog admitted that it would make more sense from a labor standpoint to use a larger box size, 3 or 5 liter. "But I decided on the 1.5 to keep my price under $10," he said. "On a larger box, I would have better margins, but will people spring for an $18 box of wine?"

French Going for Bags

There is apparently a growing market for box wines in France, both for the national market and export market. According to Roberta Morris of Scholle, the French bag market is currently only 1% of the wine market, but on a volume basis, it's almost as big as the U.S. market. The 3-liter package tops the market in France, though there are also 5-liter boxes and 10-liter boxes, sold mostly for home consumption. Scandinavia and the United Kingdom are major markets for French box wines. Morris said Scholle had also been pitching box wines for use in wine-by-the-glass programs.

In Australia, truly premium wine is sold in 2-liter boxes, and the 5-liter box is known as the party box. The 10-liter size is also popular.

Morris said that Scholle is looking for a mid-sized California winery to use bag-in-box to break into a new market and help create and expand the wine market.

Scholle is introducing a new clear film for their bags called Dura-Shield45. Morris said the new film provides better protection and extended shelf life for the wine. The Scholle bags also have a new dispenser called the FlexTap, which Morris says is durable and easier to use.

Christophe de Carbonnieres, the business development manager with Smurfir Bag-in-Box USA, says his company is one of the only companies to offer a one call bag-in-box package. Smurfit can do the whole number, from graphic design to the final product ready for the retail shelf, including the box, the bag and the pour spout. The company, which was formed in Europe, has been in the U.S. market for about tow years.

"We really feel that the winemakers in the U.S. will come to realize that bag-in-box packaging can be used to serve wine lovers and the food service industry here, just as it does in Europe, Australia and Canada," he said.

He said that the Smurfit product has a shelf life of at least 10 months and will keep the wine fresh six or seven weeks after opening. "We are trying to make the U.S. wine industry understand that bag-in-box packaging can be very successful, especially in a wine-by-the-glass program, for example," he said in a telephone interview.

Another plus for bag-in-box packaging mentioned by several suppliers and producers is the opportunity for added graphics and information to be displayed. For example, the entire box turns into point-of-sale for Our Daily Red. The graphics are attractive, and winemaker Norskog uses the back of the box to point out the advantages of buying wine in a box and explains just what organic grape growing is. The best wine marketing tells a story about the wine, and Norskog's package does just that.

Bag-in-Box Market Share for 2001


White Zinfandel 17
Chablis 17
Other Special Natural 16
Blush chablis 13
White Grenache 11
Chardonnay 8
Merlot 3
Cabernet Sauvignon 3
Other 12

Source: Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates


Bag-in-box wines would be a mess without boxes, and Pacific Southwest Container is one of the major suppliers of boxes. According to Brian Smith, executive vice president and sales manager, the company makes the boxes for Gallo, Canandaigua and The Wine Group.

The company has a graphics department, although Smith said most wine companies did the graphics design. Smith said there is a constant effort to make the box more user-friendly and to work with wineries to increase the impact of the graphics.

"I know there are some wineries now researching and testing putting good quality wines in bag-in-box," Smith said. "There is a movement toward better quality."

Pacific Southwest Container did the box for Our Daily Red from the Nevada County Wine Guild. For more information, contact Pacific Southwest Container at 4530 Leckron Road, Modesto, Calif. 95353, phone (209) 526-0444, fax (209) 522-8746 or visit the Web site

Almaden Targets Japanese Market

In February, Almaden announced plans to introduce bag-in-box wines to Japanese consumers. To distribute the brand in Japan, Canandaigua Wine Company formed on alliance with Japan's Asahi Breweries, Ltd., which also serves as a major wine importer.

In a press release, Doug Kahle, VP of Canadaigua Wine's International Division, said, "we believe this product is being introduced at the right time in the Japanese market. Wine consumption is growing steadily in Japan, and consumers are looking for accessible, quality wines at affordable prices. For these reasons, we believe that Almaden Bag-in-the-Box will attract and satisfy consumers in this market."

Almaden bag-in-box wines will be available in 5 liters in both red and white wines.

Cribari Cooking Wine In A Bag

Canandaigua Wines has introduced an innovative box wine designed for restaurant kitchens. The Cribari Cellars 5-Liter Bag-in-the-Box offers a Marsala or Sherry style wine exclusively for chefs. The new culinary boxes build on the Cribari reputation for cooking wines, and the recyclable cardboard containers eliminate glass in the kitchen. The culinary bags also ensure that the wine stays fresher than it would in a bottle.

"We are very excited about Cribari Cellars 5-Liter Bog-in-the-Box," says John Heinz, vice president of National Accounts and On-Premise Sales for Canandaigua Wine Company. "Orders for the new package hove already been secured with independent restaurants and national accounts. Cribari Cellars 5-Liter Bag-in-the-Box is an affordable, easy-to-use premium cooking wine for every on-premise establishment."

Is it time for wine boxes? - bag-in-box wine growing in popularity Wines & Vines - Find Articles

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trove Chardonnay 3 Liter Box

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

Trove Chardonnay
Trove Wines (Centerra Wine Company, Constellation Brands)
3 liter box, vintage dated
About $19 - $23

2005 California Chardonnay. This stylish, delectable, medium-bodied Chardonnay, produced from choice North and Central Coast grapes, boasts creamy tropical fruit aromas and round, smooth flavors enriched by soft oak tones. Food Pairing Trove Chardonnay pairs beautifully with chicken satay, fried oysters, grilled garlic shrimp, fish tacos, tuna tartar and fettucine alfredo.

Reviews in the Press

Cindy Kibbe, Aug 18, 2006, New Hampshire Business Review
2005 Trove Chardonnay (Madera, Calif., 3L, $19.99): I’ve had premium bottled varietals that were not as good as this box brand. Made from 100 percent Chardonnay grapes, this Trove truly was a treasure. The crisp grapefruit, lime and pineapple flavors were balanced with just the right amount of oak and buttery creaminess.

New Hampshire Business Review

Reviews on the Web

Jerry Hall, August 31, 2006, Winewaves blog
Trove Chardonnay Box 2005 - Tasting Notes: Color: Light golden straw. Roundly textured, rich, somewhat tropical aromas (think pineapple-upside- down-cake), somewhat oak-spiced, this Chardonnay is medium-bodied and has nice concentration. Alcohol content: 13.5%. Excellent value ($18/3.0 Liter = $4.50/750ml equivalent).

winewaves: Premium 3 Liter Bag-in-Box California Chardonnay: Trove 2005 & Delicato 2005

Kirk, August 14, 2007, All Four Seasons blog
Cool box, $18 for 3 liters (or four bottles worth), and a cute name (get it treasure trove???). They even claim to be "premium wine in a box" on their website. I have one word for that--NOT. Maybe I have more words. Never (and I mean never) have I had a worse wine that this. I'm not sure what monkey poop tastes like, but it likely tastes better than the Trove Chardonnay. The color was golden, the nose was putrid, and the taste was unfathomable--as in how the heck do they ever get anybody to try this stuff twice??? My only hope (for the vineyard, that is), is that this wine was cooked, causing me so much derision and (dare I say) pain...

All Four Seasons

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Boxed Wine and Snob Appeal

From Chicago Sun-Times, February 6, 2006:

Once a joke, boxed wine acquires snob appeal: Tru sommelier

Chicago Sun-Times, Feb 6, 2006 by Janet Rausa Fuller

Avec, the chic restaurant on West Randolph, offers on its wine list what has long been considered extremely unhip: Wine in a box.

But this wine isn't a throwback to the cheesy, blush-colored stuff you may remember when big hair and stonewashed jeans were in.


Though it accounts for only 6 percent of total wine sales at supermarkets, boxed wine is selling faster than any other wine segment, ACNielsen reports. Last July, sales by volume of 3-liter boxed wines were up 77 percent over 2004.

But on the trendy restaurant scene, boxed wine has been almost unheard of -- until now.

"This can open up a new world to people to reconsider the possibilities of wine in a box. Why not?" asked Tyree, who has seen boxed wine at one other restaurant, chef Daniel Boulud's Restaurant Daniel in New York, where a three-course meal runs $96.
Take it from Scott Tyree, sommelier at upscale Tru restaurant, who saw the 2003 Cuvee de Pena on the menu while dining at Avec last month.

His first thought: "I gotta try it."

His next thought, after a few sips: "I was impressed with its richness and complexity. It had a high degree of the yum factor. It was just delicious."

Wine in a box never went the way of big hair and bad jeans. It's only gotten better, experts say.

Experts say there are many things to like about the new crop of boxed wines, which are made from single varietals such as cabernet and syrah, unlike their cheaper cousins made from a blend of grapes. The packaging technology involves a bag within the box that collapses as wine is drawn out, so there's no possibility of cork taint. Because no oxygen gets in, wine in a box keeps longer than in a conventional bottle -- some say at least a month after it's opened.

And consumers get a lot for their money. A 3-liter box is the equivalent of four bottles. The typical cost of a box breaks down to between $4 and $6 per bottle.


A survey in September of high-end wine consumers who drink wine at least several times a week found that 44 percent had recently bought boxed wine.

"It would be a mistake to think boxed wines are for the pedestrian market," said John Gillespie, founder of Wine Opinions, a consumer research firm that conducted the survey.

At Avec, where diners nibble on chorizo-stuffed dates and taleggio cheese foccacia, the 3-liter box is available by carafe -- $10 for about a third of a bottle -- or by the box for $89.

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.

But even Seitan admits boxed wine still faces an uphill battle, especially in restaurants. It's not exactly flying off the shelves at Avec -- they sell about one box a week -- but, he says, "I refuse to take it off the list."

'How do you serve it?'

Alpana Singh, director of wine and spirits for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, says boxed wine just doesn't seem as "service- friendly" or aesthetically pleasing for diners as wine in a bottle.

"The only problem I have with it is, how do you serve it?" she said. "Do you let it hang from the table?" (You do at Avec, if you order the entire box.)

Still, Singh and others say Avec is onto something.

Tyree says even at Tru, boxed wine wouldn't be out of place now.

"For me, it's about quality wine, and if the wine is of high quality and works with the menu, I certainly wouldn't rule it out," he said.

Once a joke, boxed wine acquires snob appeal: Tru sommelier Chicago Sun-Times - Find Articles

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sutherlands Try Boxed Reds

From the Battle Creek Enquirer, Battle Creek, MI, September 6, 2007:

Wine in Nashville
Boxed reds have improved in quality

Last week we reviewed boxed white wines to augment tailgating, but for many fans, red wine might be more appealing - especially in a box.

There are plenty of reasons to go red on game day - to pair with burgers and hot dogs, to avoid chilled drinks once the weather turns cold, or simply because a lot of people just prefer red wine.

Boxed reds are available in a wide range of varietals, and although they did not fare as well in our tasting as the white wines overall, boxed reds have improved in quality in the past few years. And just like the whites, the reds come in unbreakable, vacuum-sealed containers holding the equivalent to four to six standard bottles, making them easy to transport and dispense to the masses (who are supporting your team, of course).

We tasted four boxed red wines. Here are the results:

2005 Delicato shiraz. $18.99/ 3 liters

The aroma reminded us of raspberries, blackberries, cedar, clove, pepper and bacon fat. On the palate, we found flavors of black cherries, tea leaves, lots of tannins and alcohol and a deep, dark coffee finish. This wine was far more complex and better balanced than the others and an obvious choice as our favorite. We thought the high alcohol might appeal to certain tailgaters, too.

Non-vintage Almaden red sangria. $17.49/5 liters

We discovered scents of cherries and lemon/lime soda - like a Shirley Temple. In the mouth, we tasted orange gumdrops and a hint of cinnamon. A sweet blend of red wine and fruit, this wine would be best over ice.

Non-vintage Pinot Evil pinot noir. $19.99/3 liters

The nose suggested lots of cherry, plum, fudge and cotton candy. It was very light-bodied with watery flavors and a vinegary finish. The nose was promising, but the palate was meek.

2005 Free Range red Bordeaux. $29.99/3 liters

In the bouquet, we found scents of ashes, coffee, black cherries, stems and weeds. The wine showed stemmy flavors on the attack and green bell peppers on the finish. This wine did not compare favorably at all with the others.

. . .

Contact Frank Sutherland at Frank and his daughter Kate Sutherland's wine-tasting group consists of representatives from the five wine distributors in Nashville, Tenn., a wine collector, a sommelier and food columnist Thayer Wine.

Battle Creek Enquirer - - Battle Creek, Mich.

Hardys Boxed Wines Reviewed

From the News-Leader of Springfield, MO, August 26, 2007.

Boxed wine cheap, but doesn't taste it

Hardys of southeastern Australia is a major producer of wines in the land down under.

One of the company's claims to fame is the production of really good wine packaged in three-liter boxes, the equivalent of four regular bottles of wine. These boxes are made of heavy cardboard with a plastic bag inside that is filled with wine and sealed. At the bottom of the bag is a pouring spigot.

The wine can be kept in the refrigerator or on a shelf without any deterioration problems from oxidation for an incredibly long six weeks. The boxes also are a great way to carry your wine to a party, barbecue or out to the lake.

The wines from southeastern Australia are similar in style to the wines of California's Central Coast: full-flavored, fruity and very easy to drink. To us, the Australian wines have a bit of a mineral flavor in the background which enhances the drinker's enjoyment. Putting it simply: Hardys wines are good, sound table wines. They are the type of wines that you can serve every night with dinner without fracturing the budget. While they are affordable, they are not cheap in quality. Hardys offers an excellent value for your wine-buying dollar.

- Hardys 2006 South Eastern Australia Shiraz (three-liter box/$18.99): Shiraz is about as Australian as zinfandel is American. It is the signature wine of the land down under. The grape variety used in shiraz is known as the syrah to the rest of the world. The name and style "shiraz" has become so popular that many other wine-producing countries are now making shiraz wines, including our own. Hardys 2006 shiraz is typical of an Australian shiraz, displaying all of the charm and warmth for which the variety is famous. The deep ruby color heralds an aroma of full and inviting plum, red berry, spices and oak. The flavor is clean and soft with no rough edges or harsh tannins. There are hints of red summer berries mingling with plum, and a soft and interesting oak background. This wine will go exceptionally well with lamb dishes as well as lighter meats and pasta.

- Hardys 2006 South Eastern Australia Merlot (three-liter box/$18.99): The idea of the term "fruit-forward" will make perfect sense to you with the first sip of this excellent merlot. The aromas of plums, blackberries and cedar rise from the glass when the wine is poured. The flavor is a romp of blackberries, boysenberries and plum wrapped in a soft oak robe. The finish is expansive and fruity. To sum it up, this wine at this price is an outstanding bargain.

- Hardys 2006 South Eastern Australia Chardonnay (three-liter box/$18.99). Here is a perfect example of a modern Australian chardonnay, and an example of what can be accomplished with grapes from a fine growing area. The aroma stresses green apples, pears, melons and spice, with oak and vanilla in the background. The green apple and the melon are the most prominent flavors, with an entire collection of tropical fruits lying just offshore. This chardonnay deserves your attention, especially at the price.

- Hardys 2006 South Eastern Australia Cabernet Sauvignon (three-liter box/$18.99). This wine is a full-flavored delight that is further enhanced by a deep, dark, ruby color. The aromas of cherry and blackberry are presented up front and seem to fill the room when the cork is pulled. The flavor is as big and expansive as the aroma and is loaded with cassis, spice and a dusty mushroom flavor in the background. This is a well-made, full-flavored wine that takes second place to none in or around its price range.

Sheila and Bennet Bodenstein of Nixa write about wines each week for the News-Leader. E-mail your wine questions to | Homes

Monday, September 17, 2007

Boxed Wine is Fine

From the Charleston Daily Mail

The fact that I'm following up last week's wine column with this week's on wine and beer should in no way suggest that I've lost my mind and/or fallen off the wagon. With three young boys to raise, however, it does often feel like I've fallen off the deep end.

Since I started down a slippery slope last week - proclaiming thou shalt not discriminate against screw-cap wines - then why not jump in headfirst and extol the benefits of another receptacle of the grape? That's right, I drank box wine this week. And fairly enjoyed it.

Before you boo, let me explain.

If a screw cap has become more socially acceptable because of its ability to better preserve a wine's integrity, then consider the vacuum-packed box. Its heavy plastic lining and dispense-as-you-go spout keep the wine inside virtually airtight (and thus, preserved and untainted) for literally weeks. Any wine remaining in an opened bottle is lucky to make it a few days before it starts to lose its charm.

And while the practice has been mostly limited to less-distinguished "bargain" brands in the past, more reputable winemakers are now starting to embrace the concept as well.

The cardboard carafe 'o wine I sampled this weekend was not one of those pricier labels, but the Carlo Rossi Reserve Merlot (there, I said it) was not a bad table wine for Sunday dinner.

And weighing in at 5 liters, it should get me through the better part of the week. If the boys behave.

Boxed wine is fine and keeps well - Daily Mail - Charleston

The Sutherlands on Boxed Wine for Tailgaiting

We all know that boxed wine comes into it's own for outdoor activities, and I think it's just great for tailgating! Frank and Kate Sutherland tasted two boxed Aussie Chards, two boxed French wines, and a five liter California sangria. For authenticity, they actually tasted them tailgating in a parking lot.

Wine: For tailgating, break out the box

Gannett News Service

Football season is upon us again, as is one of the game's most revered traditions - tailgating.

Now that boxed wines are improving in quality, we thought wine should join in on the tailgating festivities. With no glass to break and plenty of wine to go around (all the wines we tried were in 3-liter boxes equivalent to four bottles, except one that held 5 liters, about six and a half bottles), boxed wines are perfect for a mobile party.

Our wine-tasting group tried five boxed white wines to see which would keep us cool in a parking lot with 60,000 of our closest friends. The results follow.

- 2006 Banrock Station chardonnay. $17.99/ 3 liters. We smelled dusty lemon, dry earth and dried honeysuckle in the nose. On the palate, we tasted bright lemon that was juicy yet crisp with a slightly bitter finish. This Aussie chard was easy to drink and would be refreshing on a hot afternoon. It was our favorite.

- 2006 Box Star chardonnay. $15.99/3 liters. The aroma offered hay and grass. In the mouth, we tasted apples and green bananas with a full body and a long finish. Our second favorite was another Australian chardonnay in a bigger, more textural style than the first wine.

- 2006 La Petite Frog Picpoul de Pinet. $24.99/3 liters. The aroma suggested scents of melon, limestone, citrus and a touch of grass. The wine was dry, light-bodied and squeaky clean with bright acids. This wine was from the Languedoc coast of southern France and was made from a traditional grape in the region. We thought it would appeal to pinot grigio drinkers.

- Non-vintage Almaden white sangria. $17.49/5 liters. This wine-fruit juice blend was very aromatic, with scents of peach candy, orange soda and mandarin oranges. It tasted like it smelled - sweet-tart candy flavors, light-bodied and sugary, but with enough acids to keep it from being cloying. This wine had fruit juice added, which made it considerably sweeter, but it wasn't cloying. We agreed that if you like sweet wine, this would be easy to drink in the hot sun.

- 2005 Free Range white Bordeaux. $29.99/3 liters. The aroma reminded us of dried apricots, with a hint of peach and a hint of honey. In the mouth, it had relatively very little flavor -mostly alcohol. This French blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon had a muted aroma, and the only sensation we had on the palate was the burn of alcohol.
Journal and Courier Online - Food & Drink

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Upscale boxed wines

From the Champaign Illinois News-Gazette

A new trend: Upscale boxed wines

News-Gazette Staff Writer
December 5, 2003

With Christmas and New Year's Eve parties coming up, have I got a deal for you.

If you are having trouble ponying up money to supply wine for a large group, now is the time to think about a big ol' box of wine. And no, I'm not talking about Franzia, Peter Vella or Almaden. There is a new trend in boxed wines: quality.

The 5-liter boxed wines from Franzia, Peter Vella and Almaden are cheap, about $10. The problem is they taste cheap. Up until now, I've never found a boxed wine I like.

That changed several weeks ago when I bought the Hardys Stamp of Australia Shiraz and later the Chardonnay. A 3-liter box from the Hardys Stamp collection sells for $15 to $16 and can be found on sale at $13 to $14. A 3-liter box is the equivalent of four 750 ml bottles, which works out to about $4 a bottle, a very nice price indeed.

I've also had 3-liter boxed wines from Corbett Canyon (they sell for $9 to $10), both the Merlot and Chardonnay. They are a step up from Franzia et al, but not as good as the Hardys. The owner of Corbett Canyon, by the way, is The Wine Group, which also owns Franzia.

Other makers of quality boxed wines include: Trinchero Wine Cube ($16); Delicato Bota Box ($18); Black Box Chardonnay and Merlot ($20); Le Cask Old Vine Zinfandel ($24); and Sonoma Hill Blackburn Fine Wine ($36). Also, Australia's Banrock Station makes a boxed wine, but I do not have a price for it. All are 3 liter boxes.

Of those quality boxes, only the Hardys Stamp of Australia can be found locally. However, I would expect more liquor stores and other shops to start stocking others as they become more widely available.

What these quality boxes do is make wine more of a commodity than a drink only for special occasions. In Europe, Australia and other parts of the world, boxed wines are very popular. For example, 52 percent of all wines in Australia are sold in a box.

These buyers care less about the packaging of a wine than what's inside. That's largely because wines are consumed on a daily basis with meals. It doesn't matter that wine comes in a bottle with a screwtop or in a box with a spigot.

Boxed wines are tremendously convenient. Buying a box saves frequent trips to the wine shop; once opened wine stays fresh for four to six weeks; the per glass price is a very good deal; and the boxed wines taste exactly like their bottled counterparts.

To test this, I matched the Corbett Canyon boxes against their bottled brethren. I could tell no difference. The Corbett Canyon will appeal to people who like their wines on the softer, less oaky side. The Merlot had more plum than cherry taste, with a bit of prune and a vanilla, soft plum aroma. The Chardonnay tasted of pineapple, pear and vanilla, with a nose of pear, vanilla and a bit of fruit cocktail. Both rate fair to good. I liked the Chardonnay better.

The Hardys Chardonnay had more tropical fruit flavors and a light oak toastiness. The Shiraz tasted of dark plum and cherry, with a cinnamon finish. Both rate good to very good.

Of the box design, both have strengths and weaknesses. The Hardys spigot is a push-button affair, but at the end I found the bladder inside had a full glass of wine remaining. I had to open the box and squeeze the bladder to get the remainder out. The Corbett Canyon spigot has a screw knob that's a little less convenient, but fully drained the bladder.

While I like the idea of upscale boxed wines, the environmentalist in me bemoans the wasteful packaging. Bottles can – and should – be recycled. Cork quickly degrades. The cardboard containers of boxed wines can be flattened and recycled, but the plastic bladder is one more thing to fill up the landfills. Food

Friday, June 29, 2007

98 Points??? Double Gold??? Two-Buck Chuck Chard WIns Big

So, OK, Two-Buck Chuck is not boxed wine, but I'm going to include this item here because I have had so many conversations about Two-Buck Chuck vs premium boxed wines. I must admit, I am stunned. The California State Fair Wine Competition judged the Charles Shaw 2005 California Chardonnay best best of class. This was on yesterday's Business Wire. The news is apparently so fresh that the results are not even up on the State Fair website yet. Here's a segment of the article.
$1.99 Chardonnay Judged California’s Best

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--California’s wine world turned upside down – pricewise – today when the Charles Shaw 2005 California Chardonnay (yes, the $1.99 “Two-Buck Chuck” made by Bronco Wine Company and sold through Trader Joe’s) was judged the Best Chardonnay from California at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

G.M. Pucilowski, Chief Judge and director of the competition, said, “Since we judge all wines totally by variety, without different brackets for price, this double-gold achievement by the Bronco winemakers is astounding.” While the complete results are to be announced July 12, Renata Franzia of Bronco’s Franzia family received the news today and the word is spreading. The Chardonnay received 98 points, a double gold, and the accolades of Best of California and Best of Class.

Dr. Richard Peterson, veteran winemaker and a State Fair judge for 20 years, said, “We have the most open judging I know. There is nothing to bias the judging: we get numbered glasses; we don’t know region, brand or price; we evaluate the judges frequently to make sure they’re tops in the field. Charles Shaw won because it is a fresh, fruity, well-balanced Chardonnay that people and judges, though maybe not wine critics, will like!”

$1.99 Chardonnay Judged California's Best

Three Liter Box Wine Volume Up 44 Percent in US

From the Orlando Sentinel
Cheers! Outside-the-box drinking
The Associated Press
June 27, 2007

Box wine is now the fastest-growing wine category. According to data from AC Nielsen, 3-liter box wine volume grew 44 percent in the past year, compared to a 3 percent gain in overall table-wine volume.

Although wine has been packaged in a box for some time, the new boxes aren't like those 5-liter jugs of sweet, headache-inducing wines of the past. Although those are still readily available, there are now premium varieties that show more complexity. Of course, premium box wines are more pricey. A chardonnay can run $20 a box that has the equivalent of four bottles, whereas lower-quality 5-liter boxes range from $6 to $10 for more than six bottles of wine. Premium boxes are still a steal, however, since a quality bottle of wine easily can cost $10-$30 or more.

Cheers! Outside-the-box drinking --

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Box Wines Blog Got Press Today

The Box Wines blog got some press today from Lenn Thompson on Lenn has another excellent wine blog, LENNDEVOURS. Lenn wrote about wine information on the web, in particular about the vibrant world of wine blogging. He mentions several good blogs, ending with Box Wines.
Lest you think wine blogs are yet another spot for wine snobbery, there's even a blog for lovers of boxed wines. The Box Wine Blog (, as its name suggests focuses on affordable wines that are often found in alternative packaging like boxes, cans and the like. - Wine on the Web

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Wine Packaging Trends in France

From Expatica
Wine packaging: Bag-in-box, plastic bottles, cork comeback?

BORDEAUX, France, June 22, 2007 (AFP) - In the past 12 years, France, the world's leading wine producer, has fostered just one revolution in the world of packaging -- the bag-in-box, or BIB.

The slow pace of change has been offset however by the fact that French BIB wine tastes much better than that in Britain -- sometimes called the "scourge of the summer party" -- or in the United States.

Holding back innovations in both French packaging and branding has been the complexity of its wine classifications system, as opposed to the simplicity of new world producers such as Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and the US.

"Wine is very complex in France, the customer therefore wants reassurance, not novelty," said Olivier Mouchet, wine director at Auchan, a leading French supermarket chain, at this year's Vinexpo, the world's biggest wine trade show.

BIBs, introduced in France in the 1980s, were largely ignored until recently when sales grew as buyers switched from older non-airtight "cubies", which once opened had to be transferred to bottles at home or drunk as soon as possible.

New-age BIBs, plastic air-tight containers with a self-sealing tap, allow wine-lovers to drink by the glass without spoiling the wine or altering its taste.

Mouchet said the rise of BIBs, which now represent 15 per cent of French supermarket wine sales, has doubled Auchan's sales in the last five years.

On the international wine scene, the future holds higher quality wine in BIBs, lighter glass bottles, and light plastic bottles made from PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, a compound developed in the 1970s that is now coming into its own due to its recyclability.


Wine packaging: Bag-in-box, plastic bottles, cork comeback?, French News, France, Expatica

French Boxed Wine Comes to China?

This little news bit is from China Wines Information Website
The first unique store of French wine bag-in-box was established in Shanghai

Beaujolais wine which had a long history for 102 years was from one of ten major wine regions in France. Recently, the first unique store of Beaujolais wine was set up in Shanghai.

At the wine-tasting for opening, a lot of people spoke highly of the wine. The taste of it was good and its bag-in-box package was convenient for people to take it away. It's welcome in Shanghai.

This French wine had hundreds of varieties including red, white and rose wines. They were separately from Burgundy, Beaujolais, Bordeaux and other ten major wine regions.

The first unique store of French wine bag-in-box was established in Shanghai - wines-info

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Angel Juice Pinot Grigio 3 Liter Box

The first Italian Pinot Grigio on the list of bag-in-box wines. Have you tried this wine? If so, please leave a comment:

Angel Juice Pinot Grigio
Imported by Angel Juice Cellars, Ripon CA (Underdog Wine Merchants, the Wine Group)
Venezie region, Italy
3 liter box, vintage dated
About $19

With bright citrus notes, tropical fruit and honeysuckle, this Pinot Grigio exhibits the distinctive color, balance and freshness that is unique to this special Italian region.
Adam Richardson, Winemaker, Angel Juice Cellars

Reviews on the web:

October 9, 2006, the Beverage Tasting Institute
Angel Juice 2005 Pinot Grigio, Venezie IGT $18.99/3 Liter Cask.
Pale golden yellow color. Earthy lemon and wet balsa aromas follow through to a dry, tart medium body with lemon peel, melon, and balsa flavors. Finishes with a tangy, crisp, wet stone accented fade. A nice value.
86 points (Highly Recommended)

Angel Juice 2005 Pinot Grigio, Venezie IGT $18.99/3 Liter Cask.

Roger, March 2, 2007, Box Wines blog (Roger does not note the vintage of his box, but I'm assuming 2005)
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10
... a mild, pleasant wine ... The nose is floral with some woody notes and a hint of clove. On the palate, the wine is light-bodied and delicate, with pear, melon and citrus leading into a slightly acidic finish. ... Overall, Angel Juice is a delicate, dry, and refreshing wine that can be enjoyed at any time but might be particularly fun at outdoor summer parties, both for general quaffing and to accompany lighter fare like salads and fruit.

Wines » Angel Juice Pinot Grigio

Sumi, May 15, 2007, comment on Box Wines
i found the wind to lack flavor, taste flabby, and was very disappointed. the color is a darker yellow with some gold in it, rather than what a pinot grigio should look like. not worth the price.

Wines » Angel Juice Pinot Grigio

At Our House: we just finished a box of 2005 Angel Juice Pinot Grigio. We consumed most of it at a Sunday evening gathering at home, and took the remainder to a midweek party. We agreed that it was very good (better than "pretty good," but not "exceptionally good"). Those at the party who tasted it (some with hesitation) found it surprisingly good. We will definitely buy this again.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

VinUno Boxed Wine Box

Many who purchase boxed wine appreciate the convenience and the economy of the box. Are these the people who will spend $132 on a stylish unmarked box from which to serve said boxed wine? Many who shun boxed wine assume the contents to be inferior. Will placing the bag of wine in a fancy, anonymous, Danish box improve their opinion of the contents?

I'm not sure who the VinUno is for. Certainly not for me. Designed by Lars Erdman, the VinUno is made of polished steel and laquered wood. It's available in dark red, white, and black, and you can put a "cooling element" in to keep white wine cold (would that be a cold-pack?). $132.12 from Scandinavian Design Center.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

How Well Does It Keep - Really

Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, wine writers for the Wall Street Journal, had a great article yesterday on a little boxed wine experiment they conducted. In Boxed Wines Face The Six-Week Challenge, we learn the answer to the question they posed - does boxed wine really last for weeks after opening? They designed a blind tasting experiment using FishEye wines, and the results are VERY surprising!
FishEye claims -- and other boxed wines make similar claims -- that its wines will keep well for six weeks after opening because the plastic bag inside the box collapses and therefore keeps out air. We decided to test the claim. We bought seven boxes of FishEye Chardonnay (vintage 2005, "best when consumed before Nov. 6, 2007"). They cost $16 each, or about $4 per regular bottle. Our idea was that we would open one every week for six weeks and empty about a sixth of the contents. Then we'd taste the six boxes against a newly opened box six weeks later. We opened the first box, found the pour spout and tapped the bag. Then we tasted the Chardonnay and it was OK, but harsh. We decided that we couldn't very well perform our test with this wine because it didn't taste that good to us to begin with, so then we tried FishEye's 2006 Pinot Grigio, which was fairly pleasant and not too sweet (though it smelled and tasted more like Sauvignon Blanc), and its Shiraz, which was tasty -- "soft and pleasant, with integrated acidity and nice fruit." The Shiraz seemed perfect for our experiment. (All of the boxes cost $16.) While FishEye doesn't say the boxes need to be refrigerated, we did this because these simple wines, even the Shiraz, are better with a chill.

Over the next six weeks, we opened one box of Shiraz every Friday and poured out about one-sixth of all of them that were open. (The Shiraz was vintage 2004, "best when consumed before Dec. 1, 2007.") Because we had the Chardonnay anyway, we went ahead and conducted the experiment with those boxes, too. Soon, our refrigerators were groaning under the weight of boxed wines.

A Pleasant Surprise

At the end of the experiment, first we tasted the box of Pinot Grigio we'd tried weeks earlier. It was still pleasant, with some lemon, peach and kiwi. It tasted somewhat watery, but not at all oxidized. It didn't taste like it had been open for six weeks.

Then we put all of the boxes of Chardonnay and Shiraz on a table. We had noted on the bottom of the box when each was opened. We asked a friend to serve them so we wouldn't be able to tell which boxes were lightest and which were heaviest, and therefore we were able to taste the seven wines blind: from one open for six weeks to one just opened fresh.

The Chardonnays, on the whole, continued to taste pleasant enough but a bit harsh. Three smelled and tasted notably sulfuric. All tasted of pineapple -- sometimes sweet pineapple and sometimes watery pineapple. One was clearly the best. It tasted riper, fresher and cleaner than the rest. This turned out to be the newest box, the one we had just opened. But our second favorite was the wine we'd opened the third week of the experiment, and our third favorite was the very first we'd opened, all those weeks before. Overall, the boxes we opened first and last were the best; the boxes opened in the middle weeks were the ones that tasted and smelled less fresh. But none of the boxes tasted oxidized or obviously off. We've tried some wines by the glass at tony wine bars that tasted far more over the hill.

We sampled the Shirazes next. Once again, none of them was obviously oxidized. The difference among them was that a couple tasted vibrant and alive -- these were wines we would take to a picnic ourselves -- while others had the same basic tastes, but they'd lost life and seemed somewhat dull and flat. In any event, none of them tasted as sweet, alcoholic and heavy as many jug wines on the market and even many under-$20 wines in bottles.

When we checked the bottom of the boxes, it turned out that our favorite Shiraz had been opened in week No. 4 and our second favorite had been the very first cask we opened. Our third favorite was the freshest box. Once again, it appeared that the boxes from the fifth and sixth weeks -- those open for one week and two weeks -- were the most problematic. Call it a dumb period.

So, the bottom line: It's true. The wine really does keep for six weeks. It has its ups and downs in your refrigerator, but it will keep fine. Would we keep a box of wine in our refrigerator for six weeks? Well, no. Today, there are so many interesting, affordable wines on the shelves that we'd rather taste several wines than one wine in a big box. That said, the FishEye Shiraz, at the equivalent of $4 a bottle, is a perfectly nice wine for a party this summer -- and, yes, if you have any left over, you can keep it around until the dog days of summer without it turning hairy.

Tastings -

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Washington Post Samples Some Boxes

Today, from the Washington Post
Sunday Source Tip Sheet

Putting Bacchus in a Box

Boxed wines are anti-chic. They are the wino's wines, Mom's tipple from the fridge after Dad has gone to bed, or painful reminders of cheap college hangovers when our knowledge of wine was limited to "red," "white" and "pink."

Yet wine in a box has some advantages: A three-liter carton takes the space of two bottles but offers the buzz of four. Smaller boxes offer possibilities for covert sipping in places where alcohol might be frowned upon. Boxes fit neatly into a picnic basket and won't break on a patio or pool deck. And they are cheaper than bottles and corks, so the winery can pass that savings on to you.

Despite these conveniences, the stigma remains. After all, wines should bear vintage dates, not freshness dates. Yet with a glut of wine from California, France and Australia in recent years, some producers have been putting better-quality juice in unconventional containers.

The most common uncommon packaging is called "bag in a box" or even, in earthier company, a "bladder pack." Inside the box is a plastic bag that collapses around the wine as it is dispensed, keeping the remainder fresh for as long as four weeks, some companies say. Other wines are packaged in Tetra Paks, those European ´cardboard boxes you may have seen carrying soups at your grocery that come with their own spigots. (And there's something to be said for wine by the spigot!) Here are six locally available wines for those who don't mind thinking inside the box.

— Dave McIntyre - Special to The Washington Post

Sunday Source: Tip Sheet - Putting Bacchus in a Box (

The following are some of the wines McIntyre sampled, and his remarks.

Banrock Station (Australia), 3-liter bag-in-box, $20; 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 Chardonnay
Drinkable, but with an out-of-balance oak flavor — and at this price one suspects these wines never saw the inside of a barrel.

Black Box Wines (California), 3-liter bag-in-box, $20; 2005 Monterey County Chardonnay, 2005 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 Pinot Grigio, 2004 Merlot
For the price, we're just looking for something fun, tasty and interesting, and these deliver. The chard almost makes me want to get geeky and talk of mangoes and tropical aromas and a vague air of complexity. Extra props for the regional-appellation wines that show a hint of the character of the place.

Franzia (California), 5-liter bag-in-box, $12; Old World Classics Chianti, Argentina
The name Old World Classics Chianti Argentina should be enough to send you to the next aisle, even before you see the freshness date (Nov. 13, 2007, on the box I bought). Sweet, gamey and nothing at all like Chianti, but not nearly as disgusting as I feared, either. Just don't offer me a second glass.

Hardys Stamp of Australia, 3-liter bag-in-box, $20; 2005 Riesling, 2005 Chardonnay
The Riesling, a nice picnic wine, is semi-dry (geek speak for slightly sweet), with the flavor of key lime that helps define Riesling. Quite quaffable and enjoyable in moderation, especially with spicier foods.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Entrepreneur Bringing Premium Boxed Wine to Scotland

From The Scotsman, in Scotland on Sunday, there's an article about an entrepreneur bringing premium boxed wine to Scotland
Sun 3 Jun 2007
Now wine lovers can think out of the box

IT USED to be the scourge of the summer party, reserved for the hoi polloi and definitely not for connoisseurs.

But now a Frenchwoman living in Scotland is aiming to do for boxed wine what Volkswagen did for Skoda, with a new range targeted at just the kind of discerning drinker you would expect to shudder at the very idea.

Valerie Blanc, who worked for Glenmorangie, is hoping to put a box on the dining tables of the most picky connoisseurs with a new company that will sell what is known by wine buffs as 'chateaux-bottled' wine - but in a bag.

She hopes the concept will appeal to eco-friendly wine lovers weary of visiting the bottle bank and restaurants who want to serve customers by the glass.

Her firm, Provenance Boutique Wines, offers a range of wines sourced directly from the vineyards of France.

Packaging and shipment are reduced as the boxes are lighter and cheaper to produce than glass. Hefty merchants' fees are also waived as they are shipped direct from the vineyard.

Improvements in technology mean that the vacuum-packed bags-in-boxes can keep the wine fresh for up to six weeks after opening. Prices start at around £41 for a five-litre box - the equivalent of £6.15 a bottle.

The idea came to Blanc on a visit to her family in Bordeaux. "I went to stay with my parents and they served a delicious red wine," she says. "When I asked my father what it was, he produced a box - I couldn't believe it. But he told me that in France there is a huge market for bag-in-box wine. Over there it doesn't carry the same stigma as it does in the UK.

"When I returned to Scotland, I found that the only wine I could find that was sold bag-in-box was basically cheap plonk or co-operative wine. I thought this is crazy, as in America and Australia it is massive."

Travelling back to Bordeaux, Valerie went in search of a number of small, independent producers, picking a handful from the Loire and Cotes de Blaye.

She also realised the concept would attract interest because it is environmentally-friendly.

"In this country we have a real problem with green bottle recycling. At the moment you have to get in your car and drive to the recycling point," she says.

A recent report by Vinexpo found that the wine industry risks losing a generation of customers if it doesn't get better at capturing the attention of younger drinkers.

The survey found that many young drinkers were curious about wine, but deterred by too many choices and styles, complex labelling and wine's stuffy image.

Nick Room, wine buyer for Waitrose, said the new concept would succeed in the British market.

He said: "They sell well in France, and I see no reason why they couldn't take off over here. The market trend is towards environmental packaging and bag-in-box is the best alternative. It just takes something to convince consumers that the wine in the bag is as good as the wine in the bottle."

But others were less convinced. Neil Beckett, editor of the World Of Fine Wine, described the idea as interesting, but said it would still face resistance from some quarters.

"In terms of viability and integrity of the wine it makes much more sense than it would have done in the past. There used to be great problems with oxidation and contamination. A lot of those issues have been resolved.

"But it is a similar issue to screwcaps, there will always be people who are attached to the romance of using a corkscrew and drawing a cork and the whole of ritual of it."

And Philip Larue, the Scottish director of Friarwood fine wine merchants, thought the concept was ridiculous. He said: "

"I know it is very popular in France but I think this sort of thing should be kept to camping. Wine is all about romance and occasion. To some extent presentation is as important as the quality of the liquid that is in the bottle."

Scotland on Sunday - UK - Now wine lovers can think out of the box

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Boxed Reds, Six Recommendations

Sunday's New York Daily News lifestyle section featured an article on boxed red wines. A blind tasting of 14 wines resulted in thumbs up for six wines including Powers 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Banrock Station 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Black Box 2005 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, Delicato 2005 Merlot, and Black Box 2004 Merlot.

Six boxed reds deserve to fly off the shelf
Sunday, June 10th 2007, 3:28 PM

If you're planning to eat outdoors or load up the car for a vacation, you might be thinking about buying a box of wine because of its low cost and convenience. But choose carefully. Even though many boxed wines are vintage-dated varietals, the wine is not always adequate.

In a blind tasting of 14 boxed reds, all were big, high-alcohol wines with dark flavors of baked fruit rather than medium-weight wines with fresh, lively flavors. Although they were generally soft (not very tannic), and many people will find them easy to drink, their heaviness reduces their refreshment factor, especially in warm weather.

Compared with boxed whites I bought - mainly Chardonnays, except for a couple of Pinot Grigios and a lone Riesling - the reds offered more variety in terms of their grapes. They included Pinot Noirs, Shirazes, Merlots, Cabernets and even a Grenache-based blend from southwestern France. But the best were the Cabernets, which stands to reason, because Cabernet Sauvignon makes sturdy wines that tend to be less affected by adverse conditions, such as the short shelf life boxed wines seem to have.

Of the 14 I tasted, I can recommend six.

Powers Winery 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($24 for 3 liters): This is my highest-scoring red because it is an authentic Washington Cabernet. That is, a full-bodied, well-made wine with ripe fruit flavors that isn't trying to please a mass-market consumer who wants a bit more sweetness. Also available in bottles, this is a wine to drink yourself but not necessarily to serve at a party with novice wine drinkers.

Banrock Station 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, South Eastern Australia ($19 for 3 liters): This is a crowd-pleaser, soft, ample, round and flavorful - think dark plums and black cherries. It's not light on its feet, but it has lots of ripe, dark fruit flavor. A good guzzle.

Three Thieves 2003 "Bandit" Cabernet Sauvignon ($11 for 1 liter): A classic Cabernet, lean, dry, with clean, concentrated flavors of black currants - and it's well-made. Considering it's a 2003, it's very fresh, which suggests reliability. Available as a 1-liter brick or four mini-bricks of 250 ml each.

Black Box 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles ($18 for 3 liters): This wine is full-bodied with soft tannins, making it easy to like. But connoisseurs will realize the winemaker is relying on a bit of sweetness to pull off its taste. It's a great value for a party or large outdoor family feast.

Delicato 2005 Merlot, California ($17 for 3 liters): This wine is dry, full bodied and soft, with substantial texture. It has lots of flavor, suggesting ripe black fruits with herbal and minty notes. Very well-made and very solid.

Black Box 2004 Merlot, California ($18 for 3 liters): This wine is more flavorful than the Black Box Cabernet and could be even more of a crowd-pleaser, with its soft style and ripe, black fruit flavors. But its alcohol is a bit too obvious, in my opinion.

Six boxed reds deserve to fly off the shelf

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Consider Boxed Wine for Picnics

Boxed wine is featured today in By the Glass on
For Picnics, Think Inside the Box
The 411 on better boxed wines
By Courtney Cochran

When I think of all the fabulous things that come in boxes – chocolates, engagement rings, and presents comes to mind – and then reflect on the sad reputation of wines that come in boxes, I get a little down. The reason is, although boxed wines are getting better, most connoisseurs still think of them as swill only fit for the likes of frat parties and pizza parlors.

But according to market tracker AC Nielsen, the overall volume of 3-liter boxed wine (the equivalent of four standard-sized 750ml bottles) grew 44% in the past year, compared with just a 3% gain in overall table-wine volume. Apparently, enlightened folks out there are drinking a lot more boxed wine. Let’s take a look at why:

Hip to be square
Boxed wines are gaining thanks to better varieties being offered in boxes (boxed Chard, anyone?) and a growing understanding amongst consumers of the value and durability boxes offer. Boxed wines can stay fresh in your fridge for as long as four weeks, since the collapsible bags inside don’t allow the wine to be spoiled by oxygen, and they’re often far less expensive than bottled wine on a per-volume basis.

But in spite of these gains, boxed wines still lag – painfully so – behind bottled wines when it comes to social acceptance. Case in point: Few folks who consider themselves truly wine savvy would be caught dead bringing out a box at a dinner party, even if it was the much-lauded Chardonnay from Northern California-based Black Box Wines that won a silver medal at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition not long ago.

When boxes rock
But one place boxed wines WILL make a splash – socially speaking – is on outdoor excursions. This is due to yet another attribute of boxed wines that’s contributing to their gains – their flexibility when it comes to transporting them. You can take boxes places you can’t take glass (think of the beach, tailgate parties, and camping excursions) and they’re far lighter than bottles to boot.

Besides all this, boxed wines are often made with environmentally friendly biodegradable materials, which means that you can now knock back better wine from boxes, and feel good while doing it. If that’s not socially acceptable, then I don’t know what is.

Top boxes
Target Wine Cube – These stylishly designed cubes come in 3-liter and 1.5-liter sizes (equivalent to 4 and 2 regular-sized bottles, respectively) and feature a wide range of varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Australian Shiraz and a Cabernet/Shiraz blend. Watch for new Riesling and Pinot Noir offerings in 1.5-liter sized boxes in fall 2007.

Delicato Bota Box – The colorful three-liter boxes from Delicato Family Vineyards consistently score highly with wine critics for their premium offerings of Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Cabernet. Priced at about $18 per box, the Bota Box offers award-winning wine for the equivalent price of $4.50 per standard 750mL bottle. Not bad.

By the Glass: For Picnics, Think Inside the Box

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Boxed Wine is the Ultimate Cooking Wine

The Tasting Lab of Cook's Illustrated asked the question "Do boxed wines stand up to bottled when used in cooking?" The Tasting Lab conducted a blind test of a red wine pan sauces using premium 3-liter boxed wine, 5-liter boxed red plonk, and a $10 Cotes du Rhone. The results? All the sauces were just fine. They repeated the test 2 weeks later, and all the boxed wine sauces were fine, but the Cotes du Rhone had gone "off." Again, 7 weeks later, all the boxed wines were fine for cooking.
The Ultimate Cooking Wine—Boxed Wine
Can boxed wine compete with bottle wine—at least in cooking?

Granted, a cardboard box may not look as classy as a slender green bottle, but we wondered if boxed wine could compete with bottled wine when used in cooking. First employed in Australia and Europe and now widely available in the United States, spigot-released boxed wine is both inexpensive and convenient, and it has a long shelf life, which makes it appealing to the cook who may need only the occasional cup.

To find out if boxed wine belongs in the kitchen, we tasted an array of boxed varietals ranging in price from $12.99 to $19.99 for three- or five-liter boxes, including Shiraz, Merlot, and Burgundy. As a control, we included a $10 bottle of the Cotes du Rhone we often use in the test kitchen for cooking. Sampled fresh out of the box, some of the wines did not impress, tasting sweet, simple, and sangria-like. But others were quite good, and tasters actually preferred them to the bottled wine. For the next test, we used each of the wines in our Modern Coq au Vin (page 19) and a red wine pan sauce. To our surprise, all of the sauces-even those made with the wines we didn't like straight from the box-were fine.

After the bottles and boxes had been open for two weeks, we tasted them in pan sauce again. As expected, the recorked bottle of Cìtes du Rhìne had skunked, depreciating to a flat, alcohol-flavored sourness, but the boxed wines were still going strong. Even at a full seven weeks, the unrefrigerated boxed wines were fine for cooking.

How do boxed wines stay fresh for so long? An airtight, bladder-like plastic sac collapses as wine is removed (the box is there only for stackability and portability), making the wine less susceptible to oxidation. Price is another plus: Those we tested cost the equivalent of $2 to $5 a bottle.

The Ultimate Cooking Wine—Boxed Wine-Taste Tests-Cook's Illustrated 11/2006

Related Tags: box, boxed, cask, wine, cooking

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Boxed Wine Consumption in Australia Continues to Drop

The Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia, reports today on the rising consumption of bottled wine, and an accompanying decline in boxed wine consumption.
The strong economy, wine discounting and consumers trading up to better quality wine have all been linked to the rising consumption of bottled wine.

. . .

Bottled red wine consumption rose by 9 per cent to 100,964 million litres in the same time.

It occurred while cask wine consumption continued to decline, falling by 2.7 per cent to 174,580 million litres, the lowest level for many years. The result was a 3.4 per cent jump in total domestic wine sales to 447 million litres in the 12 months to the end of April.

Drinking leap is a bottler | Herald Sun

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Wine in a Box?

The question is "WHY NOT?"

Today, in Online Cooking, Clara Myers asks:
Wine In a Box... Why?

Friday, 1st June 2007
By Clara Myers

Wine snobs don’t turn your patrician noses up just yet. There are actually valid reasons to box wine. Boxed wines actually take up less space than bottles if you throw away the box and just refrigerate the membrane.

Europeans have been selling boxed wine for years now, and they seemed to have survived the practice. So if the Euros don’t find it gauche, who are we to complain? Here are some more positives:

  • Boxes don’t break and are easier to handle than bottles
  • Boxes are easier to store than bottles in the refrigerator
  • Boxed wines stay airtight thereby stay fresher longer
  • Boxed wines don’t require a corkscrew
If you’re having a problem with boxed wine, it’s probably because you’re intermingling flashbacks from your misspent youth--gallon bottles of Ripple and Boone’s Farm intertwined with the boxed Zinfandelesque concoctions sold in the past.

There are some great wines that are sold in boxes—especially the Australian wines. Another great choice is Peter Vella Wines--great Burgundies, Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, Chablis, and Chardonnays. Most boxed wines are sold for $25 or less. Also, a box holds the equivalent of four bottles which makes boxed wine great for picnics. Wine also stays fresher longer in a box which makes it a more economical purchase than bottled wine. You can actually throw away the box and just store the bag which has less of a footprint in the refrigerator.

If you’re really bent about boxed wine, buy a carafe for presentation purposes. Now I know some of you purists out there are screaming, Wine must breath! Like I said, that’s what carafes are for. Learn the art of decanting.

If you haven't tried boxed wine, this time of year is a great time to start. Boxed wine is great for barbecues, family reunions, beach parties--anywhere a large group is getting together.

© 2007, Clara Myers. Visit Vin Caché at for great domestic and imported wines as well as wine baskets stuffed with gourmet treats. You are free to use this article (unedited) on your web site provided the byline and site attribution remain as-is with live hyperlinks to our web site.

Online Cooking - Bringing out the inner chef in everyone

Friday, June 01, 2007

Hurrah for Boxed Wine in the Kitchen

And Bill Daley of the Chicago Tribune agrees. This in today's paper:

For cooking, drinkable beats expensive
By Bill Daley

Wine Q&A

Question: I am an amateur chef -- not good, but I like what I do. I often see recipes using wine as an ingredient, but the recipes almost never tell me what kind to use. So, what kind of wine: good, everyday, screw-top cap? Can the balance be stored or refrigerated? If so, how? Of course, the easiest answer is to just drink it, but my wife or I are not really drinkers. -- Jerry Meyers, Skokie, Ill.

Answer: When a recipe has a general call for wine, you can pretty much use whatever dry wine you have on hand. The recipe should tell you whether white, red or rosŽ is preferred. Generally, white wine is more useful in cooking because it doesn't color the food like a red. If a recipe calls for a certain type of wine, maybe a sparkling or a sweet dessert type, it will say so. In all cases the wine you cook with should be drinkable -- forget "cooking wine" -- but it doesn't have to be expensive. So, go with the most basic wine you can find that tastes good.

Consider buying one of those box wines with the airtight bladder if storage is an issue. You can pour out what you need, and the rest stays fine in the box for up to several weeks. | 06/01/2007 | For cooking, drinkable beats expensive

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Summertime is Boxed Wine Time

There was an excellent article in yesterday's Southwest Florida News-Press. Rose O'Dell, a wine judge and trained sommelier, along with 40 others, sampled three red wines and three boxed wines in a blind tasking. The recommendations:
  • Best red, Banrock Station Merlot.
  • Best white, a tie between Wine Cube Sauvigon Blanc (Target), and Delicato Pinot Grigio.

Box wine perfect outdoors
By Rose O'Dell King
special to
Originally posted on May 30, 2007

People may not be able to agree on whether we should revise the nation’s immigration laws or what intrinsic qualities our next president should possess, but one thing is as clear as the blue water off Useppa Island: Everybody knows a good wine when they taste it.

So it went during a boxed-wine tasting held in conjunction with The News-Press Campfire Cook-off in a little riverside park. Columnist Byron Stout asked me if I’d come out and help pick the winning concoction and bring along wines to pair with the three finalists’ dishes.

Since several people had already e-mailed me and asked me if I’d review box wines, this seemed the perfect opportunity. Box wines and outdoor activities go together like marshmallows and grahams over an open fire. They’re portable, there’s no corkscrew to forget and the inner liners are so strong that Internet camping blogs tout their reusability as “sun showers” filled with water for bathing. When blown up, they can act as pillows that ease back strain on a kayak trip.

We started with six boxes of wine — three reds and three whites — and lined them up on a picnic table under the shade of a tall mango tree. We wrapped them in black plastic garbage bags and labeled them with a letter to maintain the integrity of the “blind tasting.” We added a bag of ice over the top of the whites to keep them chilled, then gave each person a piece of paper and some tiny bathroom cups and asked them to taste and vote.

I also asked everyone to mark on their ballot if they would buy a box wine in the future. There were a few “no’s” and one “maybe” but just about everybody said they would buy a box wine. One man handed me his ballot and said he would buy a box wine only if he was camping, since everything always tastes better in the great outdoors.

One other thing is certain about box wines — they just keep on giving. Since most box wines contain the equivalent content of four regular bottles, we had plenty left over for an impromptu tasting the next night at our home.

In total, more than 40 people voted. These are the results:

• For outstanding red wine, garnering just about everybody’s vote for No. 1 status, was the Banrock Station Merlot. A number of people wrote that it was “complex.” It definitely had a nice, toasty oak and ripe plummy thing going on. It was surprisingly tasty, and I’d buy it again for a party, camping, boating or tailgating.

• While the reds had a clear favorite, white votes were evenly split between Target’s Sauvignon Blanc Wine Cube and the Delicato Pinot Grigio. Both were as easy and friendly as a puppy and tasted pretty darn good during a Saturday afternoon campfire cook-off, sipping with new-found friends.

— Rose O’Dell King of Fort Myers is a wine judge and trained sommelier who holds a degree from the French Culinary Institute.

The News-Press: Dining

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