Friday, March 30, 2007

AP on Boxed Wine

Last November I posted about a website called Box of Wine - A Cultural Icon, and it's creator, S.K. Waller, who is working on a coffee-table book about boxed wine. Now Steph Waller has come to the attention of the Associated Press, in an article by Lauren Shepherd.

Composer-turned-writer Steph Waller considers herself something of a wine connoisseur. But she isn't seduced by the sweet smell of cork or the curve of a narrow glass neck. Instead, the California native swoons over a glass poured straight from the box. Waller is one of a growing group of wine drinkers turning to the box rather than the bottle.

. . .

Waller, known among friends as the "Box Master" for her habit of bringing a box of wine to every party, isn't fully sold. "If I'm going to spend $25 for a wine, I'm going to get a bottle," she said.

Print Story: Wineries learn to think inside the box on Yahoo! News

Good overview article about the boxed wine trend. Too bad Waller didn't pose with a higher quality box though.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Julia Had It All Wrong

IN the beginning, there was cooking wine. And Americans cooked with it, and said it was good. Then, out of the darkness, came a voice. Said Julia Child: “If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one.” And so we came to a new gospel: Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.

It Boils Down to This: Cheap Wine Works Fine - New York Times

I've never been afraid to cook with the cheap stuff. Nevertheless, I have always had a feeling of inferiority about that. Now I have some affirmation that it really never mattered. The New York Times says "cheap works fine."

I know this article was nothing specifically about boxed wine, but it seems appropriate to take a look anyway. I have from time to time been shocked at blog references to "pouring it down the drain." Surely you could pour it into the stew instead. Or maybe pour it over tomorrow evening's steaks? But for cryin' out loud, not down the drain!!!!

This is why I am never afraid to take a chance on a box. I rarely even find a box priced over $25 (equivalent to $6.25 per bottle). Most are between $16 and $20. At that price, even a bad box can provide a great deal of decent cooking wine (we're talking varietals here, not Boone's Farm).

And now Julia Moskin at the New York Times tells us that most anything is decent enough. She did a great deal of side by side cooking/tasting with the sublime alongside the mediocre.

Two weeks ago I set out to cook with some particularly unappealing wines and promised to taste the results with an open mind. Then I went to the other extreme, cooking with wines that I love (and that are not necessarily cheap) to see how they would hold up in the saucepan. After cooking four dishes with at least three different wines, I can say that cooking is a great equalizer.

It Boils Down to This: Cheap Wine Works Fine - New York Times

So what was the conclusion?

“Tannins are what get you into trouble in cooking,” Ms. Stevens said, because they are accentuated and concentrated by heat. “For reds, err soft,” she said, and choose a wine with a smooth finish. Are there any other hard rules for choosing wine for cooking? One: don’t be afraid of cheap wine. In 1961, when Mrs. Child handed down her edict in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” decent wines at the very low end of the price scale were almost impossible to find in the United States. Now, inexpensive wines flow from all over the world: a $6 bottle is often a pleasant surprise (though sometimes, still, unredeemable plonk).

It Boils Down to This: Cheap Wine Works Fine - New York Times

And the final word:

. . . cooking with wine is just that — cooking — and wine is only one of the ingredients that give a finished dish its flavor. Aromatics, spices, herbs, sugar and especially meat and fat tend to erase the distinct flavors of wine.

It Boils Down to This: Cheap Wine Works Fine - New York Times

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Where Can I Buy Tefft Cellars Boxed Wines?

According the The Yakima Herald, Teff Cellars wines are available at Costco. Now I have a reason to drive 160 miles to shop at Costco. Perhaps I should phone first to make sure they have the Tefft. Here's a bit from the article:

No, Guilty Pleasures doesn't need five-gallon drums of salad dressing or soy sauce. But a five-pack of Laughing Cow cheese wedges and Tefft Cellars' fabulous Cabernet-Merlot boxed wine at a bargain price, now that's something Guilty Pleasures can get behind.

Yakima Herald Republic Online - Home Page - Yakima, Washington News, Classifieds, Information, Advertising

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Friday, March 16, 2007

WBW #31 Roundup at Box Wines Blog

Wine Blogging Wednesday #31, on the theme of Box Wines and Non-Traditional Packaging, has wrapped up; big thanks to Roger at Box Wines blog for hosting this virtual tasing. You can find his excellent roundup of the participants' posts here. Twenty two bloggers joined him to participate this month, including The Boxed Wine Spot (we tasted five boxed Pinot Grigios).

The spectrum of this tasting covered nearly thirty different wines in an dizzying assortment of packages, including cans, bulk, little plastic bottles, TetraPaks, sealed glass carafe, sealed individual plastic tulip glasses, and bag-in-box (which represented 16 of the wines tasted).

I took particular interest in a few boxed wines I haven't seen, or haven't been able to obtain. The Cuvee de Peña 2004 from Chateau Pena is one I have been trying to find for some time. Seppelt Cream Sherry in a box is so surprising that if I see it, I'll have to buy it (I doubt I will see it anywhere around here). The South African Rain Dance Shiraz sounds well worth a try. Casa la Joya has a couple of red blends in 3L boxes that I would like to get my hands on. The Cotes de Provence Rose would be on my list, but I think I would have to travel to France to get it.

Dear reader, do yourself a favor and take the time to tour around all these links.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

WBW #31 -- Box Wine & Non-Traditional Packaging

Nine good friends,
five boxes of California Pinot Grigio
in plain brown wrappers,
and one enormous pot of soup

The theme of today's Wine Blogging Wednesday #31 (Box Wines and Non-Traditional Packaging) offered a great excuse to seek out some of the more interesting top-end boxed wines on the market. And we did seek; but alas, we did not find.

I am often able to find interesting boxed wines when I travel, but I've done no travelling this month. So we shopped locally, but unfortunately, here at the end of the road in this coastal backwater which we call home, there was not much of great interest to be found.

I made some special requests of my local wine merchant, Wanda. She tried in vain to procure the Dtour Macon-Villages Chardonnay, the Cuvee de Pena from Chateau Pena, La Petit Frog Picpoul de Pinet from Hugues Beaulieu, Toad Hollow's Le Faux Frog Pinot Noir, or anything surprising and new to me. But she struck out at every turn. She had even run out of a Cotes du Rhone 3L box which had been a staple in her shop for months.

Instead, I determined that I would create interesting experience of another sort out of a collection of boxed wines from the group which I refer to as the "usual suspects" (the Californian and Australian bag-in-box wines that can be purchased locally in the big-box stores and better supermarkets). Ultimately, at the eleventh hour, I purchased every brand of Pinot Grigio 3 liter box to be found within 50 miles, and sat down with eight friends to compare them. (I regret that I could not find the PG from Black Box Wines).

Five boxes of wine sat in a row on the counter, anonymously wrapped in brown paper. A great pot of Chicken and Artichoke Heart soup simmered on the stove. The crowd was quite an interesting assortment, including a couple of writers, a chef, a few carpenters, some self-proclaimed winos, and a retired professor of bio-psychology / sensory psychology from SUNY Albany who is, in short, an academic professional wine taster. The comparison of our varied individual opinions was even more interesting than the comparison of the wines themselves.

The five wines (in alphabetical order):

Corbett Canyon 2006 Pinot Grigio, $8.99. This wine pretty much tied for top pick among the group, much to the surprise of our attending expert, who placed it near the bottom of his list. Four members of the group picked this as the favorite, and four more as second favorite. Positive comments: "like this one; more body; keeper" ... "good; favorite" ... "light & refreshing; slightly acidic" ... "a bit sweet; complex"
Negative comment:
"no bouquet; light violet flavor; acidic; weak finish; NO (would not buy)"

Delicato 2005 Pinot Grigio, $17.99. This wine generally made the bottom of the list, with seven members of the group placing it as least or second to least favored. One of our tasters, however, rated it second pick.
Positive comment: "yes; keeper"
Negative comments:
"no bouquet; flat to light flowery; no finish; NO (would not buy)" ... "not a lot of flavor" ..."yuck" ..."not much body or flavor"

FishEye 2005 Pinot Grigio, $16.20. This wine tied for top pick, being favorited 5 times (including by our expert), and chosen as second favorite twice.
Positive comments: "pretty good all around" ... "light bouquet; light apple & pear; nice finish; Good (would look for and buy)" ..."better; not as good as (Corbett Canyon)"
Negative comment: "little taste; loser"

Trove 2005 Pinot Grigio, $17.99. Solidly in the middle of the pack, but second favorite of our expert.
Positive comments: "applely; smooth; not much finish; but very drinkable" ... "slight flowery bouquet; raspberry; light melon finish; Good (would look for and buy)" ..."okay"
Negative comments: "too acidic; with a biting aftertaste; not very memorable" ..."weird; maybe"

Wine Cube 2005 Pinot Grigio, $15.99. Second to last overall, with no really strong opinions either way.
Positive comments: "not bad; yes; ok" ... "tart; astringent; acidic; nice wine; not too complex"
Negative comments: "a little sweet" ... "so so" ... "no bouquet; pear; bitter finish; OK minus (would buy but not pay much)"

Points in summary:
  • The FishEye Pinot Grigio is deserving of the gold medal awarded to it in the 2007 SF Chronicle Wine Competition.
  • Greatest group consensus often focuses around mediocrity.
  • Many of our group will find great pleasure in the Corbett Canyon Pinot Grigio at half the price of any other wine in this field.
  • Our noses, palates, preferences, and opinions are as varied as these wines. All are right and none are wrong. Even the expert taster and his wife (no inexperienced palate herself) flat-out panned eachother's top picks.
Perhaps we'll do this again. I'm thinking Shiraz next time.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Boxed Wine Makes the Top 100 Bordeaux

I'm still waiting for FreeRange wines to come to my part of the country, and now with even greater anticipation.

The Bordeaux Wine Bureau has just released it's latest list of 100 top Bordeaux. The list, entitled "Today's Bordeaux 2007," includes the FreeRange 2005 Red Bordeax, in a 3 liter bag-in-box package, from JuiceBox Wine Company. This Bordeaux is produced by Eric Dulong of Dulong Freres et Fils in his Saint Savin winery, using a blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc.

The Selection Process: Today's Bordeaux were selected from more than 270 wines nominated by importers and retailers across the country priced $8 to $25 retail. In February 2007, the jury tasted all entries grouped by price in a blind panel. Wines were selected in the top 100 that were an excellent representation of Bordeaux within the given price range

The 2007 Today's Bordeaux Jury: Paul Chaconas, Bordeaux category manager for retailer Total Wine & More; Mark Oldman, author of the best-selling Oldman's Guide to Outsmarting Wine (Penguin Books); and Cat Silirie, Wine Director of Boston's No. 9 Park restaurant. Read more about this esteemed panel.

Today's Bordeaux: Top 100 Bordeaux

FreeRange wines (not to be confused with any bottle sporting a very large rooster) are only available in BiB packaging, and are available in the northeast US. JuiceBox tells me that they will be available in the southeast region this spring. Looking forward to it guys!!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Boxed Wine Event on March 17

This Boxed Wine Picnic will take place on Saturday, March 17, 1:00 - 5:00 PM. Sounds like fun!

The Tucson Chapter of the American Wine Society is hosting a "boxed wine" picnic at a mystery location near Benson, Arizona. The wine will be paired with fried chicken and side dishes/desserts. We will coordinate car pools from Tucson and drive to the event location. Cost for this event is $15.00 (cash or check to AWS-Tucson). RSVP to if you would like to attend. Please bring a side dish or dessert to share with the group, plus your own wine glasses and lawn chairs. There is no limit on attendance, so feel free to invite your friends to join the fun!

Tucson : Boxed Wine Picnic - Mystery Location

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Now, I've heard of Chateau Cardboard, but this one is new to me. From The Top Kitchen blog.

Word of the Day: Chateauneuf-du-Box

Chateauneuf-du-Box is a Kitchenese play on words. It’s a silly and fancy way to say “wine in a box.” It’s referent, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, is a town in southern France that is known for producing a rustic red wine.

The Top Kitchen: Word of the Day: Chateauneuf-du-Box

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ernest Gallo, 1909 - 2007

Ernest Gallo died yesterday at age 97.

E&J Gallo Winery is the largest wine company in the US, with annual US sales of 75,000,000 cases (2005 estimate, Wine Business Monthly). Among the wines in the Gallo family: Barefoot Cellars, Livingston Cellars, Red Bicyclette, Redwood Creek, Boone's Farm, Turning Leaf, Peter Vella (5 liter box), Carlo Rossi (available in a 4 liter box), Bella Sera, Black Swan (which also recently came out with a 3 liter box), and more.

From the Gallo website:

MODESTO, Calif. (March 6, 2007) – Ernest Gallo, who with his brother Julio, helped build the American wine industry and, in turn, achieved one of the greatest American business successes of the twentieth century, died today at his home in Modesto, California. He was 97. Julio passed away in 1993. Ernest had a younger brother, Joseph, who had his own business interests and passed away earlier this year.
. . .
The son of Italian immigrants, Ernest was born March 18, 1909, in Jackson, California, about 90 miles east of San Francisco in the Sierra Nevada foothills. His parents, Giuseppe (Joe) and Assunta (Susie), ran a boardinghouse for immigrant miners. It was not an easy life. After moving several times, in the early 1920s Joe bought a small farm in Modesto, California, about 70 miles east of San Francisco. Ernest and Julio, who was one year his junior, were required to come home directly from school to work in the fields, and they worked all weekend as well. It was here, in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, that the family’s grapes were harvested and loaded on rail cars for shipment to Chicago for sale to home winemakers, a small market dominated by immigrant communities in the big cities of the East and Midwest. By age 17, Ernest was already displaying his talent for salesmanship, traveling by himself to Chicago, where he was able to sell his family’s grapes and hold his own against older and wiser men. The experience instilled in him an independent, self-assertive nature and a fierce work ethic that remained with Ernest throughout his life.
. . .
The Gallo brothers pursued a dream few could ever envision. Their starting capital was limited to less than $6,000, with $5,000 of that borrowed from Ernest’s mother-in-law. In the first few years after Repeal in 1933, hundreds of companies were entering the wine business – more than 800 in California alone, some of them with extensive pre-Prohibition experience and access to millions of dollars. The brothers began without knowing how to make wine commercially. Ernest and Julio learned by reading old, pre-Prohibition pamphlets put out by the University of California and retrieved from the basement of the Modesto Public Library.
. . .
The sacrifice was often great. During the company’s infancy, the Gallo brothers often worked around the clock, sometimes 36 hours straight. In the first year, the winery produced 177,847 gallons of wine and earned its first profit. It became routine to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week. Although he cut back in recent years, Ernest remained active in the business on a daily basis until his death.

Gallo Public Relations

They founded the E.&J. Gallo Winery in 1933, at the end of Prohibition, when they were still mourning the murder-suicide deaths of their parents. Ernest and Julio rented a ramshackle building, and everybody in the family pitched in to make ordinary wine for 50 cents a gallon — half the going price. The Gallos made $30,000 the first year.

Winemaker Ernest Gallo dies at 97 - U.S. Business -

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Curse of Boxed Wine

For some wine drinkers, boxed wine is a blessing. Those who drink a glass a day appreciate how well it keeps after opening. Anyone putting on a large pool party appreciates the no-glass package, and the economy.

For some however, it's a curse, as J points out in Ashley's Big Secret Blog, excerpted here:

If you and a pal were to sit down for a nice evening of imbibing, you would pull out one bottle and drink it and, then, pull out another. Very likely you would go slowly on the second, as you have this, albeit imperfect, little voice in the back of your brain that warns you that opening too many bottles will lead to overload.

The inconvenient truth is that the benefit of the little voice telling you, “caution, caution” is completely defeated by the box. There is no way to tell how much of the box has been drunk in one sitting. So, without the little voice to warn you of impending doom, you drink and drink and it is very possible that you and your pal will not realize that too much has been consumed until you are slurring at each other or, dread, the box is gone!

I would like to propose a solution here.

Let’s publicize this problem. After all, many right-thinking people must be incensed by this irresponsible, unregulated and deceptive packaging. Perhaps someone could make a movie showing what can happen and suggesting, well, demanding would be better, that these insidious wine boxes have a gauge on them, like a gas gauge in a car to warn you of well, you know, that your $16 investment is about to pay you some unwelcome dividends.

Ashley's Big Secret Blog: An 'Inconvenient Truth' about Boxed Wine

It's true. And the fact is, I have lived in both those camps. I have friends whose aversion to boxed wine stems from the fact that it gives them no convenient stopping point, and they can't seem to put on the brakes.

The box will set you free. But whether that means free to stop at a glass or two, or free to keep going way beyond the point of immoderation, well, that's the question.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Better Wine ,One Glass at a Time

In today's Portland State University Daily Vanguard, there's an article entitled Don't be afraid to explore the world of wine. Writer Matt Petrie's remarks about wine by the glass and box wines got me thinking once again about boxed wine in restaurant by-the-glass programs.

Wines by the glass bear some of the biggest markups a bar thinks they can get away with. A bottle that would retail for $10, for example, might sell for $6 by the glass. At about five pours per bottle, that's $30-a 300 percent markup. What's worse, usually the wines are crap. They might even be box wine.

Restaurants, and especially bars, assume that people who order wine by the glass just aren't that picky about what gets put in front of them as long as it's red or white (or, gasp, pink), so by-the-glass selections are usually where they stick the cheapest plonk they can find. Also, once a bottle is opened, the wine is exposed to air and begins to break down. A by-the-glass bottle sits around until it's gone. That means the wine you're drinking could have been sitting open for hours, or even days. You'll get better quality, and a slightly better price, if you find a friend or two to go in on a bottle.

Turning Red - Bar Guide

Heavens! Box wine? Say it isn't so!!!

Actually, the bag-in-box wine packaging is responsible for improving the quality of restaurant by-the-glass offerings, for two reasons.

First of all, after opening, the bag collapses as wine is dispensed. No air enters into the package and oxidation of the wine is prevented for many weeks after opening, unlike the opened by-the-glass bottle mentioned in the article.

Second, boxed wines are economical for several reasons. Of course, bulk buying is a better value; but bag-in-box packaging is also far cheaper to produce than a bottle and cork; and the bag-in-box wine is cheaper to ship and warehouse than bottled wine. (And, BTW, it costs less to recycle than glass). Because of the economy, a restaurant is able to offer a higher quality wine for the same price.

Take, for instance, FishEye Pinot Grigio, which gold medaled in the 2007 SF Chronicle Wine Competition (stacked up next to PGs selling for up to $25 per bottle). The FishEye PG in a 750ml bottle sells for around $8. The 3L box sells for $17 to $20. The restaurant can sell a glass of this stuff for the same price as some plonk in a bottle that retails for $4.25.

That's just the beginning. There are excellent imported French wines in 3L boxes that retail for $25 to $40 per box. In fact, DB Bistro on W 44th in NYC pours Dtour Chard which is only available in a 3L bag-in-"tube".

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Packaging Industry Considers Boxed Wine

From the July 1, 2006 edition of Brand Packaging:

Consumers Not Boxed In By Wine Packaging
By Dana Dratch

With more premium offerings entering the box format, Americans are beginning to think outside the bottle.

In the past few years, a host of American wineries have joined a global trend in packaging their products in boxes.

In Sweden, 65 percent of wines sold are in the box format, according to ACNielsen data. In Australia, the figure is 52 percent. And in Norway, boxed wines make up 40 percent of all wines sold.

“The whole world is going toward convenience packaging,” says Chris Indelicato, CEO of Delicato Family Vineyards, which has been packaging some of its wines in boxes for three years.

And it’s not just for the sake of novelty.

“The marketing world is full of gimmicks,” says Ryan Sproule, president and founder of Black Box Wines. “This is one of those things where there are real tangible benefits.”

Such as, wine in a box that is opened keeps for a month, instead of a few days. It is also lighter to carry and ship, so it’s less expensive.

“It’s 40 percent lighter than its equivalent in a glass bottle,” notes Diana Pawlik, marketing director for the Centerra Wine Company, maker of the Trove brand. That means it’s less expensive to ship, less expensive for consumers and easier to carry to special events. Boxed wine is also becoming popular with small independent restaurants, because it’s easy to store and keeps so much longer.

And while no one is predicting the demise of the bottle (a wine tradition several thousand years in the making), more and more American winemakers are adding the box to their packaging menu.

Perception or reality?

Not so many years ago, wine connoisseurs looked down on alternate packaging formats. Their general consensus: if it comes in anything but glass with a cork, it must be a lesser quality.

Can today’s boxed wines overcome that prejudice? One fact that is changing public perception: good wine going into boxes.

“There’s been a renaissance with boxed wine of late—particularly at the premium level—as people figure out it’s just a container, you can put whatever you want in it,” says Charles Bieler, co-founder of Three Thieves, a U.S. pioneer of the box format.
Indeed, winemakers are putting more varieties into boxes—everything from chardonnay to merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and pinot noir.

Ryan Kukol, associate brand manager for the Select Brand of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates, agrees that the time is ripe for premium boxed wine. “I think it’s becoming more accepted in the United States,” he says, likening the issue to a similar industry debate over screw caps. “It’s just a matter of time before the American consumer catches up.”

In Australia, where boxed wines account for about half the wine sold, the Hardy Wine Company claims more than a third of the boxed wine market. Three years ago, it launched Hardys Stamp in the United States and offered the same varieties in both bottles and boxes. According to Sally Osborne, marketing director for Pacific Wine Partners, maker of Hardys Stamp, there is still a “stigma” in the United States that the boxed wine industry is trying to overcome. As a result, she says, the company made a direct effort to communicate that the box had the same tine—the same quality of wine—in a box.

A premium look

As better wine is beginning to go in, the box itself is also getting a makeover. Today’s winemakers are using a variety of high quality inks and finishes on their boxes to signal that the product within is equal to its bottled brethren. Manufacturers are using more high-end printing processes, embossing, debossing, and foil stamping and higher end inks to give a more premium look to the boxes, which are looking and functioning more like traditional graphic-intensive wine labels these days.

Some brands are also starting to experiment with different sizes. While five liter and three liter boxes (the fastest growing segment of the market) were once the standard, 1.5-liter formats have also hit the market within the past few years.

Several winemakers are also tinkering with the shape of the box. Hardys Stamp, for example, elected to use a square box, rather than the rectangle typical for many of the five-liter boxes. “Consumer research said that they find that shape to be more premium,” says Osborne.

And DTour, which packages premium wine in a tube-like container, believes that the brand’s unique package may help avoid the stigma that most boxed wines face. “The nice thing about the tube is that it feels more like a wine bottle than a box, and I think that works in our favor,” says Sam Potts, a principal with Sam Potts Inc., the New York design company that created the packaging.

The company kept the design simple, and used an understated but warm color palette of cream, red and blue.

“The typography is very simple and clear. That’s based on the simplicity of the package itself,” says Potts. “This isn’t something that’s too fancy and unusual for the average wine buyer. At the same time, it’s not something that’s too cheap-looking for the higher end wine buyer.”

Hardys Stamp also wanted its packaging to stand out but wanted to position the brand as “very approachable wines made to be enjoyed when they’re young and fresh,” says Osborne. So the brand used hot bright pinks, purples, greens, yellows, reds and blues to indicate various varieties.

With the Wine Block, Kendall-Jackson also chose bright colors. Depending on the wine variety, the dominant color on the package might be mango, purple or fuchsia. It was “a nod to women” (who, industry stats show, do most of the purchasing), says Kukol. “And we had things in mind like the Apple computer and iPod—very youthful, appetizing colors.”

Black Box did just the opposite with its color scheme, using black as the primary color of its packaging. “Black is often associated with quality or luxury. That’s why I chose it,” says Sproule. “And I wanted something to stand out—all of the other boxes were white.”

Usability has also been a key point of difference, with consumers reporting that they love pressing a button on the package and instantly having a drink in hand. “There are a lot of convenience factors there,” says Sproule. “And we made it the same size as a milk carton so it would fit all the places a milk carton would. I’ve always been annoyed trying to get wine to fit in the fridge.”

Sproule notes that the Black Box package includes a description of the wine and the vintage date. “I tried to do all the things you would expect on a $12 bottle of wine,” he says.

Though he also points out that Black Box doesn’t hide from its packaging approach; it’s part of the company’s slogan: “Think inside the box.”

“Lots of wines are apologetic about being in a box,” he says. “We’re in a box, and we’re proud of it.”

Who drinks boxed wines?

Typical boxed wine drinkers range from the mid 20s to mid 50s and they have good salaries and good educations, according to several vintners.

The premium three-liter buyers are “much closer to the profile of a 750 ml (bottle) buyer,” says Danny Brager, vice president of client service for the beverage alcohol team at AC Nielsen, which has studied sales and buying habits in the category.

And there seems to be a marked difference between the five-liter purchaser, which declined five percent in sales volume last year, and who is buying three liters, which increased in sales volume 70 percent according to ACNielsen reports.

Three-liter buyers “tended to be younger, more affluent more educated,” Brager says. “Basically, to me, a different kind of consumer.”

“The typical consumer is very much the 750 ml (bottle) premium wine consumer,” says Pacific Wine Partner’s Osborne, adding that buyers are educated with a degree of wine knowledge. “I think we see them in their mid-30s to mid-50s. We know that women are buying the majority of wine, and women are doing the majority of grocery shopping. But [consumption of the product] doesn’t seem to be leaning male or female.”

For the Wine Block, drinkers tend to be 21 and on up to their mid-30s, according to Kukol. “[They are] really interested in discovering wine and becoming interested in wine,” he says. “Not as resistant to change. Don’t have any of the stigmas attached to boxed wine that older consumers might. Generally more educated.”

In fact, with the current generation of boxed wines, consumer education is a big piece of the marketing plan for many winemakers.

When Black Box launched three years ago, word of mouth was one of the most important components of the company’s marketing effort. “I started out only selling to shops that had clerks on the floor,” says Sproule. “I was afraid if I put it in a grocery store, it would just die. There was lots of hand selling the first year or so.”
One point that’s helping many boxed brands: growing acceptance of wine as an everyday staple.

“A nice package, endorsed by people used to quality, sends the message that it’s OK,” says Daniel Johnnes, who along with Daniel Boulud and Dominique Lafon, formed the trio behind DTour. “Everyday consumption, not a special occasion, that’s the idea of the package.”

Brand Packaging: The only publication focused on the marketing impact of packaging; by Stagnito Communications, Inc.

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Corbett Canyon Merlot 3 Liter Box

The first California Merlot on the list of bag-in-box wines:

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

Our Merlot is medium bodied with deep blackberry aromas and a soft, satisfying finish. Enjoy its smooth flavors with grilled pork chops, braised lamb and roast chicken.

Corbett Canyon Vineyards: Merlot

Reviews in the press:

Carol Emert, December 4, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle
The 2001 Corbett Canyon California Merlot ($10) is exceptionally good for the price. It displays a cherry-and-cigar nose along with tasty cherry, plum and cranberry on the palate. The long finish combines bright plum with caramel.

Box wine is getting better all the time

Mike Dunne, December 10, 2003, Sacramento Bee
Corbett Canyon 2001 California Premium Wine Cask Merlot ($10): Yep, $10. That works out to $2.50 a bottle. At that price, you can't expect a blockbuster merlot, but you do get a very drinkable take on the varietal -- bright, young and juicy, with fair-enough suggestions of merlot's frequent plumlike fruit and mint. I found it just as plummy, herbal and spicy on Nov. 22 as it was when I first tasted it from the same box on Oct. 1. I also compared the same wine in a bottle Nov. 22 and found no significant difference.

Dunne on wine: Winemakers think inside the box

Carol Emert, January 6, 2005, San Francisco Chronicle
The 2002 Corbett Canyon California Merlot ($10) is fruity and complex with a nose of cherry, green olive and hickory smoke with complementing flavors of dried cranberry, dried cherry, pomegranate and smoked meat. There is plenty going on in this wine -- particularly impressive at the equivalent of $2.50 a bottle.

A bevy of boxes have room inside for value, flavor

Chris Sherman, July 27, 2005, St Petersburg Times
Merlot, Corbett Canyon, California, 2003: Strong blackberry jam nose with berries and cherries on the palate but flat, thin and too acidic. $9.49

Taste: Uncorked: Think inside the box

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