Time to get over stigma of box wine
(May 22, 2007) — Now, I have never considered myself to be a wine snob. I am a wine enjoyer, and I believe in giving every fermented grape a chance to prove itself. However, I have been asked by many readers to do a column on box wines. I thought, "Oh no, do I have to?" Ughh. What fun.
I have put this column off for about six months now. Well, shame on me. My research has proved to be more than enlightening. As a matter of fact, I would call it more like revolutionary, at least for my own palate. I have been outside the box for way too long. I've realized that it is time to come back inside. It's time to re-classify the category "formerly known as rinse."
Honestly, the term "box wine" is one that should never have been invented. We don't call everything else "bottle wine." It is so unfair to separate the quality of wine by the container in which it is sold. Some of the best wines I have ever tasted were in big uncorked jugs, made in the cellars of the most incredible winemakers in the world. OK. Enough said.
The wine in a box is aseptically sealed in a bag within the box so that oxygen cannot come into contact with the wine. This is very important in wine packaging, because the contact with fresh air can spoil a wine. A box wine is as safe (storage-wise) as a corked bottle. A box wine is also as safe as a screw-capped bottle. Boxes and screw caps get along pretty well these despite the fact that they are totally misunderstood by the wine drinking public.
When it really comes down to it, a "box" wine has little chance of experiencing the faults that can be found in bottled wines. Faults like oxidation (wine exposed to oxygen), tri-chloro-anisole (also called TCA or "corked," which happens in wines exposed to bad corks) or even maderization (wines exposed to heat and sunlight through the clearness of bottles). Could it be that box wine is even more reliable in quality than bottle wine? I don't know for sure, but it is definitely more practical. ...
Especially this time of year. And by that, I mean a (hopefully) warm and sunny Memorial Day weekend will get you to an outdoor party or picnic where fancy bottles and elite etiquette aren't always the perfect fit. I mean, let's face it. You've got the picnic lunch all packed, the good friends gathered, and either your back yard is ready or the boat is at the dock. All you need is a festive beverage that won't cramp your style or your budget.
Announcing: the new star of the summer wine world. Yes, you heard it here. Good box wines do exist, and I am officially recommending a few for your upcoming summer festivities. (Whew, that wasn't so hard). And look, they even have vintages.
Bandit Pinot Grigio 2006. Somebody slap me. I can't believe that this refreshing, crisp, clean, white wine comes from, you know, a cardboard fixture. I put this into a plain, unmarked bottle and spent a week sampling it to wine aficionados, and the results were unbelievable. I couldn't bring myself to tell people it was boxed. I preferred to let them believe, "I am what I am." (OK, so I watched The Ten Commandments that week. I can guarantee that Charlton Heston would love this, too). Only $7.99 for a 1-liter box, and labeled as "Wine Snob approved."
Hardy's Chardonnay 2006. I have yet to see Australia do something horribly wrong. This white wine is wrapped in tetra-pak inside a yellow box, but it is also wrapped inside a lovely cloak of oak, with a beautiful tropical fruit palate and the perfect acidity to balance. This wine beat out four other box Chardonnays that were blind tasted to dozens of folks. Grab a 3-liter box (equivalent of 4 bottles) for only $16.
Wine Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2003. This was the biggest surprise of all, and probably the biggest mindset to overcome. Carefully crafted by the same family that produces Kendall-Jackson wines, this rich red is produced from 100 percent California grapes using state-of-the-art barrel fermentation. It comes in a magenta red box that will really light up your kitchen counter. C'mon. Just try it at $9.99 per 1.5-liter box.
Note: These wines do not need cellar aging. Plan on emptying your easy-to-recycle box by September.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Get Over It
In today's Democrat and Chronicle, of Rochester, NY, wine writer Holly Howell finally overcomes her reluctance to give boxed wine a chance. The result is a great article and some nice wine reviews. An exerpt