Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Turning Leaf Pinot Grigio 3 Liter Box

This just appeared on the local grocery store shelf several months ago, and we've enjoyed it enough to buy again and serve at casual gatherings. Have you tried this wine? If so, please add your own comment.

Turning Leaf 2007 Reserve Pinot Grigio
Turning Leaf Vineyards
Modesto, California
3 liter box, 2007
About $19 - $20

From the box:
Ripe red apple flavors, highlighted by delicious hints of citrus blossom. It's a wine that's easy to appreciate by itself, for its quality, and easy to pair with good foods such as grilled teriyaki chicken spiced with ginger, or creamy seafood risottos.
. . .
Flavors of
Red Apple
Fresh Pineapple
Lemon Citrus

Which is greener?

From the New York Times:

Glass Is Greener

To the Editor:

Re “Drink Outside the Box,” by Tyler Colman (Op-Ed, Aug. 18):

Without a doubt, glass bottles are greener than wine boxes.

Calculating a carbon footprint based solely on trucking capacity is myopic and fails to consider the carbon costs for extraction and manufacturing.

Just envision the various elements that have to go into creating a wine box. It involves many more steps, materials and energy inputs than are required for making a glass bottle.

As for recycling, most communities can handle glass, which is 100 percent recyclable. Good luck finding programs that handle wine boxes.

The choice is clear: glass is greener.

Joseph J. Cattaneo


Glass Packaging Institute

Alexandria, Va., Aug. 19, 2008

Letter - Glass Is Greener - Letter -

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Italy is drinking outside the box

From the New York Times:

Drink Outside the Box

August 18, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor

ITALY’S Agriculture Ministry announced this month that some wines that receive the government’s quality assurance label may now be sold in boxes. That’s right, Italian wine is going green, and for some connoisseurs, the sky might as well be falling.

But the sky isn’t falling. Wine in a box makes sense environmentally and economically. Indeed, vintners in the United States would be wise to embrace the trend that is slowly gaining acceptance worldwide.

Wine in a box has been around for more than 30 years — though with varying quality. The Australians were among the first to popularize it. And hardly a fridge in the south of France, especially this time of year, is complete without a box of rosé. Here in America, by contrast, boxed wine has had trouble escaping a down-market image. But now that wine producers are talking about reducing their carbon footprint — that is, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the transportation of wine — selling the beverage in alternative, lighter packaging instead of heavier glass seems like the right thing to do.

More than 90 percent of American wine production occurs on the West Coast, but because the majority of consumers live east of the Mississippi, a large part of carbon-dioxide emissions associated with wine comes from simply trucking it from the vineyard to tables on the East Coast. A standard wine bottle holds 750 milliliters of wine and generates about 5.2 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions when it travels from a vineyard in California to a store in New York. A 3-liter box generates about half the emissions per 750 milliliters. Switching to wine in a box for the 97 percent of wines that are made to be consumed within a year would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about two million tons, or the equivalent of retiring 400,000 cars.

But here’s another reason to sell wine in a box. America will soon become the largest wine market in the world. In recent years, we overtook Italy, and France is now in our sights. (This is total consumption, not per person; we are still well behind by the latter measure.) As Americans drink more wine, we will be drinking it not only on special occasions like dates and weddings, but also on Monday nights with pizza. That’s a lot of wine — and potentially a big carbon footprint.

Although some sommeliers may scoff at wine from a plastic spigot, boxes are perfect for table wines that don’t need to age, which is to say, all but a relative handful of the top wines from around the world. What’s more, boxed wine is superior to glass bottle storage in resolving that age-old problem of not being able to finish a bottle in one sitting. Once open, a box preserves wine for about four weeks compared with only a day or two for a bottle. Boxed wine may be short on charm, but it is long on practicality.

Which leads to a final reason for boxed wine: it’s so much more economical. Having an affordable glass of wine may be the best way to keep our 15-year bull market for wine consumption running. It also would help keep per-glass prices of wine from rising as the dollar falls.

The main obstacle to a smaller carbon footprint for wine is the frequently abysmal quality of wine put in boxes. But that’s an easy fix: raise the quality.

In the past few years, the boxed wine sold in America has shown some signs of improvement. There’s been wine in a stylish cardboard tube made by a top winemaker in Burgundy. There’s a good, old-vine grenache from the Pyrenees sold in a box. A succulent unoaked malbec from organically grown grapes in Argentina is now available in the United States thanks to the 1-liter TetraPak, which is also being used by three renegade Californians who have a line of wines that are sold in 250-milliliter packages — about the size of juice boxes, but without straws. And then, of course, there’s the news from Italy.

Producers everywhere need to deliver better wine in a box — and make it snappy. Perhaps they will if consumers start to demand that everyday wines that don’t need to age in a bottle be sold in a box. If you’re sorry about the change, squeeze off another well-preserved, affordable, low-carbon serving of boxed wine and mull it over.
Op-Ed Contributor - Wine in a Box Protects the Environment and Saves You Money - Op-Ed -

Monday, April 14, 2008

Global shortage of bottles

Overproduction, market saturation, factory closures, and now ... a shortage of sand in France??? From The Scotsman, Edinburgh:

Wine-lovers lose their bottle
By Lindsay McIntosh and Max Orbach
April 12, 2008

THEY are the final resort of partygoers who should have left the barbecue some hours before – the cheap boxes of wine with their last dregs of plonk.
But these boxes with their limp bags of booze could soon be the centrepiece of the most affluent tables as the wine in-dustry struggles to cope with a global shortage of bottles.

An over-production in Europe in recent years brought the market to saturation, forcing the closure of factories, and now, though there is a shortage, they have not reopened.

At the same time, there has been a massive increase in wine production and consumption – meaning manufacturers are struggling to find receptacles for their products.

Jean-Michel Gauffre, the owner of La Garrigue restaurant in Edinburgh's Jeffrey Street, said there was "a severe shortage of bottles".

He said: "In the last couple of years, there's been a shortage of sand in France for bottles and apparently they have to import a huge amount of glass.

"Even though they can't get the glass, all the factories which closed down didn't reopen so there's a shortage of bottles. The production is too slow and can't keep up with the demand due to the rapid globalisation of wine- making."

Alex Hunt, a London-based wine importer who deals with Scottish firms, said the factory closures had stiffened the price of wine, which had gone up by 10 per cent across Europe in the last year.

He said: "Even if bottles are more expensive, this is only one part of the cost, but it has meant that every supplier in Europe is now under significantly more pressure."

Mr Gauffre said the "big new thing" was "the bag in a box with the tap". It was going to be the "short-term solution – and maybe the future – for the vast majority of people".

He said most Europeans were now buying wine from the supermarket rather than manufacturers – even in France – and buying in bigger quantities because it is cheaper by the box. In the US, litre juice cartons are also being used by vintners, a concept likely to be exported to the UK soon.

Philippe Larue, the managing director of Edinburgh wine merchants l'Art du Vin, revealed that a popular wine called Yellow Jersey was being marketed in Canada in plastic bottles, with great success.

He added: "In France, bag-in-a-box wine packaging is very popular. People will go out to a small vineyard and buy anything up to five litres of wine.

"It's very good if you plan to drink the wine in the next few days, although obviously it will not keep very well because too much air gets into it. By the end of the week, you will pretty much be left with vinegar."

Mr Gauffre said: "The important thing for the wine-makers is simply to sell the wine. So if at the end of the day the customer is happy to buy the wine in a bag-in-a-box or a juice carton, then so be it.

"The most important thing is to sell the product. I think for a person who drinks wine every day – which I hope everyone does – the boxes are best."

It's an open secret – glass has more class

DRINKING wine that comes from a bottle is important because of the sheer sense of anticipation that goes with opening it.

The ceremony of uncorking, or even unscrewing, a bottle should be savoured; it's like the difference between going to a restaurant and eating food out of a can.

There is a lot to be said for taking life more ponderously, as they do in France and Italy, and I think slowly savouring a bottle of wine is part of a more enjoyable lifestyle.

Of course, anyone fortunate enough to have a wine cellar will realise that you certainly can't keep a box down there for very long.

The best wines need to be kept in a bottle because they need time to breathe.

Although a lot of wines are now produced to be quaffed in the first couple of years, even Australian wines really benefit from being stored in a cool place for a while.

And, of course, there is nothing quite so good as that moment when you find a bottle of wine which you have been storing in a cold, dark corner for a few years.

Wine bottles, like so many good things, were developed by the Romans. Before that, wine was carted around in clay amphorae, which – though sturdy – were exceedingly heavy.

Bottles were, of course, much more convenient and
have remained the container of choice right up to the present day.

Another wonderful aspect of the wine bottle is that it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Italian wine producers are particularly good at designing them and shape is very important when your wine is struggling for position on the shelf.

Recently, a lot of wine bottles have got much taller because – as well as looking very fine and slim – this also gives the psychological appearance of the bottle containing more wine.

Another art that would be lost with the death of the wine bottle is label design.

Whereas traditionally the Europeans tended to produce rather dull, white labels, the New World producers ratcheted up the competition by creating vividly coloured labels which really leapt out from the shelf.

• Michael Romer is a partner in Edinburgh independent wine seller Peter Green & Company

Wine-lovers lose their bottle - News

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cheaper by the box

From the El Paso Times:

Quality wine is cheaper by the box

El Paso Times Staff
February 12, 2008

Regretfully, since neither our laws nor our customs support the concept of driving up to the pump to fill up our demijohns with wine as they do in Europe, the Wine in a Box concept is a good alternative to having wine available as an everyday staple at your table. Wine is slowly but surely becoming part of American life, and the need to have more accessible and affordable everyday wine is driving the need for alternative packaging.

After seeing select wine in a box available at arguably well respected establishments such as the Greenery Market in El Paso and Spiagga in Chicago, I thought it was time to explore the subject.

The bag in box system was created by the Scholle Corp. of Northlake, Ill., for sulfuric acid battery disposal. In Australia, this concept was converted to wine packaging about 30 years ago, and now 50 percent of all wine consumption is from wine in a box. Sweden's consumption of box wine exceeds 60 percent, and other European nations and Canada are catching up quickly. In all of my travels, in the U.S. and Mexico, I have seen a much lower demand for wine in a box, though industry statistics show rapid growth in this area.

There are several reasons why wine in a box is a good option for an everyday house wine. Packaging costs are reduced up to 80 percent, which makes the eventual cost of wine in a box much more affordable. The inner bag (inside the box) collapses as it empties, so with proper storage that wine can last up to a month after opening.

Still, there is still a stigma that wine in a box is of lesser quality. To some extent, this remains true, although more and more wine producers are willing to place good-quality wine in a box. This is all contingent on the American consumer's willingness to increase consumption of wine placed in a box.

I am still very cautious when I approach wines in a box, although I am more daring if the wine in a box is at a fine wine shop or on the wine list of a first-class restaurant such as Spiagga's in Chicago. I certainly do not propose the wholesale consumption of wine in a box for everyday use unless the wine in the box is of good quality.

As a wine importer, I am fortunate to be able to affect the quality of wine in a box that comes to the El Paso market. Last year, I was at a wine-in-a-box tasting of wines from all over Italy. I found about 75 percent of them of very good quality. Plans are in the works to introduce the varietals of Sangiovese, Nero d'Avola and Primitivo in a box to El Paso.

I have informed all of my suppliers and all of my sources of wines that I am interested in engaging in relationships with wineries that have good-quality wine in a standard bottle but who can also bottle that same wine in a box. This allows me to select quality wines that are normally sold in a standard bottle and simply alter the packaging, keeping the same quality in a more consumer-friendly, less-expensive alternative packaging.

Don't be surprised if a 2008 year-end wine dinner from Italian Imports features only wines in a box.

Italian Imports owner Riccardo Barraza writes a regular wine column for the El Paso Times.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Blue Nun and the medial orbitofrontal cortex

From the New York Times, an anti-economy bias is confronted with an old classic in a new economical package:
Basic Instincts
My Cortex Made Me Buy It
Published: February 9, 2008

WHEN I invited a friend to dinner one day last summer, she mentioned that she would bring some Blue Nun white wine, in a box.

If you’re not accustomed to hearing the words “box” and “wine” in the same sentence, the idea might sound unappealing. Perhaps even déclassé. Not that I wanted to admit these thoughts to my friend, but my exclamation — “Blue Nun? In a box?” — did make my skepticism rather clear.

Fortunately she just laughed at my snobbery, and said that boxed wine today was far from the old Chablis with a spigot, which some of us may recall from college bars and family picnics. She even used the word “tasty” — which although not top of the oenophile vocabulary, sounded promising.

And she was right. Blue Nun in a box was surprisingly tasty, all things considered, and the embarrassing experience of having my cheap wine prejudice exposed has forced me to examine how far this financial bias goes.

I feared that the wine incident was evidence that somehow I actually believed that paying more for things means they’re better, even though I know it isn’t true. There is research suggesting that the bias toward higher-priced goods may have something to do with the way the brain links price with pleasure — and thus leads people to make assumptions about quality.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last month, researchers from the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University asked 20 volunteers to taste and evaluate five wine samples, which were labeled according to price: $5, $10, $35, $45 and $90 a bottle. All of the volunteers identified themselves as moderate wine drinkers and not experts.

They said they liked the more expensive wines best. And brain scans taken as the volunteers sipped and rated the wines showed that the higher-priced wines generated more activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, an area of the brain that responds to certain pleasurable experiences.

But there was a catch: although subjects were told that they were tasting five different wines, in fact they sampled only three. The $90 wine was presented twice, once at its real price and once as a $10 wine; the $5 wine was also presented as a $45 wine. When the wines were offered at the higher price, participants preferred them — and their brains registered greater pleasure.

When they sampled the wines with lower prices, however, the subjects not only liked them less, their brains registered less pleasure from the experience. It seems that what these subjects really liked was the price tag, not the product.

APPARENTLY my brain had a similar reaction at the thought of drinking Blue Nun from a box, which costs about $20 for a container that packs the equivalent of four 750-milliliter bottles of wine. But why? Does the brain fire up at the sight of a higher price tag in any context?

The study’s authors examined responses only to different wines, not to cars or clothes, said Antonio Rangel, associate professor of economics at Caltech and one of the authors of the paper. He hesitated to extrapolate too much, but he said that there were reasons to suspect that the price tag bias occurs in many contexts.

Given the human love affair with high-priced luxury goods, and their association with status and power, it’s possible that we’ve come to experience a cerebral shiver of delight in response to things that promise that cachet. It is as if consuming high-end goods might lead to a personal transformation that bargain-hunting can’t buy.

Professor Rangel said that the pleasure we take from something “seems to depend on our beliefs about our experience of that thing.” It’s interesting that the study also suggests we aren’t always aware of these beliefs — even though we end up paying for them.

As a result of my adventures in boxed wine, my husband and I have had some success exploring the realm of drinkable plonk. I think my medial orbitofrontal cortex is struggling with this new development, but it is balanced by the financial lobe’s pleasure in saving money.

My Cortex Made Me Buy It - New York Times

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

A gold medal for a box

Results of the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition for 2008 are in, and a boxed wine made it into a fine list of gold medal winning budget wines:

7 gold-medal winning wines for $12 or less
02:16 PM CDT on Thursday, April 10, 2008
By REBECCA MURPHY / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

Wines in The Dallas Morning News Wine Competition are judged by grape variety and, in some large categories, by vintage. That's all the judges know when they are tasting the wines. So a $5 bottle or box of wine may be judged beside a $100 bottle.

No disrespect intended to those $100 bottles, which can be quite complex and in need of more time to come together in the bottle. The real finds each year, though, are the budget wines that are worthy of gold medals. These are wines meant to be poured today, so they are delicious today, and they get the attention of the judges. They deserve your attention, too. All the wines on these pages are available in the Dallas market for $12 or less.

. . .

Corbett Canyon, California, Chardonnay NV

If you have resisted buying wine in a box, get over it. Boxed wines have been winning medals in this and other competitions for several years, which means the quality is there. And, packaged in a box, the quality lasts longer than it will in a bottle, because the wine is protected from oxygen. This wine is light-bodied with chardonnay's crisp apple, citrus and pear flavors. Enjoy it with light pasta dishes. You can always serve it from a carafe so your guests will never know it came from a box. Available at Beverage City and Sigel's, $10.99 per 3-liter box.

. . .

7 gold-medal winning wines for $12 or less | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Wine and Spirits | Food | Dallas Morning News

Box wine has been getting better for a while

Although this article is from way back in 2003, it had lots of good tasting notes by Carol Emert:

Box wine is getting better all the time
Carol Emert, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, December 4, 2003

In the American collective conscience, wine sold in a box isn't actually wine, it's a separate category referred to as "box wine."

"Box wine" comes in a box, as distinct from "wine," which is something you'd actually want to drink and which comes in just one kind of container -- a "bottle."

It doesn't have to be that way. The holiday season is the perfect time to throw out old prejudices and give box wine a try. That's particularly true now, as several producers have, as predicted by The Chronicle ("Inside the box, " May 15), recently released dry premium wines -- standard varietals, no funny colors -- in a box.

Box wines are popular in Australia and Europe, where premium wine has long been available in cardboard. The Australian brand Hardys, for example, has been sold in the United States for many years, but just last year the company introduced boxes under the name Hardys Stamp of Australia. In its native country, half of Hardys' wine is sold in a box, or cask, as they call it Down Under.

In several cases, including Hardys Stamp, the boxes hold exactly the same juice as bottles sitting nearby on the supermarket shelf. But there are two key differences: The box wines cost less because the packaging is cheaper. And boxes, which are lined with a plastic vacuum-sealed bag, stay fresh much longer after opening -- about a month, compared to just a day or so for many bottles.

The new premium boxes hold 3 liters of wine, the equivalent of four bottles, while traditional box wines hold 5 liters. Several of the newbies come in cool, monochromatic packaging to look nice for your party. They retail for $10 to $36, the equivalent of $2.50 to $9 per bottle.

I tasted 31 box wines for this column, mostly the new premium varietal wines, but for comparison I threw in five old-style box wines by Franzia, Almaden and Peter Vella ($6 to $10) that happened to be in The Chronicle cellar.

Only two of the box wines, both the old-fashioned types, were awful. Nine were good enough that I would serve them to guests.

Most of the others weren't horrible, just middling -- a trait found in many bottled wines at this price point. Two recurring problems were sour fruit, as if the grapes had been harvested prematurely, and a thin texture that took all the fun away from a couple of nicely flavored wines. I didn't detect any plastic flavors from the packaging.

Good enough for Turkey

I liked the box wines so well that I served one of my favorites for Thanksgiving dinner (in a decanter -- nobody guessed that a box was involved) and took others on a recent weekend trip with friends. One fellow accused me of being tacky when he saw the boxes, but I suppose (sniff) that's the hazard of being a trendsetter.

One big advantage: Packing and transporting the boxes was much easier than dealing with glass bottles, with no concern about leaks or breakage.

Sales of premium box wines remain low -- in the hundreds of thousands per year -- but are growing fast and getting good distribution in independent stores and chains like Beverages & more, Safeway, Albertsons, Whole Foods and Longs Drugs. The Wine Cube is sold only at Target. Le Cask Zinfandel is in limited distribution in the Bay Area currently, but can be mail ordered (, see Uncorked this page.)

As with bottled wines, a higher price tag and classy demeanor don't necessarily equate to quality.

The most expensive brand, Blackburn, by Sonoma Hill Winery, sports a snazzy gold box, a Sonoma County appellation and a retail price of $36. But the 2002 Chardonnay was just plain sour. The 2001 Merlot and 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon both displayed promising noses, but were disappointingly thin on the palate.

Target's Wine Cube ($16) was another disappointment. The Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Merlot, made by Trinchero Winery, all fell short in the fruit department.

A favorite

My favorite white wine from the tasting was the 2003 Banrock Station South Eastern Australia Chardonnay ($16), which is full of green apple, lemon and pear, rounded out with a good dose of butter and a hint of nutmeg. The deep-gold-colored 2002 Black Box Napa Valley Chardonnay will please lovers of very oaky Chardonnay. It smells of wood and butter and tastes like a carameled Golden Delicious apple.

The only Zinfandel offered by the box is Lodi's spicy Le Cask Old Vine California Zinfandel ($24 retail, $22 mail order). It's a medium-bodied Zin with a nose of dried cherries, stewed fruit and vanilla. Le Cask's even tannins and 14.5 percent alcohol do a good job balancing its bright cherry/berry fruit.

Zin is a favorite holiday wine for me; this one would go well with the melange of sweet and savory flavors typical of most holiday spreads.

Two spicy Syrahs also promise to stand up to le holiday buffet. The 2002 Banrock Station South Eastern Australia Shiraz ($16) is a fun wine with lots happening: a nose of black licorice, dark fruit, spice and earth, accompanying candylike flavors of raspberry, cassis and cherry-vanilla soda-pop.

The 2002 Delicato California Shiraz ($18) is full on the palate and busy, with wide-ranging aromas of toast, cherry, mushroom and black olive. Flavorwise, it's a winning combination of cherry and raspberry, cinnamon and a hint of bittersweet chocolate. It's a well-made wine with an extended finish.

Merlot is not a varietal that I typically go out of my way to drink, but nearly half of the box wines I liked were Merlots. They were surprisingly rich and balanced, with enough tannin to serve with meat and other rich foods. All displayed good varietal character.

The 2003 Hardys South Eastern Australia Merlot ($16) has a strong, earthy, green bell-pepper nose with a hint of white pepper and coffee. The finish is dry, with strong flavors of coffee and caramel.

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.

The 2000 Black Box Sonoma County Merlot ($25) is a rich and interesting wine with aromas of roasted green pepper and black pepper. Flavors include thyme, oregano, roasted red pepper and leather. It is consistently flavorful and full throughout.

The 2001 Delicato California Merlot ($18) sports a light nose of toasted marshmallow, banana, leather and berry. Mouth-filling cranberry and dried cherry flavors are balanced nicely by dry tannins.

The traditional, 5-liter box wines ranged from surprisingly good to shockingly bad. I was most impressed with Almaden's Cabernet Sauvignon ($10), which tasted and smelled like Cab, although it was very, very light.

The worst was Peter Vella's white Grenache, a wine that I will not taste again without hazard pay. My tasting notes say it best: "Ick. Skunky odor with port underneath. Cat food and gasoline. Cloying flavors. Oooooh, icky cat food finish. I MUST BRUSH."

Box wine is getting better all the time

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Le Cask is back

Le Cask old vine zinfandel got some good reviews, and then disappeared from the market. Now it's back! From the Stockton Record:

Raising the bar for the box
Lodi vintner puts premium wine in Le Cask

By Reed Fujii
Record Staff Writer
February 12, 2008 6:00 AM

LODI - Call it Le Cask deux.

More than four years after launching a premium wine in a 3-liter, bag-in-box package only to have a business dispute derail the effort, a father and son are reintroducing their brand of old vine zinfandel, and soon-to-come cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay wines to the California market.

The zinfandel is already available in supermarkets, said Leon Pierce, co-owner of Siqueira Wine Co., which is producing Le Cask.

"We're pretty excited about it," he said Monday.

Pierce acknowledged he's facing major competition. Wines packaged in airtight plastic, which helps preserve their freshness and flavor, inside cardboard boxes have been produced for years. However, the packaging was for low-cost jug wines until recently.

When Pierce rolled out Le Cask in 2003, it was among the first premium wines in a box. But he was not alone. Black Box wine was offered by a Bay Area company about the same time. Delicato Family Vineyards in Manteca also began offering a premium boxed wine.

Black Box has since been acquired by Constellation Brands, internationally the world's leading wine producer, and another industry giant, The Wine Group, produces premium boxed wines under such labels as Killer Juice and Corbett Canyon.

While Le Cask was derailed, the other brands made major inroads among U.S. consumers, and since 2005, 3-liter boxed wine has been the fastest-growing package segment in the industry, according to The Nielsen Co.

That growth means there's still room for Le Cask, Pierce said.

The wine is in a number of regional grocery chains and is being well-received.

It's a strong seller at Podesto's in Stockton, said Bernie Morgenstern, supermarket president.

"It's a really good value, because it is an old vine zin and it comes in a 3-liter box," he said Monday. "It's reasonable, and it's convenient. ... It's a wine you can drink every day for dinner or with guests."

Many of his customers seek old vine zinfandel in particular, Morgenstern said. As a result, Le Cask is outselling other brands of boxed wines he carries.

"I'm surprised a larger company didn't come up with that," he said.

Le Cask grew out of a college senior project by Ryan Pierce, Leon Pierce's son and business partner.

They originally partnered with Rodney Schatz, a Lodi grape grower and owner of Mokelumne Rim Vineyards, who provided production facilities and the fruit. But disagreements arose over the direction and control of the partnership, and a resulting lawsuit was not resolved until late 2006, when Leon Pierce gained exclusive rights to the Le Cask brand.

"They really liked the idea," Pierce said.

Schatz said Monday that he does like the idea of premium wine in a box, although he is no longer involved in Le Cask.

"Bag in the box, I think, if the consumer ever buys into it or understands it, is where we're going to go," he said.

Le Cask, with a suggested price of $25, contains the equivalent of four 750-milliliter bottles. Pierce said the wine inside is comparable to bottled goods costing twice as much.

"I believe we can differentiate (ourselves) with better quality bag-in-box or cask wine," he said. "Our only hope is to be really high quality with everything we do."

Boxed wine sellers note the packaging is lighter and stores more easily than the equivalent glass bottles. Because the internal bag collapses as the wine is dispensed, the perishable stuff is not exposed to air and can keep for several weeks after opening.

Typically, bottled wine loses its flavor within a few days of opening.

Also, the packaging is touted as more Earth-friendly than glass bottles, which consume more energy in their creation and in transportation.

And Pierce is aiming for a regional market.

"I don't want to become as large as Delicato or Black Box, but I do think we can achieve good representation in California." Raising the bar for the box

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Innovations: Beyond BiB in Southern France

How to improve on BiB??? How about get rid of the cardboard? Check this out:

Other innovations include the Kube, a clear plastic box with a bag of wine inside -- one up on the plastic pouch plus cardboard surround bag-in-box type structure. It is better, say producers, because it is more easily recyclable, being all plastic, rather than a plastic paper mix, and you can also, if desired, stick it in the snow or a river.

From AFP:

New world wines of southern France
Feb 19, 2008

MONTPELLIER, France (AFP) — Southern France is one of the world's oldest, toughest wine-making regions, and now is seen as both the most innovative and biggest regional exporter.

A pleasant turnaround say exhibitors at this years 8th Mediterranean wine trade fair, Vinisud, given that this part of France only five or six years ago was one of the hardest hit by competition from so called "New World" producers -- Australia, America, Chile, Argentina, to name a few.

In the last two or three years it has earned itself the title of most innovative and is now volume the leading regional exporter of French wines with seven million hectolitres shipped abroad in 2007.

"Last year 1.3 million bottles of Arrogant Frog were exported to Australia, a 20 percent increase on 2006," said Jean Claude Mas, the wines Languedoc-based producer. Mas says those figures make it the most imported French wine in Australia.

Asked why, he points to the label showing a jaunty frog in a red jacket and beret, swinging a walking stick. "It is constructive self derision. We have always been told we are second rate, by Bordeaux, by Burgundy, so we have to go at things another route."

The producing region of southern France broadly includes Languedoc-Roussillon, Rhone, Provence, Midi-Pyrenees and Corsica -- but the Languedoc and the Rhone are probably the best known outside of France.

Eye-catching names such as Arrogant Frog, Fat Bastard, the Rhoning Stones and Bois-Moi (Drink Me), are certainly part of the story, as is the willingness to try ever newer, ever slicker packaging.

"As far as I know this is the first ever wine in a full size aluminium bottle," said Stephane Oudar, export director of Boisset, a producer already famous for putting its Languedoc wines, red, white and rose, in a tetra pack and calling it French Rabbit.

Next year, or sooner, Boisset will launch its new range of Organic French Rabbit in a tetra pack. To date both the tetra pack and the aluminium bottle, to be launched in the US in two months, are aimed mainly at export markets rather than "traditional" -- meaning French and other European consumers -- ones.

Other innovations include the Kube, a clear plastic box with a bag of wine inside -- one up on the plastic pouch plus cardboard surround bag-in-box type structure. It is better, say producers, because it is more easily recyclable, being all plastic, rather than a plastic paper mix, and you can also, if desired, stick it in the snow or a river.

Apart from the names and the packaging however, there is the wine itself, which tastes better than many mid-range wines from Bordeaux or Burgundy.

"We dont bother with Vinexpo (the major Bordeaux wine trade fair held in alternate odd numbered years), the value is here," said Peter Ward, a buyer from Ireland.

The reasons for this, say both local and outside producers, are the ideal weather and soil conditions for wine growing.

There is also a far wider range of wine-making techniques for those who choose to make wines in the lesser ranking, but more innovative, Vins de Pays dOc category.

"It is a more liberal system here, with the vin de pays appellation," said Ruth Simpson, producer of Le Coq DOc wine. Simpson, who owns Domaine Sainte Rose with her husband, moved to the region to produce wine five and a half years ago and says they chose the region for that reason.

"You can use wood chips, wood planks, you can irrigate, you can plant different, more commercially useful grape varieties. It is a microcosm of the new world," Simpson said.

For the organisers of this years Vinisud, which started in 1994 and is held in every even numbered year, that is precisely the point.

Everywhere around the show posters proclaim "The New French Style" and both buyers and exhibitors are happy to claim comparisons to the new world, that might be an insult elsewhere in the country.

Indicating further progress in the region, Vinisud 2008 is also boasting increased exhibitor figures of 1,600 stands, increased visitor numbers, expected to reach 35,000 people and a 200 percent increase in foreign buyers.

"This area is now competing with New World," said James Nicholson, a buyer for the UK and Ireland. "In Bordeaux, the top 30 chateaux can just sell what they make. Here everyone has to be innovative."

Even apart from trade show figures, however, Simpson points out another telling sign of success. The shadowy militant group -- the Comite Regional d'Action Viticole (CRAV) -- known for its emptying of wine vats in the middle of the night, sabotaging of railway lines, and sweeping of foreign wines off supermarket shelves, has not been in the news recently.

"CRAV has certainly calmed down since prices went up," she said simply.


AFP: New world wines of southern France

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Pinot Evil got a thumbs up from SF Chronicle

Pinot Evil has certainly had a mixed response, but W. Blake Gray of the San Francisco Chronicle liked it when he tasted it last July. Click on the link to go to the Chronicle Podcast site and listen.
Wine: NV Pinot Evil Vin de Pays de l'Ile de Beaute Pinot Noir

Imagine our surprise when Chronicle wine reporter W. Blake Gray recommended a red wine that's only five bucks -- and it's Pinot Noir! That's right, a good Pinot Noir for FIVE BUCKS. For a whole bottle!

Not only that, says Mr. Gray, but you can even get the nonvintage Pinot Evil Vin de Pays de l'Ile de Beaute Pinot Noir in a three-liter bag-in-a-box for just $15.

Now that's downright evil!

Chronicle Podcasts : NV Pinot Evil Vin de Pays de l'Ile de Beaute Pinot Noir

Fifty Boxed Wines

Fifty boxed wines in a blind tasting (with a few bottles slipped in).

Sipping From the Spigot
The time has come for the great boxed-wine challenge
August 10, 2007

A quick show of hands: How many of you open a $20-plus bottle of wine each night? How many carefully age their wines for measured maturity? When you pop the cork, do you finish the whole bottle? If not, do you notice how it just doesn't taste right the next day?

The truth is most people drink their wine on the same day they buy it. Most people prefer good-quality, inexpensive wines and stay loyal to the brands they like. And most people have variable rates of wine consumption: maybe a glass tonight, maybe three tomorrow. Plus, since a half-empty bottle of wine goes stale after just one day, they end up drinking subpar wine.

The Australians and Europeans solved all of these problems years ago with one elegant solution. They take a good-quality wine; put it in an inert, vacuum-sealed bag; drop the bag in a box; and place a spigot on the side. In Australia, for instance, 54% of wines sold are box wines.

Imagine dining in a nice European trattoria or brasserie and ordering a carafe of the house wine. It would be a simple, unpretentious wine made for casual consumption. That's what you'll find in the best box wines. They are always priced popularly, with 3-liter boxes (equivalent to four bottles of wine) normally running $10-20. Best of all, you can take as much as you want and not worry about the wine oxidizing by the next day. It will keep in the box for months.

Early on, box wines had a cheesy reputation in the U.S. As Evan Goldstein, a master sommelier and author of Perfect Pairings (University of California Press, $29.95), told me: "You're lucky you weren't doing the box-wine challenge 10 years ago. The wines tasted like plastic." I'd go a step further and say they tasted like you were sucking them through a $2 garden hose.

When fellow Food writer Mick Vann recently asked me which box wines I would recommend, it got me thinking. I've tasted a couple of box wines that really caught my attention. Both FishEye's Pinot Grigio ($14) and the Target stores' California Chardonnay taste like the grapes they are made from, unhampered by oak, and they are young, fruity, and crisp. But I wondered what other, if any, box wines a crew of knowledgeable wine tasters would pick. Are any box wines worthy of a place in America's refrigerators? I decided to put it to the test.

The Process

We asked the biggest wine distributors to send us every box wine they carried. The complications started when we used the word "box."Things have gotten more convoluted since Three Thieves came out with the Tetra Pak, which is like the juice cartons kids use. Adult juice, indeed. Anyway, the industry term for what I was looking for is "bag in a box." We ended up with (gulp!) 50 wines.

Next up was picking the experts. I wanted some parity among disciplines, and I knew that I wanted to start with the three Austinites who had won the Texas Best Sommelier awards (see "Austinites Sweep Texas Sommelier Competition," Sept. 8, 2006): Devon Broglie of Whole Foods, Craig Collins of Prestige Wine Cellars, and Scott Cameron of Avante Beverages. I also wanted some experienced winemakers. Jim Johnson of Alamosa Wine Cellars not only makes great Texas wine; he has worked at some high-end California wineries like Heitz and St. Francis. Mark Penna is making stellar wine for Damian Mandola but also has the experience of actually making this style of wine from when he was the winemaker at Ste. Genevieve. Two retailers from Twin Liquors: our budding TV star Ross Outon (soon to be seen on the PBS reality series The Winemakers) and Martin Aechternacht. I invited two consumers. Steve Tipton is on the board of the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas and owner of one of the top wine cellars in the city. The other consumer was my brother-in-law, Stephen Aechternacht (Martin's father), because he actually regularly drinks boxed wines. The last two slots were chef spots: one for a current chef, Charles Mayes of Cafe Josie, and another for a retired chef, the Chronicle's Vann.

(Let me jump in here with an important oversight. When our Food editor makes a mistake, she calls it the "off-with-my-head department." Well, get your guillotines sharpened. I didn't notice until we were posing for our picture that I had completely forgotten to give this group a gender option. I left out female wine professionals and consumers. So sorry. Be careful with that axe, Eugenia.)

Broglie was kind enough to get us a place for the box-off at the Whole Foods Market Culinary Center. It was a first visit there for most of us, and we were all bowled over at how beautiful and functional the place is. Not only did they treat us kindly and let us dirty a hundred or so of their wine glasses, but they were considerate and helpful, even though they had a private cooking class going on at the same time!

We tasted the wines in varietal groups: Pinot Grigios, Chardonnays, other whites, Merlots, Cabernets, Shirazes, and other reds. Instead of using a 100-point scale, we decided to use the system that most wine competitions would use. A wine could receive any of four rankings. We defined gold as a wine that we would happily buy and keep around the house for personal consumption. Silver meant we'd buy it for parties, cooking, and infrequent drinking. Bronze meant we would happily drink it for free at someone else's party. No medal meant we wouldn't even swallow the stuff; we'd spit it out.

The competition was conducted double blind. Here's how that works: Four volunteers poured the wines in another room and brought them in pitchers so no one, myself included, knew which wines we were drinking. Then, to keep us all honest, for each varietal, we slipped in real glass-bottle wines in the $15-20 range to see if the experts could tell the difference.

The good news is that out of 50 wines, only eight averaged "no medal." The vast majority rated bronze, which is a definite step up from the original box wines. The bad news is that, with the exception of three categories, our judges picked the bottle wines as the top in their varietal. Remember, none of us knew what he was tasting, which just goes to show that you still mostly get what you pay for. However, there are some exceptions.

And the Winners Are ...

Our goal was to find any box wine that could stand up against its glass brethren, and we found three that were absolute knockouts. They were the winning Cabernet, Merlot, and other white.

Our final step was to bring the Top 3 wines in for a face-off. Still, none of us knew what he was tasting, other than a Cab, a Merlot, and an other white. We were aiming for Best Red, Best White, and Best of Show. For the red, all but one judge chose the Cabernet, so all that remained was to choose between the Cabernet and other white for the Best of Show.

This was the crowning moment of our run through 50 wines, so excitement was in the air. Our first three judges voted Cab, signaling a trend. But then the next three picked the other white. Things teeter-tottered through the rest of the judges, and the final vote was ... a tie. We decided to award a Best of Show to both wines.

That's when we finally got to see what we had picked.

1) Seeberger Riesling ($16 for 3 liters) is made in Germany and full of crisp, appley Riesling flavors. The fact that it's a low 10% alcohol makes it a perfect Texas summer wine. Ross Outon summed up his reasons for picking the Seeberger: "The only note I wrote down as I tried the winning white wine was, 'Riesling ... best white.'That says it all.It was varietally correct enough for me to pull out blind, and it was also balanced and well-structured ... and I'd drink another glass." Devon Broglie was equally ecstatic: "I felt like it had a crisp, clean finish. This is a wonderful summer white and the definition of summer quaffing wine! I am going to start keeping a box in the fridge just on principle!" Seeberger is available at most HEB stores, although based on Devon's opinion, I bet we'll be seeing it at Whole Foods in the near future.

2) Powers 2003 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($20 for 3 liters) is made by Badger Mountain Vineyard in Kennewick, Wash. Their main operation is organic, but for this less expensive wine, they must rely on nonorganic fruit. This wine easily could be mistaken for a $15-20-a-bottle Cabernet. It is 100% Cabernet that has seen time in real barrels, something you hardly ever find in wines less than $15 a bottle. That's positively amazing for a wine that works out to the equivalent of $5 a bottle. Winemaker Jim Johnson commented that it is "the perfect box wine, appropriate color, nice nose. It finishes dry, and the fruit is bright, forward, and squeaky clean. Very well-made." I agree. The Powers was my favorite wine of the entire contest. It is available at Grape Vine, Spec's, Whole Foods, and Whip In.

The other top wine was Hardys Stamp Merlot ($16 for 3 liters). Hardy Wine Co. is a huge Australian company with more than a dozen brands. For the Stamp line, winemaker Peter Dawson blends his wines using fruit from all over Australia, then puts the same wines in his bottles as in his boxes. The box wines come at a discount because making and shipping the wine costs so much less than using glass and corks. Their Merlot is velvety with just a touch of green-pepper aroma and quite rich for the price. Vann loved it. "This red is sippable or can go with just about any food," he said. "For an out-of-a-box wine, this is just what the doctor ordered for that glass-a-night before bedtime or ideal for the feast for friends." Hardys Stamp Merlot is only available at Spec's.

News You Can Use Next Time You Go to the Store

Another trend that we noticed was that a few brands showed well in almost every varietal. This is convenient because once you get the image of the label fixed in your mind, you can rest assured that you have a good chance of finding decent wines no matter the grape.

For instance, the highest ranked brand was Wine Cube, a brand sold only at Target stores. They placed in the top tier for their Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Shiraz and in the third tier for their Cabernet. These wines are line priced at $16, making them the equivalent of $4 for a regular 750-milliliter bottle.

I was surprised at the strong showing for Delicato, which placed in Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet. Delicato has been advertising all the awards they've been winning, but I've never been convinced. Well, they've obviously invested the time and money in really raising the quality of their wines. That goes to prove why critical tastings should always be double blind.

Other labels showed well. Box Star is an Australian brand that placed in Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, and Shiraz. Black Box wines also did well in the box-off, placing with their Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet. And Rain Dance placed in the top tier for both their Chardonnay and Shiraz.

So Should I Sell My Collection of First Growth Bordeaux and Buy Boxes?

First and foremost, wine is food, and just like most of us can't and don't eat lobster and caviar every night, we'll also never be in the $100-a-night wine club. Although the idea is appealing, after a while you'd be lusting after $500 bottles. Instead, relax, and know that a good wine at a bargain price is a thing of beauty, one that we all should be excited to find.

Does it matter if it's in a box? Of course it does. On the plus side, you can pour as much as you want and know that the rest will stay nice and fresh, just awaiting your next pour. You'll also save some money by avoiding the price penalty for bottles and corks.

The minus side is that you might feel embarrassed in the checkout line. What will they think if they see me with a box wine?

Just smile, take comfort in your intelligence, and tell them you read it here: Good wines do come in boxes.

Results of Top-Placing Wines
Grape Brand Rank


Box Star: 1

Rain Dance: 1

Wine Cube: 1

Black Box: 2

Delicato: 2

FishEye: 2

Hardys: 2

Killer Juice: 3
Pinot Grigio

Wine Cube: 1

Delicato: 2

FishEye: 3
Other White

Seeberger Riesling: 1

Franzia Chablis: 2

Hardys: 1

Black Box: 2

Delicato: 2

Box Star: 3

Powers: 1

Black Box: 2

Box Star: 3

Delicato: 3

Wine Cube: 3
Other Red

Pinot Evil: 1

Le Faux Frog Pinot: 2

Badger Mountain Red (Organic): 3

Rain Dance: 1

Wine Cube: 1

Banrock Station: 2

Box Star: 2

Black Box: 3

FishEye: 3

Hardys Shiraz: 3

The Austin Chronicle: Food: Sipping From the Spigot: The time has come for the great boxed-wine challenge

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chateau de Pena Cuvee de Pena 2003 3 Liter Box

OK, since I recently posted about the Chateau de Pena Cuvee de Pena, I guess I should add it to my list of bag-in-box wines. (Reposting today with additional reviews):

Chateau de Pena Cuvee de Pena 2003
From Chateau de Pena
France, Languedoc-Roussillon
3 liter box, vintage dated
Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Carignan
Wine Spectator 87, Wine Advocate 86
About $18 - $25

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

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

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

Reviews in the News

Craig LaBan, December 6, 2006, Philadelphia Inquirer (Rated "Worthy House Wine," top rating of four levels)
My personal favorite was the Cuvee de Peña, a rustic, grenache-based table wine from southern France that tasted just as it does in the bottle - with bright red berries, balanced tannins, and a lingering acidity.

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

Reviews on the Web

Nicole Goskel, AOL
Chateau de pena Cuvee de Pena Vin de Pays - 2004 (France)
Verdict: Our favorite of the red wines (tie)
Tasting notes: Spicy, hint of blackberries, complex

Best Boxed Wines: Think Outside the Wine Box - AOL Food

Reviews in Blogs

Bille, March 14, 2007, Wine for Newbies blog
Cuvee de Peña comes from France’s Rhône region, and is a blend of various Rhône varietals. It has a very nice color, moderate to powerful aromas that are pleasant but not complex, and a nice balance of flavors, alcohol, tannins, etc. It has a longer finish, but still somewhat short. I would rate this wine at 82/100.

Wine Blogging Wednesday–Box Wines at Podcast: Wine for Newbies

Lyza, September 26, 2006, Lyza blog
the Cuvee de Pena box David and I scored a month or two ago at New Seasons--it's probably the best box wine I've ever had.

Lyza.: Wine: "You Look Like my Mommy After Her Box of Wine"

Wine: Best Box So Far? 2003 Cuvee de Pena (Vin de Pays Pyrenées Orientales) Tastes like this: old men in South France sitting around cafe table outside in a dusty village drinking this wine out of tumblers after having a long day hunting rabbits. This is a man's wine and I like it. Sultry animal darkness, bramble-patch murky jam slippery and easy. This could be the most respectable box wine I've ever had. 55% Grenache, 33% Syrah and 11% Carignan--that Carignan is in there, all right, smacking of game meats. Yeehah, so drink it with gamy meats. Or just drink it. Really. It's tasty!

Lyza.: Wine: Best Box So Far?

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AOL weighs in on boxed wines

From AOL, a nice list of tasting notes on boxed wines, some Tetra Pak, some bag-in-box.

Think Outside the (Wine) Box
Nicole Goksel, AOL

Myths, Truths & Shopping Suggestions

Boxed wines of the past had a deservedly bad rap, but new packaging techniques have enticed makers of excellent vino to get juiced about wine boxes. We sipped and swirled over a dozen of 'em, so keep clicking to get our top picks (and a list of ones to skip) and one heck of a lot of reasons why we think great boxed wine is the wave of the future.

Delicato Bota Box Chardonnay - 2005 (California)
Verdict: We liked it.
Tasting notes: Great floral smell, easy-drinking, a little bit dry
Tip: Once bottled wine has been opened, it's got a 4 day shelf life before it starts to really oxidize and turn. Because the majority of boxed wines are built with a bag-in-box system that doesn't allow air in, it'll stay fresh for at least 4 weeks.

Three Thieves Bandit Pinot Grigio - 2004 (California)
Verdict: Our favorite of the white wines
Tasting notes: Light, herbal, kiwi
Tip: Because boxed wine stays fresh for a significant amount of time, it's easy to keep a box on hand in the cupboard or fridge so you can pour a single glass whenever you'd like -- without having to go to the fuss of opening a new bottle or worrying about waste. It's perfect for those drinking a glass a day for a healthy heart.

Washington Hills Columbia Valley Chardonnay - 2004 (Washington State)
Verdict: We loved it.
Tasting notes: Citrusy, grassy, fresh, slightly chalky
Tip: While a few wines come in 1 or 5 liter boxes, the box you'll usually find on the shelves is the "3 liter cask," which holds the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine.

Banrock Station Chardonnay - 2006 (South Eastern Australia)
Verdict: We loved it.
Tasting notes: Peachy, vanilla, not too oaky
Tip: The 3-liter boxes we sampled cost between $11.99 and $29.99, with the average being around $16.99. While the high end of that range might be a bit more than you might wish to spend on an everyday bottle, remember -- you're actually getting 4 bottles worth. Even at $7.50 a bottle, that's still a steal.

Three Thieves Bandit Cabernet Sauvignon - 2002 (California)
Verdict: Our favorite of the red wines (tie)
Tasting notes: Buttery, blackberries, also comes in a 4-pack of single-serving boxes
Tip: Even if you're short a home wine rack, there's no need to worry, 'cause the flat box packaging makes it as easy to store as cereal.

Cinta Venezie Pinot Noir - Non-Vintage (Italy)
Verdict: We liked it
Tasting notes: A bit astringent, complex
Tip: Not so crafty with a corkscrew? No worries, 'cause the tab or cap is built right in-- eliminating the risk of crumbled cork and the resulting air exposure which taints the taste. Taps and screwcaps might have seemed tacky once upon a time, but more and more great winemakers are sealing the deal.

Chateau de pena Cuvee de Pena Vin de Pays - 2004 (France)
Verdict: Our favorite of the red wines (tie)
Tasting notes: Spicy, hint of blackberries, complex
Tip: If your friends seem resistant to the idea of boxed wine, try pouring in another room, and bringing in the glasses on a tray. Only after they've ooh-ed and ahh-ed, let 'em in on what it is they've been drinking. Great wines can come in square packages.

French Rabbit Merlot - 2004 (France)
Verdict: We liked it
Tasting notes: Cherries, spicy chocolate
Tip: Because boxed wine has been kept under such tight wraps, aerobically speaking, make sure to give it a big ol' swirl in the glass, let it sit for a minute to fully open up and aerate, or dig out that decanter from the back of the cabinet.

Thirsty Lizard Shiraz - 2005 (South Eastern Australia)
Verdict: We liked it very much
Tasting Notes: Plummy, jammy, easy-drinking
Tip: While this might all seem like a packaging revolution, folks in Europe and Australia have known and enjoyed the benefits of boxed booze for a long time. It's the perfect no-fuss way to enjoy the sorts of wines that are best enjoyed while they're still young and fresh -- no wine cellar required.

VRAC Cotes du Rhone - 2006 (France)
Verdict: We liked it
Tasting Notes: Strawberries & raspberries, a little spicy
Tip: If you're a fan of camping, sailing, picnicking, tailgating or otherwise frolicking far from home, boxed wines are the ideal no-shatter, lighter-weight take-along -- and many of them even boast a built-in handle for easy toting.

More to Sip -- And Skip
Also Worth Sipping:
- Killer Juice Cabernet Sauvignon - 2003
- Dtour Côtes-du-Rhône - 2004
- Black Box Sonoma County Merlot - 2005
Definitely Skip:
- Franzia Old World Classics Burgundy (though admittedly not as awful as we remember)
- Hardy's Chardonnay - 2005
- Three Thieves Bandit White Zinfandel - 2005
- Peter Vella White Grenache
- Blue Nun Riesling (but not so bad for cooking)

Best Boxed Wines: Think Outside the Wine Box - AOL Food

Boxed Wines Market Growing

From Adams Market Research in October:

Boxed Wines Growing at Grocery and Liquor Stores Nationwide

NAPA, CA -- Boxed wines have been around for quite awhile. Indeed, millions of cases of wine packaged in 5-liter boxes are being sold each year under the Franzia (The Wine Group), Peter Vella (E&J Gallo) and Almaden (Canandaigua) labels. Some studies suggest that about 20% of all wine consumed in the U.S. is poured from wine-in-a-box. Recently, these popular 5-liter packages have been joined on the shelves by 3-liter boxes; however, these 3-liter boxes contain premium wine from wineries such as Sonoma Hill, Trinchero, Corbett Canyon, BRL Hardys and the latest, Delicato.

The quality of these wines refute the belief -- apocraphyl or not -- that bag-in-the-box wine is run-of-the-mill at best. Indeed, several reports have pointed out that good-quality wine has been available in boxed packages in Europe and Australia for several years now.

Though its look is hardly upscale, the proponents of boxed wine say it has several advantages over conventionally bottled wine, the most significant of which is boxed wine's ability to stay fresh for a much longer period of time after opening. The interior collapsible bag protects the wine from the harmful effects of air, which can oxidize the wine in an opened bottle after three or four days. In addition, the box itself keeps the harmful effects of light away from the wine. Thus, boxed wine producers say, their wines stay fresh for four to six weeks.

Convenience is another advantage, proponents of boxed wine say. For example, someone who might want to drink just one glass of wine might hesitate to open a bottle. Boxed wine allows that wine drinker to consume a single glass and then put away the wine for several days without fear of it going bad.

From a winery's point of view, shipping costs are greatly reduced because the boxes weigh less than the equivalent volume of glass bottles. And for consumers, the cost is very competitive compared to the price of an equivalent amount of premium wine in a bottle. For example, late last year Delicato Family Vineyards released three award-winning premium varietal wines in its 3-liter Bota Box, which boasts its own specially designed spigot and collapsible bag to prevent oxygen from reaching the wine. The 3-liter boxes of Delicato Shiraz, Merlot and Chardonnay all retail for about $18, which is equivalent to about $4.50 per 750 ml bottle.

Adams Market Research Alcohol Beverage Industry

Groovy or Grim?

From, the online Ottowa restaurant guide. The wines tasted were 1 liter packaging which indicates Tetra Pack, but some of these are also available in 3L bag in box:

Boxed Wine groovy or grim?

Ok, maybe it’s just because of fond memories, but I love the idea of boxed wine. My first wine experiences included boxed wine in Australia, where you could get pretty good quality vino in a box. It was so convenient that I brought it just about everywhere with me as I backpacked around the country.

When I returned to Canada after my Aussie travels, I was psyched to try out the local boxed wine. Unfortunately, what I had here was so disappointing; all I got out of it was four liters of cooking wine (I made a lot of mussels). So when Tetra Pak wines showed up on the market recently, I was skeptical. But as more and more selection flooded the stores, I started to get curious again – was this stuff any better than what I had tried a few years back?

Besides my soft spot for wine in a box, there are lots of other reasons why I think boxed wine is a great idea. First, as I mentioned before, it’s convenient. You don’t need a corkscrew and you don’t have to worry about glass bottles, which means it’s perfect for camping, the cottage, or other casual travels.

Then of course there are the environmental and economical considerations. Tetra Pak cartons are recyclable and are actually being recycled in most regions across Canada. In addition to their recyclability, wine cartons are a more environmentally-friendly packaging option than glass because they are based on source reduction, the first and most important component of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle). A Tetra Pak carton weighs 40 grams. A glass bottle weighs at least 600 grams, or 15 times more. Even if you didn’t recycle any of your Tetra Pak cartons and recycled most of your glass wine bottles, the Tetra Pak format would still win out. And because they are so much lighter than glass, packaging wine in cartons reduces both fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, wine in a box creates less waste and less pollution than traditional glass bottles. (Source: Tetra Pak Canada Inc.)

So back to the quality – can you actually get any good tasting wine in a box? The statistics say yes. According to Tetra Pak Canada “The LCBO said Ontario consumers have purchased nearly one million liters of wine in Tetra Pak cartons in the past 10 months, and that U.S. figures show North American demand growing by 30 per cent per year.” Not only that, there are currently 30 wines in Tetra Pak cartons available at the LCBO and because of the demand, another 40 products are now in production.

So, I decided to put these statistics to the test and got a group of wine-loving friends together for a little boxed wine taste test. The results – not bad. Some we enjoyed, some not so much, but overall we agreed that for cottage and camping or for everyday, boxed wine is definitely an option. Will I throw my corkscrew away? Well, not just yet.

our favorite whites

Banrock Station Unwooded Chardonnay (Australia)
LCBO 668954 | $12.50 | 1 liter
Crisp and fruity, this wine is refreshing and food friendly with citrus and stone fruit flavors. This was our favorite wine of the whole tasting.

Three Thieves “Bandit” Pinot Grigio (California)
LCBO 614131 | $13.85 | 1 liter
Light, crisp, and simple, this wine is easy drinking. Nothing too complex going on, but enjoyable nonetheless.

our favorite reds

Banrock Station Shiraz (Australia)
LCBO 668962 | $13.80 | 1 liter
Coincidentally, this was one of my favorite boxed wines during my Australian travels. Classic berry fruit and black pepper, perfect for the bbq.

Red Lips Syrah (France)
LCBO 613968 | $12.85 | 1 liter
To quote my friend Angie “you could easily fall into a box of this” … it’s juicy and ripe with flavors of blackberry, cherry, plum, and vanilla, and a surprising hit of tannin. Ladies, enjoy this with your girlfriends sitting by the lake.

Le Petit Sommelier Shiraz/Grenache (France)
LCBO 619338 | $10.90 | 3 x 250 ml
I’m not sure which is better – the cute mini-carton packaging of this wine (each 250 ml carton gives 2 good sized glasses of wine) or the wine itself – the peppery spice of Shiraz, the fresh, juicy berry flavor of Grenache, and super food-friendly too.

Boxed Wine - Find an Ottawa Restaurant at

Evolution of the Wine Box

From the Times Herald-Record of the Huson Valley, New York:

Tastings: the evolution of the wine box
August 26, 2007

Summer may be slipping away, but that doesn't mean that the party will be ending any time soon.

There are plenty of Labor Day barbecues, tailgating picnics and game nights ahead.

Beer, of course, is often the beverage of choice at these gatherings. But a new generation of boxed wines now rivals beer's portability and affordability, making it a good choice for parties.

But we're not talking about that big crate of chablis your parents used to keep in the fridge. These wines are getting better, and there's more to choose from.

The most common size of wine in a box is 5 liters — that's almost seven regular bottles of wine — but 1- and 3-liter "casks" have also become popular. And many promise to keep well for weeks after opening.

The big player in the field is the Wine Group, based in San Francisco, which is the world's third-biggest wine company by volume thanks to its ubiquitous Franzia boxed wines.

"Denying the quality of some box wines will soon be like denying the quality of screw caps," says Carl Zatz, owner of Enthusiastic Spirits and Wine Shop. "They're coming and they'll be here to stay."

His shop features two "great" boxed wines, which he notes are "both perfect for picnics or the chaos of a big family barbecue."

Zatz's first suggestion is Wooloomooloo Red Blend from South Eastern Australia (1 liter/$8.99). "It's a bold blend of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and grenache. It's juicy and sappy and great with grilling."

He also really likes the company's "quaffable" chardonnay.

Zatz is also recommending wines from Trove in California, which is available bottled or in 3-liter boxes ($19.99).

"The 2004 cabernet sauvignon is full-bodied, almost rustic with lots of fruit," Zatz says. "(And) the 2005 chardonnay is medium-bodied with a little bit of oak. It's a good all-purpose wine that will last in your fridge for weeks. We had these two out for tastings for nearly a month. They stayed fresh and tasty to the end."

Even Carlo Rossi, long available in jugs, is being offered in a 5-liter box.

Available nationwide beginning Sept. 1, four varietals — chardonnay, white zinfandel, merlot and cabernet sauvignon — will retail at about $13.99.

"The easy-pour spout makes for effortless entertaining and quick refills," says spokeswoman Christine Reardon.

Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, wine critics for The Wall Street Journal, recently tasted the 3-liter boxes from the Wine Group's FishEye brand. Wine Group expects to sell about a million 9-liter cases of FishEye this year, including both boxes and bottles. According to ACNielsen, sales of premium 3-liter box wines rose 43.4 percent by volume for the 52-week period ending April 7.

Gaiter and Brecher decided to see how the FishEye Shiraz would hold up after opening and bought seven boxes (about $16). They opened one box every week for six weeks and emptied about a sixth of the contents. Then they tasted them all against a newly opened box. (While FishEye doesn't say the boxes need to be refrigerated, they did because they say simple wines, even the shiraz, are better with a chill.) When it was first opened, they found the shiraz to be tasty — "soft and pleasant, with integrated acidity and nice fruit." Then they put all the boxes on a table and started tasting.

"None of them was obviously oxidized," they found. "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. It turned out that our favorite 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." So, the bottom line: The wine really does keep for six weeks.

It has its ups and downs in your refrigerator, but it will keep fine. That said, the FishEye Shiraz, at the equivalent of $4 a bottle, is a perfectly nice wine for a party.

The Wall Street Journal contributed to this report

Each week, we ask wine and spirits professionals for advice. You don't need to own a shop to join the conversation. Wine and liquor lovers are welcome. Please e-mail Lisa Ramirez at

Tastings: The evolution of the wine box - - The Times Herald Record

Low-end Chards Duke it Out

I LOVE this! A low-end Chard match-up. Cut to the chase:
  1. Peter Vella NV
  2. Trove 2005
  3. Charles Shaw 2006
  4. Franzia NV
My husband and I drank up a case of the now famous 2005 Two-Buck Chuck Chard and enjoyed it very much. Recently a friend bought a case and when we shared some with him we were disappointed. Turned out it was the '06, and it's true, it just doesn't measure up to the bar set by the '05 vintage.

I always have thought the Peter Vella Chard(a Gallo product) to be far better than the ubiquitous Franzia Chard. I'm sorry that Almaden boxed Chard was not included in this tasting.

Boxing Match
Wherein Mr. Two-Buck Chuck jabs at his family legacy and greedy bastards are left out cold.

By Blair Campbell
September 5, 2007

Fred Franzia was born into a winemaking family, related by marriage to the Gallos, and a lifelong friend to the Mondavis. He probably could have had his choice of jobs in an industry that lionizes producers of small-distribution, high-priced "cult" wines. Instead, he started Bronco Wine Company and promptly made a mint buying decent-quality surplus wine from producers and then selling it under his own label for cheap. The patron saint of Wineaux everywhere, Franzia has publicly denounced high-end wine retailers as "greedy bastards."

In some ways, his story hinges on the story of Chardonnay. The 1980s were the varietal's Golden Age — a time when the heavily oaked California version became a must-drink symbol of urban sophistication. But that led to widespread overplanting, and Bronco's chief took advantage of the glut. Fast-forward two decades, to when the 2005 vintage of Bronco's $2 Charles Shaw was judged best Chardonnay in the state at the California State Fair, besting many cult wines Franzia would likely disparage.

To bring "Two-Buck Chuck" back to its populist roots, we thought we'd put it to the test against a wine named Franzia. That'd be Franzia Vintner Select Chardonnay ($9.98 for five liters), a boxed wine to which Franzia has no connection due to the sale of his family's business in the '70s. Two other boxed wines nicely rounded out our blind tasting.

In a big upset, the winner was Peter Vella Family Reserve nonvintage Chardonnay ($11.99 for a five-liter box, equivalent to about $1.80 a bottle). This was the favorite of our Token Winemaker, who found it classically Chardlike, full and citrusy. Indie Editor liked it too, calling it drinkable and smooth. Another returning taster, Conscious Nonbeliever, imagined it with fish or spicy fowl.

Coming in a distant second was my favorite, the 2005 Trove California Chardonnay ($15.99 for three liters, or roughly $4 a bottle). I loved the mix of butter, caramel, and lemon in the aroma and taste, as well as its pleasantly bitter aftertaste, and imagined drinking it on its own or with grilled fish. Not everyone was a fan — one taster called it "the PBR of white wine."

A notch behind the Trove was the 2006 Charles Shaw ($1.99). I found the Chuck totally lacking in aroma, with no discernible flaws but nothing to recommend it either. Indie Editor called it a "stereotypical cheap Cali Chardonnay," and only Arkie Editor said she would buy it again.

Still, we saved the real venom for the Franzia Vintner Select Chardonnay. "Wine-flavored water," groused our gracious host. He was seconded by our Token Winemaker and Conscious Nonbeliever, who chimed in with "acid lemon water" and "pee."

Overall, not a great day to be named Franzia — but an even worse one to be a greedy bastard.

East Bay Express | Restaurants | Boxing Match

The New Oh-Sevens

From the Chicago Daily Herald:

Boxed wine stepping up a notch with '07 varieties
Mary Ross

Don't turn up your nose at a new generation of boxed wines. The best are well-made, tasty and perfectly suited to carefree occasions, especially at picnics and pools where glass bottles are often verboten.

I'd choose a carton of French Rabbit, for instance, over many bottled wines any day. French Rabbit Chardonnay is crisp and clean; the pinot noir has bright berry flavors and silky texture; cabernet sauvignon offers savory plum, berry and cherry flavors and firm tannin. Unencumbered by excess oak and alcohol, all acquaint the drinker with flavors of their south-of-France growing region.

As a bonus, the Tetra Prism carton has an easy-to-open twist cap, weighs much less than a standard bottle and reduces packaging waste by 90 percent. This "savor the wine and save the planet" stance is nothing new for French Rabbit importers, the Boisset family, who have married fine winemaking with social causes for decades.

A French Rabbit liter costs about $9.99. French Rabbit Petit, with four 250 ml cartons retailing for about $10.99, will debut this holiday season.

International travelers will recognize the Tetra Prism as a popular container for beverages around the world, but most of us used a lunch ticket -- not a passport -- to experience another boxed-wine technology.

"Bag-in-box," pioneered by Chicago-based Scholle Corp. has provided sanitary, air-tight containers for milk and juice served from cafeteria dispensers to countless school kids since 1955. The savings over glass bottles in packaging and transportation originally attracted bulk wine producers with generic "California Chablis"-type labels. Recently, producers began bagging premium varieties, such as pinot grigio and chardonnay. In 2004, three-liter bag-in-box wines became the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. wine industry, according to ACNielsen data.

Now, 1.5-liter boxes, oblongs and cubes (equivalent to two standard bottles) are the fashion. Wine Cube, produced by Napa Valley's Trinchero family, offers varietal whites (including a full-bodied chardonnay and an award-winning pinot grigio with sweet pear and peach flavors), and reds (a velvety merlot, an oak-aged cabernet and a spicy cab-shiraz blend). They're sold exclusively at Target for $9.99; three-liter boxes are $15.99.

Washington State's Powers Winery has boxed up a single-vineyard, barrel-aged cabernet sporting rich fruit accented by wood spice (thee liters, about $20), along with their organic and sulfite-free Badger Mountain "Pure Red" and "Pure White" (three liters, about $12.99.)

Bag-in-box has an advantage over other alternative wine packages. While twist-caps on Tetra Prism packages are convenient, once they're open, they're open. Bag-in-box, with its air-tight spigot, is never really opened at all. Wine lovers can pour a little or a lot, leaving the balance undamaged by oxygen.

As boxed wine continues its high-quality trend, watch for it to move into the super-premium category, with wine lovers collecting boxes for at-home wine bars.

For now, while you needn't use fine crystal or bury your nose deep in your stadium glass, you can expect pleasing, convenient refreshment in the new generation of boxed wines.

Daily Herald | Boxed wine stepping up a notch with '07 varieties

The Brown Box is Green

We've noticed the big change to Delicato's Bota Box wine packaging. Of course when one sees this kind of package (kraft paper, no coating, no bright colors), one wonders whether the "environmentally friendly" concept is more an impression than a reality. Apparently in this case the environmental friendliness of the printing process is a reality.
One of the business segments Proactive Packaging hoped to capture with the opening of its Stockton, CA, plant was the agriculture market due to its proximity to produce-growing regions and Napa Valley winemakers. One such winemaker, DFV Wines of Napa, CA, took notice. DFV Wines ( is in the midst of re-launching its Botabox wine as its own brand and was in need of a boxmaker to create an environmentally-friendly package with vivid graphics. John Garaventa, Botabox brand manager, wanted to print directly on kraft and have the graphics speak for each of the wines. The box would hold 3 liters of premium wine. After being told by numerous other printers that they could not print directly on kraft, DFV approached Proactive for test runs and liked what they saw. Not only was Proactive able to hold the graphics in register on kraft, Garaventa also learned that the way it was printed, with the VSOP press and EB curing, was environmentally-friendly as well. “We were really excited when we found out that the press is environmentally-friendly,” he says. “It was the icing on the cake. This (new) box is better all the way around (in comparison to the previous Botabox design).”

Beyond the brown box - 9/1/2007 - Converting Magazine

From PR Newswire:
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.

DFV Wines :: Bota Box Wine Goes Green