A few weeks ago, I was asked by Spark Magazine to provide some advice for wine consumers based on my experiences in 2010. My response was:
“If I could offer consumers one piece of advice that I learned in 2010, it would have to be: don’t judge a wine by its package. I’ve had several terrific box wine experiences in 2010 – I hope to see this category continue to grow and that consumers give them a try.”
Now I’m sure that some of you that are reading this may have just spit out your wine in laughter or think that I was completely hammered when I made this statement. However, I assure you that I was not inebriated…so get a napkin and wipe your chin!
In 2010, more than just a few boxed wines were damn fine, and actually earned the right to put the words “Premium Wine” on its cardboard outer shell. Don’t get me wrong – there’s still plenty of undrinkable plonk on the shelf that deserves to be put in a time machine and dropped back into the 70’s with plaid bellbottoms and polyester suits, with no hope for return. However, the wine industry is moving in the right direction by offering several boxed wines that taste good and are affordable to the masses. That is something definitely worth cheering about! So here are my picks for the best boxed wines of 2010:
Best All-Around Boxed White Wine
Winner: La Petite Frog, Picpoul de Pinet, 3L box. It’s a box full of 100% Picpoul, otherwise known as Folle Blanche. It has terrific acidity, supported by grapefruit and a zest of lime. This wine is superb alone or with chicken, fish, Mediterranean foods, salads and even Tex-Mex; and the best part – it costs less than $30 for the equivalent of 4 standard bottles of wine.
Honorable Mentions: The Octavin Home Wine Bar line-up. Octavin has completely elevated the box wine category to a whole new level with Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), Big House White (California), and Monthaven Chardonnay (California). These wines are all crowd-pleasers and CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP!
Best All-Around Boxed Red Wine
Winner: Big House Red (3L Box). This past week, I had several folks taste a bar-length table full of boxes filled with red wine, and the Big House Red garnered the most compliments and universal approvals among these tasters.
Some comments from them were:
“A lot going on the front, middle and finish.”
“This is a nicely put together New-World style wine.”
“It’s very pretty.”
“Complex, yet very easy drinkin’.”
“Tastes like you’re trying something new. It expands your palate without being intimidating.”
I sum up the Big House Red, as being a killer value-red for under 20 bucks that pairs well with just about anything. It’s a very food-friendly red wine.
Honorable Mentions: My little tasting group also had lots of nice things to say about the French, terroir-driven La Vieille Ferme (3L Box) Rhone blend. Tasters remarked of its “Good Character,” that “Everything is in balance”, and it had “Nice layers of flavors.”
Finally, California’s popular Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon (3L Box) made a lasting impression on our tasters as well with its “Brawny,” “Big,” and “Meaty” black-cherry and vanilla-spice flavors.
All in all, I’d love for more wineries give the box a shot and see more wine drinkers try these box wines with a fresh and open mind. Still can’t get past the box – especially when entertaining? Try pouring the wine into one of your fancy decanters and hide the box in a cabinet!
Very special thanks to my friends at Branmar Wine and Spirits for agreeing to an impromptu tasting and for helping me to power through the boxes of red!