I recently gathered a group of wine professionals from around town to discuss box wine. It's no surprise that most wine connoisseurs turn their nose up to box wine. I am not going to lie, I was one of those people. In reality, I never actually tried boxed wine before this evening. My only experience was watching my grandmother as a young child drink Franzia at the dinner table. So, I decided that it was time to unveil what box wine was all about.
Box wine 101
There are two different types of box wines: bag in a box and a Tetra Pak. The bag in a box has an outer cardboard box with a plastic “pouch” inside. The Tetra Pak is a type of package that is most commonly made out of cardboard and known for its sustainability. The main difference between the two types of packaging is that wine made in Tetra Paks will oxidize just as fast as a wine bottle. Where as, a bag in a box will last typically for four weeks.
If a wine is not going to last a long time, then why buy wine in a Tetra Pak? It is no secret that corks are becoming harder and harder to find these days, which is why a lot of producers are making wine with screw caps, glass corks, and now Tetra Paks. Another reason many consumers are drinking box wine is that some consumers find it to be easier than opening a wine bottle.
When I gathered with the group of wine professionals, I asked them to write down their pre-conceived notions of box wine before this experience.
Alison Matera, manager of Riverside Wine and Spirits:
“Twenty years ago box wine in the United Stated was undrinkable to a trained palate. Now, it’s being imported from around the world and focusing on quality grape varietals to produce the wine, which shows in the end product.”
Mindi Lamar, wine appreciation class instructor at Chattanooga State:
“I believe box wines are a fantastic value, and you can find some great quality wines in boxes today. Bottom line is that box wines have had a bad stigma associated with them for years.”
Then we moved to blind tasting four whites and 10 reds. Yes, that is 14 wines, but do not worry they were only tastes. As I moved through the wines, I was surprised that I enjoyed more wine than I had originally thought.
While tasting the wine, we rated each one on a scale of one to five. The top two whites of the evening were a Sauvignon blanc by Gran Verano and Picpoul de Pinet by Petite Frog. Here are our tasting notes:
Grape: Sauvignon blanc
Nose: Pronounced nose with lime, kiwi, lemongrass, and asparagus.
Palate: Unripe citrus fruits such as grapefruit, lemon, and lime. This wine had racy acidity but great structure.
Many of the professionals said that this would be a great wine to serve at a dinner party.
Picpoul de Pinet “Petite Frog”
Grape: Picpoul de Pinet
Nose: A delicate nose filled with peach blossoms and exotic fruit.
Palate: The palate is balanced with great minerality and delicate fruit.
One of my favorite easy drinking wines for the summer or as an aperitif.
We started with 10 red wines, so there was quite a lot to choose from. The top four red wines of the evening were as follows:
Bota Box Zinfandel
Nose: Deep color, light hints of smoke, dark fruits, and meatiness.
Palate: Ripe silky fruits such as blackberries and blueberries. Full mouthfeel, low tannic structure at first; however, it does firm up on the mid palate.
This wine grew on me as time went on.
WineBerry Côtes du Rhône
Grapes: Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan
Nose: Predominant dark fruits as well as soy and asian spices.
Palate: Medium bodied, tannic, with a hint of spice. There is a little leather and rustic notes.
This wine is a great “old world” style wine but doesn’t cost a ton.
Big House Red
Grapes: Grenache Noir, Syrah, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, and Petite Sirah
Nose: Fruit forward nose such as strawberries, blueberries, and a little chocolate.
Palate: Light to medium bodied with clean red fruits.
This was was very balanced.
Grapes: Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah
Nose: Blackberries, dark cherries, and plum.
Palate: Tastes very young, fruit driven wine with a medium body.
This wine is very easy drinking. Not too complex; however, still very tasty.
After discussing our results, many of us were surprised at the quality in some of these wines. Box wine serves a great purpose for new wine drinkers, as well as the savvy wine drinker that doesn’t want to open a new bottle every night. I understand it gets costly, especially in Tennessee. Personally, I enjoy the romanticism of opening a bottle of wine. Most of the time I do not finish the bottle, which is wasteful. That said, my eyes are now open to what's out there in terms of being cost effective. If you are curious about the other wines we tried that evening, please feel free to email me.
Michelle Richards, is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Along with hosting wine tastings for local organizations, she serves up wine goodness at St. John’s Restaurant. Your can contact her by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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