Can one more wine-in-a-box be a step up?
With the wide selection of boxed wines available, you might wonder, “Why one more?”
Looking through the selection of boxed wines at a local liquor store, I’m struck by the choices facing the consumer.
A whole section of boxed wines, wines from around the world, at least the New World from Australia to New York and California, with all the familiar varietals represented.
Boxed wines usually are considered value wines, costing less because of the savings in packaging. Typically, producers put together a 3-liter box, the equivalent of four .750-ml bottles, using a plastic or plastic-lined bladder inside a cardboard box, all of which is less-costly than heavy glass bottles.
The value ranges immensely, from a few dollars to many dollars, depending on the level of wine being offered. Some boxed wines are awful, cheap bulk wines packaged and ready to sell to anyone whose only real concern is convenience.
Some boxed wines are surprisingly good, which isn’t really a slam against boxed wines but means initially it can come as surprise to find something drinkable inside a box instead of a bottle.
Finding these gems makes you feel you’ve really discovered something special – a decent wine at an affordable price in a package designed to let you drink a glass or two now and put the rest aside (or in the refrigerator). Three liters can be a lot of wine, as can a whole bottle when you’re not up to finishing it all at one sitting (not that that ever happens to any of us).
That you have to open the package by punching a hole in the outer layer and turning a spigot takes only a bit of getting accustomed to, and it’s really not much more work that twisting a corkscrew and pulling out a cork.
Which brings us to Our Wine of the Week.
I recently received a sample of Underdog Wine Merchants’ Monthaven Vineyards Central Coast Chardonnay, a three-liter boxed wine in Underdogs’ unique eight-sided Octavin Home Wine Bar collection.
Priced at $23.99, it’s the liquid equivalent of four 750-ml bottles at roughly $4 a bottle.
(I edited this blog after being shown that this price isn’t equal to roughly $4 a bottle but rather $6 a bottle. Woe to my bad math and thanks to a watchful reader.)
The wine was bright and fruity, with a bit of green apple and grapefruit and good acidity, making it a delightful accompaniment for an outside lunch on the first day of spring.
The box protects the wine from light and oxygen, wine’s two biggest enemies, and the easy-to-use twist-open spigot allows you to pour one glass at a time.
Boxed wines aren’t new but Underdog is aiming to lift the bar of quality, offering 10 well-made wines, including a 2008 Central Coast Chardonnay and a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, non-vintage pinot grigio and pinot noir from Hungary and Big House’s 2008 Big House Red and 2009 Big House White. All are in the $22–$24 range.
The wines, some of which previously have been available only in bottles, are made by well-known winemakers including Silver Birch Vineyards of Marlborough, N. Z., Big House Wines of Soledad, Calif., and Bodegas Osborne of Spain.
Distribution still is being worked out or at least it seems that way. Earlier this month I couldn’t find any of the Octavin line in local stores.
Unfortunately, the Web site doesn’t have a state-by-state list of where the wines are available.