My last memory of drinking boxed wine is from a college football game. A friend duct-taped a Franzia Chardonnay bladder under khaki pants like a wino’s version of a flask. During the game, he would roll up his pant leg, flick the spigot and fill-up nearby students’ cups with the plonk.
Given this was years ago, I figured the boxed-wine industry must have matured as much as my graduating class.
Since a box holds more wine, creates less garbage, weighs less, and costs less, if you could just find boxed wine that people actually want to drink, you could throw an affordable, eco-friendly, elegant party. Right?
I perused the shelves at Astor, known for carrying nearly thirty different economy-format wines. I then collected twenty-two samples from various producers who had the best online reviews: Bandit, Würtz and Wineberry, plus the organic wines of Y&B, From the Tank, and Fuori Strada. I even included a college throwback, Franzia, to see if they had improved their game.
Modern packaging styles include Tetra Pak (same material used for chicken broth) with plastic screw caps or the classic bag-in-a-box with spigot. Sizes were generally 1L and 3L, although Bandit also makes a cute 500 ml that fits perfectly in a purse (for football games!)
Here are eight wines for your next party:
Le Garrigon, Côtes du Rhone 2011 from Wineberry, 3L, $40. By far the most sophisticated in taste and packaging. Also, survived the longest at three+ weeks post T-Day in the fridge.
From the Tank, Côtes du Rhone Red, 3L, $36. Blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, this smooth, red berry and cherry-fruit red was a household favorite, finished in two days.
Y&B Select Red 2010, 1 L, $12. A Santa Barbara-sourced blend with blackberry and spice notes; would make a nice weeknight glass with dinner.
Fuori Strada Sangiovese 2010, 1L, $12. Medium-bodied with smooth tannins and juicy, red fruit. Another surprise keeper.
Würtz Riesling, 3 L, $25. Dry, crisp and fruity crowd-pleaser in a slick, attractive black box.
From the Tank, Languedoc White, 3L, $33. 100% Chardonnay with pretty, but subtle flavors of stone fruit, green apple and citrus. Perfect if you need a white wine option for a party.
Bandit Merlot, 1L, $8. Simple party sipper with moderate tannins, a hint of cedar and vanilla with blueberry-plum fruit.
Fuori Strada Grillo 2011, 1L $12. Lemon-citrus and minerality dominate this clean, fresh and lively wine, if a slight bit tart.
And here’s what I learned about boxed wine:
- The quality gap between the reds and whites was like that between the Patriots and the Jets. We enjoyed drinking the best reds, while the mostly insipid, often tart whites were a chore to get down, some too sour to drink at all.
- The wines in Tetra Pak degraded faster than bottled wine; drink within 24 hours of opening.
- The wine spigots were hard to retrieve out of the interior of the boxes. Try pulling with pliers.
Don’t bring boxed wine to a party. If my sister (who hosted my tasting over Thanksgiving) wasn’t thrilled, I suspect a non-familial hostess will appreciate the gesture even less. Go glass when gifting.
- To qualify as “elegant,” serve the wines from decanters.
Lauren Mowery is a wine and travel writer. She writes the Unscrewed column for Fork in the Road and blogs at Chasing the Vine.