Photo: Bota Box
Wines in a box have a bad rap. But is it deserved?
We recently sampled a batch of boxed wines, a mix of reds and whites, some from California producers and others from abroad. Each three-liter box holds the equivalent of four bottles of wine. One plus is that the wine boxes last much longer (three to six weeks) than if they were packaged in bottles -- perfect during the month of December, when your home might transform into mayhem and you find yourself suddenly entertaining. Dinner parties, gift-opening with friends and family, chatting with long-lost friends from college, a glass of wine after braving the shopping mall, you name it. Boxed wines are your friend.
They also have a green bent: because they are packaged in paperboard -- and not heavy glass bottles -- it requires fewer fossil fuels to ship them to retailers.
High End: Dinner Party or Special Wines
2009 Bota Box Malbec, Lodi, California ($20)
This wine shattered the myth that a good Malbec has to come from Mendoza, Argentina. If you're serving braised or grilled meats, or any food with a spicy kick, this is a fantastic pairing. Concentrated blackberry, plum and baked-blueberry flavors move effortlessly into soft, luscious tannins. The wine lingers on your palate long after.
More wines after the jump.
2008 Boho Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel ($24)
Zinfandels from Northern California are a dime a dozen. Despite the low-brow name on this Zin, its taste is classy. Black pepper on the nose kicks into a full body with fruit-forward plum notes and an undercurrent of dried herbs.
Bodegas Osborne "Seven" Red Wine of Spain ($20)
A blend of seven Spanish wine-grapes -- Shiraz (24%), Cabernet Sauvignon (24%), Craciano (11%), Garnacha (11%); and 10 percent each of Tempranillo, Merlot and Petit Verdot -- might sound like a powerhouse wine. But the result is approachable. Tobacco throughout lends to a leathery palate with black-currant notes. For a meat-heavy meal, this would be perfect.
Middle End: After-Work Wine and Cheese at Home
2009 Bota Box Chardonnay, California ($20)
There isn't a lot of oak on the palate. Instead, an acidic backbone delivers pineapple and vanilla notes before a finish with a delicious kiss of lemon.
2008 Big House California Red Wine ($22)
When you want to kick back with a glass, maybe pair it with some chèvre or aged cheeses, turn to a bright red wine like this, because it won't overpower the cheeses. A bouquet of raspberries doesn't disappear when cranberry and rhubarb flavors arrive. Spicy accents and traces of smoke and cocoa make this a very food-friendly wine, ideal for standing up to rich, indulgent cheeses or chocolate sweets. And if you're a grape-varietals geek, check this out. A whopping 13 red-wine varietals are in this wine, from common grapes like Syrah and Grenache to obscore ones (Touriga, Tannat and Nero d'Avola).
2009 Big House California White Wine ($22)
Chalky, acidic and bright. This is a white wine to pull out with a wedge of cheese and some crusty bread. Its floral nose is a sweet introduction to lychee and Meyer-lemon notes, and just like its red wine counterpart, a blend of Mediterranean-grape varietals means a little lesson in exploring lesser-known grape varietals.
Low End: Holiday Open House
Let's face it. When you're offering guests sweet and savory snacks -- in addition to wine -- the nuances in each wine are going to be masked. Because of this we suggest going cheap. This does not mean that you pour Boone's. Think middle-grade wines that pass the palate test but aren't going to win any national awards.
Wine Cube White Sangria ($18)
Exclusive to Target stores, the Wine Cube line includes White Sangria. And it wouldn't be a holiday open house without some sangria, right? Cookies, chips, potluck fare ... it's all good when matched with a glass of refreshing sangria that is made from California white-wine grapes. Juicy and full-bodied, there's a lot of lychee, apricot and mandarin-orange flavor, as well as a floral bouquet.
2009 Silver Birch World Wines Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($25)
While there are many typicals in this wine -- gooseberry nose, a kiss of grapefruit on the finish, overall acidity -- it lacks the zippy and zesty qualities in the best Sauvignon Blancs from this part of the world.
2008 Monthaven Winery Chardonnay, Central Coast, California ($24)
Tropical-fruit notes and some apple flavors with a touch of oak contribute to a light and crisp white wine. It's suited for a variety of palates and therefore ideal for a holiday open house.
Don Sebastiani & Sons Pepperwood Grove Cabernet Sauvignon, California
A nose packed with cedar and black pepper evolves into a body rich with blackberries and raspberry preserves. Traces of fig lead into soft tannins. Mushrooms, steak and blue cheese would be solid pairings - perhaps in the same dish?
For more on boxed wines, see these Slashfood posts from Kristine Hansen:
Best Boxed White Wines
Best Boxed Red Wines