Serious Eats: Drinks
Would You Buy Wine in Mini-Boxes?
We're big fans of boxed wine here at SE; there are plenty of reasons to always have a 3-liter box in your fridge, especially now that there are many more delicious options available in the bag-in-box format. Need a half cup for a recipe? No need to open a fresh bottle! Want something that won't go bad overnight after you open it? Start a box, it's good for six weeks!
But when we recently received a sample of the new 500-mL Tetra Paks from Black Box Wines, we had to giggle a little. I mean, they look a bit like juice boxes meant for tucking into a sack lunch. And then we thought: sack lunch with wine? Maybe that's a good idea...
There are cons to the mini-box. Once opened, Tetra Paks don't stay perfectly sealed over the long term. It's best to finish what you open right away to prevent oxidation. And clearly, they're not the most festive way to serve wine (though you could dump the contents of your carton into a pitcher.)
The benefits seem to outweigh the downsides, though. Tetra Paks are shatterproof, so they're great for taking anywhere you don't want to worry about glass—by the pool, on a boat, etc., and they're much lighter than glass, making them ideal for taking on picnics or camping trips. The mini carton is particularly good for smuggling into a movie (not that we'd ever break the rules like that...ahem...) and the serving size is perfect for anyone who doesn't want to tackle a whole bottle in one night.
And the environmental benefit is impressive. According to Yellow+Blue, another company that sells wine in Tetra Paks, a case of wine in glass weighs 40 pounds and holds 9 liters of wine, while a case of Tetra Pak wine weighs 26 pounds and holds 12 liters of wine. You're using less fossil fuel to ship more wine and less packaging.
What do you think? Have you ever bought a mini-box of wine? Where'd you take it?
Tasting the Black Box Tetra Paks
Since we hadn't tasted Black Box wine in awhile, we gave the three wines in the mini box (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot) a try. The Monterey County Chardonnay is a little tart, without the rich and tropical fruit we expected, though the toothpicky oak comes out about halfway through each sip and lingers after you swallow. It doesn't taste like fancy wine, but it's certainly drinkable. At $7, it's a decent value.
The reds fared better, though. The Merlot is smooth and blackberry jammy but not overblown, with subtle sweet oak and lots of peppery spice. It's perfect for pizza night or takeout tea-smoked duck. We preferred it a bit over the Cabernet Sauvignon, which was drier and dustier, iron-rich with a bit of green bell pepper flavor. Again, the flavor of the grape wasn't totally masked by oak(chips), which is common with wines at this price point. Serve the cab with a meaty burger or chili, though keep in mind that the earthy-vegetal quality won't appeal to everyone.