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Which Black Box Wine is the Best?

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I hate to say it, but sometimes I waste alcohol. I open a bottle, enjoy a glass or two, and put the rest in the fridge, promising myself I'll finish it tomorrow or the next day. But sometimes all the vacuum pumps and rubber stoppers in the world can't stop me from needing to pour the rest down the drain. A little part of me dies every time, and I'm sick of it.

Some would say I need better friends to help me in my times of need, but I've discovered a more effective solution: boxed wine. But just like friends, decent and reliable boxed wines can be hard to come by. So we recently tasted our way through the widely available Black Box wines to see if there were any winners in the bunch.

While there are plenty of reasons to get on board with boxed wines in general (for more on that, check out our boxed wine guide), Black Box's schtick is a little different. Their packaging is clean and sleek; their grapes are mostly new world, and they're aiming for the mid-range boxed wine market, if there is such a thing. For 3 liters, which is the same as 4 standard bottles, you'll spend about $25. They also offer Tetra Paks of 500 mL for around $5.

Storing and Serving

The 3 liter box has a convenient pull-out spout and the bag compresses as you pour out the wine, which helps to keep air away from the juice. If you're really aiming to keep it around a long time, though, you should still stash the box in the fridge for the best preservation. If you're serving a bigger party, take the box out of the fridge about 15 minutes before serving for white wines, and 30 minutes before serving for reds. For a glass at a time, letting the poured wine sit outside for 10 minutes or so to bring it up to temperature (perfect amount of time to fix yourself a snack). And as you get close to the end, you can cut off a corner of the bag to get every last drop out of that box.

For the 500 mL cartons, try to grab a friend or try to commit yourself for more than just a glass—the Tetra Pak doesn't have the same compression magic as bag-in-a-box to keep it fresh for longer than a day.

While in total, Black Box has 10 boxed varietal wines, we tried the 5 most popular: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc for the whites and Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for the reds.

Best Black Box White Wine: Sauvignon Blanc

Black Box's 2011 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has a peachy scent brightened with grapefruit, with a floral side that almost reminded us of a Riesling or certain late harvest wines. Fortunately, the juice wasn't as sweet as the scents might have suggested, and the acidity shined through instead. In addition to the citrus flavors, this wine offered a little grassiness, as you might expect from a Sauvignon Blanc, though it wasn't vegetal or off-putting. Try a glass with food that has a little fat in it—goat cheese, avocado, or white tuna— and the acidity will cut through quite nicely.

How did the other whites fare? While a few tasters liked the 2011 Monterey Country Chardonnay, which was just slightly buttery with hints of pepper and clove, we felt that the wine's acidity was too weak to pull it into balance. The 2011 California Pinot Grigio was the least favorite of the group; we found it a little bland and slightly astringent.

Best Black Box Red: Merlot

In general, the reds were more appealing than the whites. Our group of tasters found the 2009 California Merlot quite tasty, with a sweet burst of cherry balanced by a smoky, tobacco-like finish. We were happy to drink it on its own, but found it even better with Port Salut and salami.

As for the other red we tried, we found the 2010 California Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 drinkable but a little boring, with darker fruit flavors but not a lot of interest.

Have you ever tried Black Box wines? If so, what are your favorites? Are there other boxed wines you like to keep handy?

About the author: Seema Gunda is an avid wine traveler, collector, and student with a background in chemistry and a day job in consulting.

All wines were provided as samples for review consideration.

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