Serious Eats: Drinks
Which Bota Box Wine is Best?
We've said it before, and we'll say it again, there is a lot to love about boxed wine. It's convenient, cheap, and earth-friendly in a lot of ways the bottle just can't beat. It's unfortunate that there's still a stigma around bag-in-a-box wine. And as much as I try to convince friends and unwitting strangers, there's one trick that almost never fails to convince folks of the box's merits: don't tell them.
Pour the wine before guests arrive (better yet, pour it into a decanter to seem extra fancy), have them taste it, and wait till glasses are nearly empty for the final reveal. Of course, this magic only works if the wine is actually decent, and that's where we can help. We tried 9 different wines from Bota Box to see which were the best, and which just wouldn't work to convince anyone of the merits of skipping the bottle.
For the whites, we sipped the Chardonnay, Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Riesling. In our trial of the reds, we tasted through Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Old Vine Zinfandel, and the red blend "Redvolution". (They also have a Shiraz we weren't able to track down—if you've tried it, let us know how it is in the comments!) If you're looking for a Bota Box near you, their website conveniently allows you to pick a varietal and search for vendors in your area.
Bota Box sells for around 5 bucks for the the 500mL and $18 for the 3 liter, which is the same volume as 4 regular bottles. I should note that this is about $7 less than Black Box large format, which makes a difference in some cases. Read on for the full details.
Best White Wine from Bota Box: Riesling
The Riesling from Bota Box is a touch sweet, but its balance impressed us. With only 11.5% alcohol, this wine has a sweet, floral scent which comes through in the flavor: think white peaches and honey. If you're partial to dry wines, we felt the Black Box Sauvignon Blanc was worth the extra dollars in comparison with this box, but if you're open to a little sweetness—especially if you're serving it with slightly sweet dishes like pad thai, the Bota Box riesling is a solid budget option.
We found the other Bota Box whites be a little too rough on the edges, and a bit chemical tasting. The Pinot Grigio smelled of tart Starburst candy and had crisp lemon flavors. The Chardonnay's oaky vanilla scent and flavor were not overwhelming, letting green apple flavors shine through as well. But you'll need to serve these with food to smooth them out. We'll pass on the Moscato altogether—it was just too sweet, and had a strange artificial-seeming aftertaste.
Best Red Wine from Bota Box: Old Vine Zinfandel
We far preferred the reds over the whites. Our favorite, the Old Vine Zinfandel had all the deep, inky cherry and savory black pepper that you'd want from a Zin. It also had good structure—lingering, mouth-watering acidity that ends with well-integrated tannins. At 14% alcohol, the wine was initially a bit hot—serve it with a beef stew or grilled skirt steak.
Though most of our tasters picked the Zinfandel as the favorite, the Bota Box Merlot was a close second. The scent reminded us of blueberry jam and the flavor evoked black currant and cinnamon. This full bodied Merlot was sweeter than the Zin, but shared the nice tannins and acidity that stuck around.
The others fared less well: the Cabernet was relatively light and a bit sweet, and the red blend Redvolution was also on the sweet side. The astringent Malbec fell at the bottom of the pack.
Have you ever tried Bota Box? Which of their wines do you like? Got other boxed wine favorites to recommend? Let us know in the comments.
About the author: Seema Gunda is an avid wine traveler, collector, and student with a background in chemistry and a day job in consulting. You can follow her on twitter @seemagunda