The Serious Eats Guide to the Best Boxed Wine


[Photo: Robyn Lee]

We're in favor of wine in a box. It's officially time to get over the stigma and recognize the benefits of boxed wine:

Our Top Picks

Best Reds: Bodegas Adria Val Montium Mencia From the Tank Red Wineberry Chateau Moulin de la Roquille Wineberry Domaine Le Garrigon Cuvée de Peña Vin de Pays CalNaturale Cabernet Sauvignon

Best Whites: La Petite Frog Picpoul de Pinet From the Tank White Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc Chateau de Bonhoste Bordeaux Blanc Würtz Riesling Trocken

Rosé: Wineberry Chateau Les Maines

  • Boxed wine is better for the earth: glass bottles are heavy, and it's crazy to ship them all over the world.
  • Bag-in-box wine lasts longer: the bag within the box compresses as you pour each glass, so that the wine isn't exposed to oxygen. Your last glass on Week Six can taste as delicious as your first glass on Week One. This is particularly valuable if you don't want to drink a whole bottle every time you have a glass of wine.
  • Boxed wine can be a great value: You're not paying for the bottle or shipping the bottle. And you're not paying for the wasted wine in a half-bottle you throw out after a day or two.

Sure, there's plenty of cruddy wine in boxes (hey, there's also plenty of cruddy wine in bottles.) But after tasting dozens of boxed wines, we turned up a few truly delicious reds, whites, and rosés. Give them a try, and you may find you're not so into bottles after all.

The Best Red Wine in a Box

These are wines that we're glad are in boxes, because we want to have them around for a half-glass on a weeknight. They're wines we wouldn't get tired of, wines that are good enough to declare any one of them our house red.

20110422mencia.jpgBodegas Adria Val Montium Mencia demonstrates that it's sometimes wise to look beyond the obvious grapes when looking for good value. This wine, which retails around $30 for 3 liters (4 bottles) pours deep purple and is full of character. We tasted hints of smoke, black earth, tart cherry, tree bark, and currants. A lively acidity makes this super food-friendly. Get grilling!

Natural wine importer Jenny & Francois Selections offer the From the Tank wines in simple cardboard boxes; we've been seeing them on some restaurant wine lists, which is brilliant (no bottles to throw out at the end of the night makes for good margins!) The red is a Rhone blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan, leathery and rustic, with plums and a rich, concentrated flavor. (Around $36/3L)

20110422wineberry.jpgWineberry offers a few wines that they package in a charming wooden box. It's prettier packaging than your standard cardboard, but they're actually a little tricky to open. It's worth the effort though. Their Chateau Moulin de la Roquille Côtes de Francs (around $39/3L) is a smooth, drinkable Bordeaux blend, laced with tar and slate, cassis and a little vanilla. Serve their Domaine Le Garrigon Côtes du Rhone blend slightly chilled. It's rich with star anise, tart cherry, and blueberry notes, perfect to pair with lamb kabobs and grilled eggplant. (Around $39/3L)

Another great hamburger and picnic wine is the boxed version of Cuvée de Peña Vin de Pays. Serve with a little chill, it's an understated cranberry-scented wine with hints of ripe plums and cedar. (Around $30/3L)

20110422calnaturale.jpgWe wish CalNaturale Cabernet Sauvignon came in a big bag-in-box package, instead, this Paso Robles red comes in Tetrapaks, which require less energy to produce than glass bottles, but don't keep the wine fresh for very long after the package is open. The 500 mL pack is nice for a night when you don't want a whole bottle though, and the lightweight package is perfect for camping (or carrying to the movies, not that we know anyone who does that.) This smooth (and not-too-burly) Cab is well balanced and earthy, with smooth plum, cherry, and black currant flavors, plus a little sundried tomato. It has good acidity and pairs wonderfully with a burger. (Around $12/1L)

We also like Maipe Malbec and Quelu Cabernet Sauvignon.

There are some other options that are fine for parties, like Bodegas Osborne's Seven red blend (around $20/3L), which is peppery but just a bit too sweet without food alongside it. We found Duca Pinot Noir/Merlot a little unfocused and sugary for our taste. Pepperwood Grove's Old Vine Zinfandel (around $20/3L) has a heavy application of cinnamony oak flavor, and would get along fine at a barbecue, but also has a sweetness we weren't into sipping. Big House Cardinal Zin (around $18/3L) has flavors that hint at strawberry jelly; it might be for you, but it's not for us.

The Best White Wine in a Box

Despite several recent rounds of tasting, we only found one boxed white that deserved a seat among our favorites.

We stand by our longstanding picks: Chateau de Bonhoste Bordeaux Blanc is a crisp blend of Muscadelle, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon has classic slate/mineral notes and a dry finish, along with fruity burst of kaffir lime and grapefruit. It's so solid, we want it around all summer. La Petite Frog Picpoul de Pinet (around $25/3L) is a simple, easy drinking Picpoul from Languedoc-Roussillon. It has mineral and strawberry notes, and a dry, slightly floral finish. Pair it with shrimp or crab. Würtz Riesling Trocken is zippy and concentrated, with juicy green apple (peel included), pineapple, and tart lemon notes. (Around $23/3L)

We love Grenache Blanc, and From the Tank White is a mellow, full flavored version. It's musky and dry, with flavors that reminded us of hard cider and Bosc pears. It's a little rustic, with honey and nutmeg notes and flavors that reminded us of baked peach cobbler. (Around $32/3L)

20110422silverbirch.jpgOur only new discovery in this year's boxed white tastings was Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc. It retails around $20 for 3 liters, which is a steal. Though it's a bit riper than our favorite Sauvignon Blancs, it's tropical and peachy flavors work great with food. (Try tacos or pad thai.) Fruity, fresh, and easy drinking, with hints of pineapple and lime.

The rest were skippable; Man Vintner's Chardonnay wasn't overoaked, but had a harshness we couldn't quite get past, and Big House's whites had the same problem. Duca's Chardonnay/Durello blend was a little buttery and peachy, and plenty appealing if you like your wines with a touch of sweetness. If you're looking for a post-dinner drink, R. Muller's Medium-Sweet Riesling is a valid option. It's aromatic and lychee-scented, and it likely would work well with a cheese plate. But we don't think you'd really need three liters of it.

The Perfect Spring Wine: Rosé in a Box

If you come to my house this spring and I don't have a box of Wineberry's Chateau Les Maines Bordeaux Rosé in my fridge, I have failed. This deeply hued rosé is crisp but not thin, perfectly balancing fresh, tart flavors, hints of cherry, lemon zest, minerals, hibiscus, thyme, and watermelon. Serve it poolside with prosciutto, or bring it out to the deck with a platter of crabcakes or Caprese salad. (Around $40 for 3 liters; keep in mind, there are four bottles of wine in there!)

Have you tried a boxed wine recently?

Disclosure: All wines were provided as review samples.