Food

Battle of the wines: Boxed vs. bottled

Wine expert Leslie Sbrocco, author of “Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing and Sharing,” debates the misperception that box wine is cheap and has poor quality. Before you shun boxed wine, Sbrocco shares helpful tips on which brands and types to buy:

The words may conjure up images of swill that you drank in college. Oh, how times have changed. Today, chic packaging has made cardboard the new “it” product for thinking inside the box. As one of the fastest-growing segments of the wine industry, high-quality boxed wines are getting attention. Australia has lead the way with “casks” (as the Aussies say), since the majority of wine Down Under is sold in boxes. Now, Americans are getting hip to the idea that good wine can come in something other than a bottle.

Boxed wines make a trip to the beach a breeze. Having a block party and don’t want breakage? They’re your answer. Not only are wine boxes ideal for big gatherings, they are environmentally friendly, with some reducing waste by nearly 90 percent of the equivalent bottle.

Convenience is also a factor. Bag-in-box technology, which is used in many boxed wines, allows the wine to stay fresh for up to four weeks. As the wine is consumed, the bag collapses. This, along with an airtight spigot to pour, keeps oxygen from getting in to ruin the wine. No more worries about what to do with leftover bottles.

Box sizes have also gone creative. Instead of the standard 5-liter size, higher quality boxes have reduced their size. Most range from 3 liter (equal to four bottles) down to 1 liter (containing just over a standard-size 750-ml bottle). There are even miniboxes that hold enough for a single glass of wine (250 ml).

So if going green, drinking affordably and having fun while sipping interest you, then it’s time to reach for a box. You just might like what you taste.

Boxed wines to try:

2006 BotaBox Chardonnay, California $16 (3 liter = 4 bottles)
Made with recycled cardboard, cornstarch-based glue and soy ink, this environmentally friendly brand from Delicato Family Vineyards also makes easy-drinking, quality wines. The Chardonnay is crisp and fresh, making it an ideal everyday white. 

2006 Wine Cube Pinot Grigio, California $10 (1.5 liters = 2 bottles)
Sold exclusively at Target, the Wine Cube is packaged in a hip-looking square. It’s pleasing to look at, but even better to drink. The Pinot Grigio is aromatic, soft and juicy. Keep a box chilled for those Chinese food takeout nights.

Peter Vella White Grenache, California $9 (5 liters)
With a touch of sweetness, this blush-style pink is a good-pick barbecue wine for a large crowd (make sure to serve well chilled). In the traditional 5-liter box, the price averages out to just over a buck a bottle. Not bad.

2006 French Rabbit Pinot Noir, Vin de Pays d’Oc, France $10 (1 liter)
You’ll be surprised by sipping this small box in tetra-carton technology (think of a juice box with a twist-off top). The wine has flavors of bright cherry and spice, with a smooth texture. Hard to get those flavors in an affordable bottled Pinot Noir, much less a boxed one.

2006 Hardy’s Shiraz, South Eastern Australia $18 (3 liters)
A leader in boxed wines, Hardy’s Shiraz captures the rich, full flavors of this signature Aussie red.

2006 Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, California $25 (3 liters)
Known as the ultra-premium producer of boxed wine, Black Box makes Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz and this quite complex Cabernet Sauvignon, all hailing from well-known wine regions. Sleek enough to bring to a party or show off to friends, it’s a box with style.

2005 Killer Juice Central Coast, California $19 (3 liters)
With the popularity of higher quality boxed wines, Killer Juice has jumped into the game. This fruit-driven yet layered wine is one to pour with pizza and burgers.

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