For Picnics, Think Inside the Box

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The 411 on better boxed wines

By Courtney Cochran

When I think of all the fabulous things that come in boxes – chocolates, engagement rings, and presents comes to mind – and then reflect on the sad reputation of wines that come in boxes, I get a little down. The reason is, although boxed wines are getting better, most connoisseurs still think of them as swill only fit for the likes of frat parties and pizza parlors.

But according to market tracker AC Nielsen, the overall volume of 3-liter boxed wine (the equivalent of four standard-sized 750ml bottles) grew 44% in the past year, compared with just a 3% gain in overall table-wine volume. Apparently, enlightened folks out there are drinking a lot more boxed wine. Let’s take a look at why:

Hip to be square
Boxed wines are gaining thanks to better varieties being offered in boxes (boxed Chard, anyone?) and a growing understanding amongst consumers of the value and durability boxes offer. Boxed wines can stay fresh in your fridge for as long as four weeks, since the collapsible bags inside don’t allow the wine to be spoiled by oxygen, and they’re often far less expensive than bottled wine on a per-volume basis.

But in spite of these gains, boxed wines still lag – painfully so – behind bottled wines when it comes to social acceptance. Case in point: Few folks who consider themselves truly wine savvy would be caught dead bringing out a box at a dinner party, even if it was the much-lauded Chardonnay from Northern California-based Black Box Wines that won a silver medal at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition not long ago.

When boxes rock
But one place boxed wines WILL make a splash – socially speaking – is on outdoor excursions. This is due to yet another attribute of boxed wines that’s contributing to their gains – their flexibility when it comes to transporting them. You can take boxes places you can’t take glass (think of the beach, tailgate parties, and camping excursions) and they’re far lighter than bottles to boot.

Besides all this, boxed wines are often made with environmentally friendly biodegradable materials, which means that you can now knock back better wine from boxes, and feel good while doing it. If that’s not socially acceptable, then I don’t know what is.

Top boxes
Target Wine Cube – These stylishly designed cubes come in 3-liter and 1.5-liter sizes (equivalent to 4 and 2 regular-sized bottles, respectively) and feature a wide range of varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Australian Shiraz and a Cabernet/Shiraz blend. Watch for new Riesling and Pinot Noir offerings in 1.5-liter sized boxes in fall 2007.

Delicato Bota Box – The colorful three-liter boxes from Delicato Family Vineyards consistently score highly with wine critics for their premium offerings of Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Cabernet. Priced at about $18 per box, the Bota Box offers award-winning wine for the equivalent price of $4.50 per standard 750mL bottle. Not bad.

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