Oh No You Didn’t…You Brought a Boxed Wine?

Oh yes I did.  I brought a boxed wine to a recent gathering of my cookbook club.  A few weeks earlier an odd-shaped box arrived on my door step.  Super heavy for the size of the box.  What in the world could it be?  A box of wine.  Sure, why not.  Hmmmm.

The octagonally-shaped box holds three liters of wine, which is equal to four 750 ml bottles.  No wonder it was so heavy.

This is the latest model I’ve seen in modern day boxed wines.  I know, boxed wine has an image problem, but it’s been more for what’s inside the box (usually plonk) than the box itself.  Inside this box, a German Riesling from well-regarded producer R. Muller.  It’s one of six varietals offered by Underdog Wine Merchants, in a brand they’re calling Octavin Home Wine Bar.  Octavin sources from winemakers in California, Germany, New Zealand and other countries.  It’s an interesting approach to improving the quality of the juice in the box.

The Octavin packaging uses what’s called bag in box technology.  The wine is in a plastic bag that collapses as you empty it by filling your glass.  (There’s a spout you turn on and off to do this.)  Theoretically this keeps oxygen out, keeping the wine fresher longer.  The claim here is a lot longer, up to six weeks.  You can’t even attempt to keep wine in a glass bottle for more than a few days, even using gas or a vacuum pump to remove air from the container.

A Test Drive

I decided to bring the boxed wine to my cookbook club dinner, which we all made from Japanese cookbooks.  I figured it would be a good match.  The box label of this 2009 “Rabbit” Riesling says medium sweet. Spatlese perhaps?  At first, my friends were a little dubious.  A boxed wine, seriously?  Then we tried it.  The wine itself was good, tasted like a Riesling, with apple notes, a little sweetness like honey, but not that complex.  I didn’t expect it to be a crowd pleasing wine, but as other people tried it, they really liked.  Ok, so it was good the first night, would it still be good in six weeks?

Does it Last?

There wasn’t a lot of wine left over, which kind of surprised me.  I took the box home and put it in the fridge.  Had a taste after a couple days, and the wine was pretty much the same as the first day.  A week later, still fresh.  There was enough wine to sample two and then three weeks later.  After two weeks, the freshness was beginning to go away.  I thought it was completely gone by the third week.  I have doubts about the wine lasting six weeks.

The Octavin wines are a terrific option for parties, especially if it’s a casual affair, a picnic or tailgating.  If one traditional wine bottle holds about 5 glasses, the box, which has four bottles in it, will dispense 20 glasses.  Priced around $22-$25 per box, it’s a cost effective way to serve wine for a crowd.

I think we’ll see a lot more wine in boxes, as the packaging is much less expensive for wineries, and many think that the carbon footprint is a lot smaller too.  Plus, the stigma of boxed wines is starting to fade.  Remember how it took some time for screwcaps to be accepted, and even preferred, at least for white wines?  If more quality wines are put into boxes, that could be a game changer.

Give a boxed wine a try and let me know what you think, especially if you still have wine after six weeks.

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