Boxed Wine: Tasty Treat or Just Plain Gross?

I know what you’re thinking: Boxed wine sucks.  It’s poor quality, it tastes cheap and a little off, and plus it’s boxed wine.  Sadly, most of you that have been exposed to boxed wine have only experienced Franzia – The King of Boxed Wine.

Franzia has been on the market since 1906 and after the process for producing box wine in 1965, Franzia was likely quick to follow this new trend.  Franzia is cheap and it tastes cheap.  It tastes like most mass produced, profit-driven wines taste.  But what if you could take the cheapness of Franzia and mix it with the quality of another brand of wine?  You can!  The trouble is that Franzia has pretty much ruined the market for anything in a box and so any store willing to stock boxed wine will opt for the safe bet.  Don’t blame them!  Boxed wine generally has a shorter shelf life than bottled wine so it is an ideal packaging for a wine you plan on drinking after you buy it instead of shelving it for a special occasion.  Unfortunately, this means you are going to be hard-pressed to find a boxed wine other than Franzia.

I’ll admit, being wine-snobbish, I wasn’t really into venturing into boxed wine.  Since most boxed wine costs at least $5-10 more than a box of Franzia, I didn’t want to risk getting 3L of wine that I wasn’t going to enjoy drinking.  At the endorsement of Gary Vaynerchuk (or whoever was on the @dailygrape account at the time), I decided to swing by my local liquor store and give some boxed wine a whirl.  As I said before, it’s slim pickins when it comes to boxed wine.  You’ll be lucky if a store has anything other than Franzia.  Fortunately, my guy at the liquor store is a big fan of good boxed wine so they had one brand (four varieties) stocked: Bota Box.  I picked up a box of the Cabernet Sauvignon (the safest of safe bets) and took it home to ponder.  I’ll tell you, it was surprisingly good.  I was expecting mediocre wine in cheap packaging, but it was actually better than the everyday wine I typically drink, and it only cost me a few dollars more than the equivalent amount of that wine.  I’ve since tried other boxed wines from different companies and I have to say that I’m thoroughly impressed with the quality of these products.

So, I am impressed with the quality of the wine that’s put into the Bota Box, but there has to be a downside.  What is it about boxed wine that makes it so unappealing to the masses?  The only tangible downside to boxed wine is that the plastic bladder the wine is stored in is not actually hermetically sealed, meaning that the wine will eventually oxidize and spoil, giving it a shelf-life of roughly one year (give or take, depending on the manufacturer).  The manufacturer’s put a “Best By” date on the packaging and, from what I hear, you should abide by that date.

Sadly, the majority of the popular distaste for boxed wine comes from our group perception of the product, which is incited by:

  • Our preconceived dislike of Franzia (I still equate Franzia with college drinking)
  • The advertising campaigns of bottled wine manufacturers, trying to get everyone to dislike boxed wine (they have actually made public statements saying that boxed wine gives cheap access to alcohol to alcoholics, subtly planting the idea that the only people that drink boxed wine are alcoholics).

I stand by my statement before in that boxed wine is a fantastic and inexpensive alternative to your everyday wine.  If you’re like me and you like to have a glass of wine or two in the evening, then I suggest trying a boxed wine.  You’ll thank me.

Side Note: As quality boxed wine grows in popularity, so do the varieties of styles and sizes.  You can actually purchase “single-serving” sizes of box wine.  I’ve seen these “juice boxes” ranging from 200mL to 500mL and they seem ideal for a nice little lunch by yourself, away from the office* or a small picnic.

*I’m not condoning showing up to your place of employment bombed from the 4 wine juice-boxes you had at lunch.  250mL is a perfectly acceptable amount of wine to have with a meal (it’s like 2 glasses of wine).  If you get fired from your job for taking a nip during working hours DON’T BLAME ME!

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