By Cecil Flentge
Box wine, bag-in-box, evenflo bottles for adults. Yes, that is what I am telling you. But what would you expect? I already have jumped the natural cork boat for the screwcap bottle, is it that much of a surprise that I might try the dark side of wine – the box? I have tried several and the most important thing I have learned is that they are not all bad. A few are quite pleasant and you cannot beat the convenience or price. The labeling is different than it used to be. A box wine was called, “Juicy White” or “Burgundy” (even if it was from California). It was made by, wait, let me get my magnifier, the print is just too small, oh here it is, AmalgaMuck industries. Vintage? We don’t need no vintage! But times change and now we have a winery that also sells wine in glass bottles, doin’ da box! Why?
They’re lighter, so even if the box holds the volume of four bottles of wine, it isn’t that heavy.
They stay fresh longer, so if you only drink a glass a day you can enjoy the last glass as much as the first.
If you do the math, there are 20 to 24 glasses per three-liter box, so at least three weeks to consume. No problem because the wine does not have air in contact with it until it is in your glass. The oxygen in air is what makes the wine taste bad after a few days. But a regular bottle? Five or six glasses at one a day? Man, the last two glasses will be a little tangy! Or you will just throw it away. (You could still cook with it.) Wine in a box will last at least six weeks after you open it.
Big House, Unchained Naked Chardonnay, California 2011
Available at H-E-B for $18/3 liter box
This particular wine has the hardest to open box-spout arrangement I have encountered. Most of them have a punch out circle and a fold-out flap. You punch the hole and move the flap to pull the spigot forward. Then move the flap back to hold it in place. This one just has the hole and my blunt digits could not do the job so I opened the top of the box, pushed things out where they needed to be, taped the top closed. Then, since it is a Chardonnay, I needed to chill it. You have to give four hours at least to chill that big a bag of wine, so plan ahead. On the other side, once you have it cold, you could take it out on the patio and it will stay cold for an hour or more.
But this is a huge preamble to the main event, how does it taste?
A light yellow wine in the glass with moderate fruit on the nose. Apple, lemon, and a hint of pear notes that repeats on the palate. Decent weight on the tongue with persistent fruit flavor throughout the short, dry, finish. The wine is not bone dry, but it is not one you would casually call sweet. Since I know you are thinking it, no, there is no metallic/odd/chemical/whangy taste at the end. I know because I was in an anticipatory cringe expecting it to happen!
I am working at making dinner, yes – a guy slaving over the hot stove for his honey! It makes me want to taste something cold so I do and it feels nice. I do not have to think about, “But if I open a bottle, I won’t be home until late tomorrow night and then I am out with friends the next and it will go bad by the time I get back to it.” I just get me a glass, or a half glass, or a glass and an eighth, and relax. It matched well with a lightly curried chicken and at 90 cents a glass, a steal!
Cecil Flentge is a San Antonio wine educator for professionals or novices and a cooking instructor. Restaurant events or home tastings. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org