It's time to think outside the bottle!
Wine Blogging Wednesday #31 should be a relatively easy assignment to fulfill, but can be challenging if you decide to look for something offbeat. The theme is "box wines & non-traditional packaging". We started off with just "box wines", but thought we'd expand the category to include other possibilities, like Tetra Paks, Tetra Boxes, synthetic goat skins... if it isn't a standard bottle, it's fair game for March's WBW. (Kudos to Lenn at lenndeavours for creating and managing the WBW concept!)
In the U.S., box wines have been slow to catch on, and continue to bear the stigma of being cheap and awful, or at least not particularly good. In other countries, though, innovative packages have fared much better. Reportedly, more than half the wine sold in Australia is in boxed form.
Boxed wine has some major advantages, the biggest being the ability to preserve wine for a month after opening. That ability comes from what's inside the box - typically, there is a bladder-like mylar or plastic bag that deflates as you pour the wine, never allowing any air to contact the contents. This is a huge boon for "glass a day" wine drinkers, or other situations where the remnants of a bottle might spoil before the bottle is finished. No vacuum pumps or expensive argon cartridges are needed - just pour the amount you want from the box, and there's nothing to worry about.
Tetra Paks (think Juicy Juice) and Tetra Boxes (think cardboard bottle) are also getting more visible. They don't offer the preservation capabilities of the "bag in box" packages, but they are smaller and are intended for quick consumption.
If you don't regularly indulge in boxed wine, here are a few suggestions... First, if it comes in a 5-liter box (e.g., Franzia, Vella, etc.) I suggest you not take a chance on it. I'm sure there are some that are OK, but I've yet to taste one that measured up to inexpensive but decent bottles, or that I could tolerate for the equivalent of almost 7 bottles. If you know you like one of these 5-liter monsters, by all means share your find with the rest of us. Otherwise, I suggest you look for the popular 3-liter size, which is where you will commonly find better quality wine. (You may also encounter 1.5 liter boxes.) Many of the brands may be familiar to you from your bottle wine experience, and you'll no doubt find the boxed product comparable to the bottle variety.
If you find something quite different, though, you can always be adventurous and take a chance on it. Fortunately, most boxes are quite reasonably priced - the only downside is what to do with the 2.5 liters you have left if you don't care much for the wine. (Cooking? Wine punch? Impromptu office party?) I've got notes on quite a few brands here: Box Wines. These comments are based on my own peculiar preferences, of course, but perhaps they can be a starting point.
You may have to shop around for the best selection of boxed or other non-traditionally packaged wine. In our local market, the biggest selection by far is at a supermarket with an extensive wine selection. Oddly, some of the specialty shops that carry quite good bottled wine carry only the worst boxed plonk.
The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, March 14, 2007. Please email me at boxwineguy -at- boxwines dot org with your name, blog name, the wine you tried, and a link to the post. If you are blogless at the moment, get me the same info along with your notes and we'll include them in the summary.
We hope you enjoy this WBW, and we're looking forward to finding some new favorites! In the meantime, feel free to post your comments on your experiences with non-traditional packages, your box wine shopping experiences, or anything else!