Box Wines: Beware the Burp

We sample a lot of box wines here, and sometimes even finish a complete box. Wine boxes are super easy to use, and the only tricky part comes as you approach the end of the box. Actually, of course, it’s not the box that holds the wine – it’s a plastic bag, usually mylar, that deflates as you pour the wine. There’s no air in the bag to begin with, and no air gets in as you pour (unlike a bottle, which replaces the wine you pour with air). The fact that no significant amount of oxygen enters the bag is what lets box wines last for a month (or even more) after opening with little or no degradation of taste.

So, what happens as you get near the end? Several things… the bag inside the box may start to get crinkled up, and some wine may be trapped, unable to reach the spigot when you pour. You stand there, knowing that there’s still wine, but nothing’s coming out of the tap. Then, the spigot gives a little gasp, and the wine flows again. Good news? Actually, it’s BAD news. That little burp relieved some of the crinkling in the bag, but it did so by allowing air into the bag. Once that happens, the process of wine degradation has begun. Avoid letting the box wine “burp”!

So how do you get the last bit of wine out of the box without introducing air into the bag? First, when you see the wine flow slowing to a trickle, do NOT keep pouring until it stops. A second later, it will suck in air. Instead, as you see the flow slowing, tilt the box to maintain a strong flow. This is usually effective for all but the very end of the wine. When even tilting isn’t increasing the flow, and you think there’s still wine in the bag, you may have to straighten out the bag to get the last few drops. Some boxes actually have an access panel in the bottom that lets you poke your fingers up into the box to try to squeeze out the last bit of wine. If this works for you, fine. Sometimes, just accepting the fact that the wine is almost gone and tearing the box open is the most expedient approach. It won’t look pretty, but you’ll easily be able to unkink the bag and get the last drops of wine out… with not a single burp!

2 thoughts on “Box Wines: Beware the Burp”

    I have done some research on boxed wine and found that many with plastic bladders do have an optimun shelf life and can/will spoil. Unlike glass, the wines will not keep as long. It seems to have something to do with the plastic, the foil bladders maintain the wine for a longer period.

    The consumer problem is that the manufacturing or boxed date is hidden on the box and only a few wineries include a “best used by” date. It is difficult to get shelf life information from many of the wineries. As an example, I recently purchased a Wine Block Cab and found it horrible. I noticed a date on the bottom of Aug 2005 and suspected it could be due to the age. I emailed twice and recieved an offer to replace (needed receipt which I didn’t have)but would not provide any shelf life information. Black Box (my favorite) suggests 6 months for optimum quality. Delicato, which is a foil badder will keep for a longer period.

    Given that the shelf life can affect boxed wines, I would suggest to The Box Wine Guy that the shelf life be included as part of the review.

    I have been purchasing Hardys at Super One and Safeway stores here in north Idaho for several years. Both not longer carry it and have replaced it with Bota Box. I may not be a wine expert but I know what I like and Bota Box I don’t like. I want my Hardy Cabernet. Anyone out there know of a source in eastern Washington or north Idaho?
    Hardys box wine has a carrying opening in the top. I use this or enlarge it to stretch out the bag to retrieve the last drop. This prevents the “burp” as mentioned above.

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