Wine Cube Shiraz 2003

Price: $16
Maker: Wine Cube
Variety: Shiraz
Packaging: 3 liter box
Our Rating: 7.5 out of 10

I’d heard good things about the Wine Cube line available at Target, and decided to try the Shiraz first. At the store, I was presented with the choice between 2003 and 2004 vintages. I decided to first try the Wine Cube Shiraz 2003. Considering the many positive comments about other members of the Wine Cube series, I wasn’t as impressed by the Shiraz as I had hoped. The aroma hints of spice and berries, with an unusual note of caramel. The flavor is a bit thin, with dark fruit notes combined with oak, spice, and fairly strong tannins. This isn’t your typical juicy, fruity Shiraz. I’m hoping that the 2004 is better.

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Wine Cube product is produced by the ubiquitous Trinchero Family Vineyards and is targeted at the female wine-buying market. I’ve never pretended to understand the female psyche, but my guess is that this particular Shiraz won’t play all that well.

The cube itself is a marvel of three-dimensional efficiency, packing the equivalent of four bottles into what seems to be an impossibly small cube. One nice thing about the cube design is that it’s easy to stack – if you want to have a couple of varieties open to accommodate different tastes in the household (or just provide for a change), the cubes will stack with no fear of tipping.

Wine Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Price: $10
Maker: Wine Block
Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 1.5 liter box
Our Rating: 9 out of 10

Wine Block Cabernet SauvingonOne’s immediate thought on viewing the packaging for Wine Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 is that the small box couldn’t possibly hold two bottles of wine. The box has a footprint less than 5″ square, and stands less than six inches tall. The base of a champagne bottle would take up as much shelf space, but through the miracle of cubic efficiency the Wine Block boxes hold a full 1.5 liters. The packaging is rather rather generic in appearance, but still has a bit of style.

One’s next impression (after pouring a glass) is that this is amazingly good wine. Its fruity, spicy aroma practically bursts from the glass. The wine is full-bodied and fruit-forward, with blackberry and cherry flavors mixed with light tannins, spice, and oak for pleasing complexity.

Despite the surprising capacity of the tiny cube, it was empty all too fast. It’s tempting to run out and pick up a few more cabs, but for the sake of our Box Wines fans, we’ll have to try the other varieties.

Wine Block is a product of Kendall Jackson with its own website. They call their products “blockbuster wines”, and in the case of the cab, they aren’t exaggerating.

Box Wine Article at the SF Chronicle

I didn’t see this when it first came out, but there was a great article on box wines at the San Francisco Chronicle, Boxy beauties beat the bottle at its own game. Carol Emert, the author of the story, begins,

What if there were a specially designed wine container that kept wine fresh for more than a month after opening? And what if this super container held the equivalent of four regular wine bottles, so you could have a glass of good-quality wine each night for several weeks?

Wouldn’t it be convenient if the package were as compact as a milk carton and didn’t shatter, making it easy to transport? And if a handy spigot made your nightly tipple easy to dispense? And if the price were reasonable, say, $10 to $32, the equivalent of $2.50 to $8 for a 750-ml bottle?

Of course, this uber-packaging does exist: It’s a heavy-duty, airtight plastic bag stowed inside a cardboard box, also known as a bag-in-box or Bota Box or cask — names that wine producers hope will soon replace the plebeian- sounding “box wine.”

On virtually every practical front — save for long-term aging — the bag-in-box format offers a superior alternative to the bottle. But unfortunately, boxes inspire the same fear as pink and sweet wines in insecure American wine drinkers: They used to be a solely mass-market phenomenon, so they’re still perceived as (shudder) low-class.

Emert goes on to provide brief tasting notes for more than a dozen boxed wines that she liked.

I think she really captures the essence of the box wine issue here in the US. Despite their popularity in other countries, wine boxes here seem to connote “bad, cheap wine” to many wine drinkers. We encourage you to get the word out! Serve a good quality box wine at your next party, for example, or have a line of smaller wine boxes set up so that your guests can sample different varieties.

We are seeing progress – even in the hinterlands, stores are starting to add some quality boxes to their staples of Franzia and the like. Do your part to keep things moving!

Beer Wants to be More Like Wine

In an article titled What, no beer runs and bikini models?, CNNMoney.com explores what beer makers like Anheuser Busch are trying to do to improve beer’s image. Beer has lost market share in recent years, with the slack being taken up by wine and spirits. Beer ads are likely to shift from bikini-clad babes and sports themes to softer pitches that focus more on the product and how it is made.

The article notes,

And just like wine manufacturers have excelled at educating retailers and consumers about what foods go best with different wines, he said the beer industry will attempt to teach retailers about how to sell beer with various food groups.

Exactly how that will be accomplished isn’t clear, since to date beer ads have been almost totally focused on building loyalty to a single brand. Will we see ads like, “Budweiser… great with beef… fish and poultry, too… the perfect accompaniment for pasta… and don’t forget dessert!”? If they are serious about targeting food pairing with different beers, the firms will be forced to push multiple brands, or varieties within a brand, to the same consumer. This is a lot more involved than rolling out a few new ads.

One area where winemakers have benefitted is the apparent health benefit of drinking a modest amount of wine daily. Beermakers feel they can promote a similar benefit, but have steered clear until now because of potential litigation risk.

The article points out that wine and spirits offer great variety and price points, while beer doesn’t. An expensive bottle of wine or scotch can be an affordable luxury, but beer simply doesn’t offer that option. This, too, points to potential product proliferation in the beer area as firms launch ultra-premium brands to appeal to a luxury market.

Although CNNMoney doesn’t mention the firm by name, the brewers of Sam Adams seem to be out in front of the pack with this marketing shift. They already have a selection of distinctly flavored brews bottled under the flagship brand, and even launched a brew in a single-bottle gift box for the last holiday season that cost as much as a bottle of Scotch. It looks like the major brewers snuck a peek at the Sam Adams playbook.

Box Wine vs. Beer. The encroachment of box wines has to be looming on the brewing horizon. Light consumers of wine (e.g., the “glass a day” crowd) find bottles to be problematic due to deterioration after opening. Now that even supermarkets are carrying upscale boxes, wine becomes an easier consumer choice. In addition, once a wine box is in a consumer’s home, it’s an easy choice to pour a glass rather than opening a beer. Over the years, beverage makers like Pepsi and Coke have found that the key to increased sales is to get the consumer to carry a large quantity of the beverage home from the supermarket; this is why bottles have gotten ever larger and promotions always reward larger quantity purchases. In the battle for daily alcoholic beverage consumption, wine boxes are an awesome weapon. In a convenient, compact, and relatively inexpensive container, a consumer can carry home about 20 servings in a 3 liter box or more than 30 in a five liter box. Compare this to the relative inconvenience of a buying, transporting, storing, and refrigerating a case of bottled beer (24 servings). In addition, these boxes offer different varieties and flavors, and are now starting to offer a range of price points in the U.S.

Beer has every reason to worry about the future.

Belaire Creek Cabernet Sauvingon 2002

Price: $17
Maker: Belaire Creek Cellars
Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 3-liter box
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

This wine may be a bit hard to find – even its nominal maker, Belaire Creek Cellars, may be a bit hard to track down. If you stumble across a box of Belaire Creek Cabernet Sauvingon 2002 in your supermarket, though, give it a try. It’s a bit more expensive than cheaper boxes like the Almaden Cab, but you’ll notice a subsantial improvement in flavor for the modest premium. Its mild aroma is spicy with a hint of berry. Its flavor is a balance of cherry, spice, tannins, and oak. These flavors continue into a lengthy finish, with the tannins and oak winning at the end.

This Belaire Creek cabernet is at least the equal of many lower-cost bottled cabs, and offers the attractive combination of a lower price per glass and the preservative effects of the collapsing bag. I’d pair it with steak or other grilled meat, but regular cab drinkers will find it serves a broad range of foods.

Delicato Shiraz 2004

Price: $18
Maker: Delicato Family Vineyards
Variety: Shiraz
Packaging: 3 liter box
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Sampling a box of Delicato Shiraz 2004 could be just the thing to convince a box wine sceptic that good things come in large packages. Delicato puts the same wine in its boxes as its bottles, and their wines have earned accolades both in the U.S. and at international competitions. Notably, Delicato’s entry was named “Best Shiraz of California” awards at the 2001, 2002 and 2003 California State Fair Wine Competitions.

The 2004 Delicato Shiraz lives up to its heritage. A powerful scent of spicy cherries practically bursts from the wine as you pour it. The flavor is a bit more subtle, tasting of blackberry and cherry. Overall, the flavor is balanced and quite smooth. The finish lingers with a fruity spiciness. The start and finish of this wine are so wonderful that they overshadow its pleasant flavor.

The box is what Delicato has branded its Bota Box. It features similar construction to other wine boxes, but includes a FlexTap pushbutton-style spout. The pushbutton is easy to handle with one hand, even when tilting the box to get those last few glasses, and is free of annoying post-pour drips.

It’s little surprise that Delicato’s Shiraz is the best selling brand of that variety in the United States. If they can keep up with demand while maintaining quality, they are likely to hold onto that distinction in the coming yeasrs.

Welcome to Box Wines!

Welcome to BoxWines.org, where you’ll read about boxed wines and inexpensive bottled wines. Box Wines is the wine site for “the rest of us”, wine drinkers who enjoy wine daily but don’t want to spend the price of a good restaurant dinner for a bottle of wine.

Box wines are the fastest growing segment of the wine industry. Read our box wine background page to learn about the advantages of wine in a box.

Your comments and wine reviews are welcome!