Black Box California Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Black Box CabernetPrice: $20
Maker: Black Box Wines, Madera, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 3-liter box
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.9 out of 10

Periodically, we revisit the boxed wine of the ubiquitous Black Box Wines. In the case of Black Box California Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, we’re very glad we did. It’s one of the nicest box wines we’ve tried and definitely as good as a lot of bottle wine costing twice as much. This Cab has a very dark ruby color, with bright berry and clove aromas. Raspberry and strawberry flavors predominate, and the finish is long with chewy tannings and a lingering note of dried fruit.

Our history with Black Box Cabs has been mixed. We liked Black Box Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 enough to score it 8.5, but the Black Box 2005 Cab disappointed at a mere 7.5. Happily the 2006 Black Box Paso Robles Cab bounced back to an 8.5. The 2007 California Cabernet Sauvignon, though, was the best of the bunch.

Comments on the latest offerings from Black Box have been mostly positive. Catman_Drinks says, “Usually, boxed wine is in the domain of the cheapest-of-the-cheap, but this is different. It is actually good wine.” Cheap Dates doesn’t rave about this Cab, but notes, “It’s a very juicy, jammy wine that would be a crowd pleaser at a big family party, assuming your family does not consist of wine snobs. There is more flavor and interest here than one expects in a 3-liter box.” WineLife365 tried the 2008, and called it, “by far the best tasting box wine that I’ve ever tried.” Katherine Cole also recommends the 2008, calling it a “crowd-pleaser.” Eat A Perfect Pair said of the 2007, “Lovely wine and a great value.”

I actually scored this box at Sam’s Club for a mere $18 – that’s $4.50 per bottle-equivalent. A pleasant wine and a great value!

Wine Shipping Conflict Going to Supreme Court?

In many states around the US, laws have been crafted to favor local wine retailers or distributors over out of state suppliers. Now, the Supreme Court has been asked to rule on a Texas law which permits Texas retailers to ship wine to in-state addresses but denies that opportunity to out-of-state retailers. Continue reading “Wine Shipping Conflict Going to Supreme Court?”

Yalumba Premium Selection Cabernet Merlot 2009

Price: $9
Maker: Yalumba, Angaston, Australia
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot Blend
Packaging: 2 liter box, push-button spigot
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 6 out of 10

One sip of Yalumba Premium Selection Cabernet Merlot 2009 transported me back to a lovely afternoon in Venice. Unfortunately, the memory was of a cheap, almost undrinkable bulk red wine poured from a stainless steel tank at the cost of a couple of euros for a liter and a half. (Rather than waste a bottle on that stuff, they pour it into a recycled plastic water bottle.) The setting was amazing, the wine, not so much.

Here’s the rest of the story. While traveling to Australia on business, I stopped into a “bottle shop” to explore the local retail scene. At least in downtown Sydney, wine seems to be sold in smaller shops vs. the big-box stores that one finds in the states. Recalling that Australia was the birthplace of boxed wine, I was surprised that only one brand, Yalumba, was represented with several varietals. Then again, there were just a few dozen bottled varieties. I picked up a box of the Cab-Merlot, which was nicely packaged in a 2-liter cask. The 2-liter size is nice, as it is compact and will reduce the boredom from having to finish a four-bottle equivalent 3-liter box.

Onto the wine itself… The earthy berry nose was weak and not promising. The first sip was a disappointment. A harsh off-note overwhelms what might be reasonable blackberry and cinnamon flavors and a not unpleasant tannic finish. The effect was rather prune-like. The wine seemed to improve slightly with extended breathing, but not enough to merit actually buying the stuff again.

It’s odd that one can find more, and better, Australian box wines in the States than in downtown Sydney. Of course, the shop that I visited was quite small. Perhaps on my next trip I can arrange an expedition to a bigger store.

Killer Juice Merlot 2006

Price: $19
Maker: Killer Juice Vineyards, Ripon, California
Varietal: Merlot
Packaging: 3-liter box, twist spigot
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.6 out of 10

Killer Juice Central Coast Merlot 2006 is another in one of my favorite series of box wines, the Killer Juice/Angel Juice lineup. This medium-bodied Merlot has a juicy flavor, mostly blackberries, with some vanilla and plum. Its finish is long, with black pepper and robust tannins.

Killer Juice now has a website, though at time of posting it consists of only a splash page.

Boxed Wine Cameo on Lost

I’m catching up with Lost – Season 4 and DVD, and was surprised to find a wine box make a guest appearance. The Sawyer character (James Ford) pours a glass from what looks like a 5-liter box of Dharma Initiative Red Wine.

It’s a bit anachronistic – while all of the Dharma project imagery dates from some 1960-ish time period, the wine shown is a modern box with an even more contemporary push-button spigot. Still, it’s kind of fun to see box wines portrayed in a semi-positive way (the only wine available!) on a popular TV show. No details, though, on whether the generic-looking red wine is a merlot, a cabernet sauvignon, a so-called “hearty burgundy,” or perhaps a Dharma meritage… 🙂

Red Wine Increases Family Candor

Who knew The Onion was into red wine?

Health experts have long known that drinking red wine can have such positive benefits as reducing blood vessel damage, lowering the risk of heart attack, and preventing harmful LDL cholesterol from forming. But researchers at the Northwestern University Department of Preventive Medicine have recently found that the consumption of four to six glasses of red wine, most notably at dinner or a family function, may be linked to totally going off on one’s mom.

According to a study published Monday in The American Journal Of Medicine, a previously unknown ingredient in red wine has been shown to cause a marked improvement of vocal clarity and emotional acuity—while reducing overall inhibition—after only four glasses.

Read how red wine may, or may not, improve relations at your holiday get-togethers: Study Finds Link Between Red Wine, Letting Mother Know What You Really Think. 🙂

Italy To Allow Boxed Wines

The New York Times quotes Bloomberg News in Italy Joins the Boxed Wine Rebellion by Mike Nizza:

Italy’s Agriculture Ministry said that some fine Italian wines that receive government quality guarantees will be allowed to be sold in boxes.

I find this encouraging, if a bit odd. When I was last in Italy, there seemed to be no regulation against some wine shops dispensing directly from a large stainless steel tank into a recycled 1.5 liter water bottle (or, presumably, any other container provided by the customer). That’s hardly ideal storage and preservation technology. Why the Italian government would worry about the well-proven performance of today’s boxed wine packaging isn’t clear.

In any case, this is one more indicator that box wines are moving upscale and becoming better accepted.

Blue Nun Riesling

Blue Nun RieslingPrice: $19
Maker: F.W. Langguth Erben GmbH & Co. KG
Varietal: Riesling
Packaging: 3-liter box, push-button spigot
Alcohol: 10.5%
Our Rating: 8.2 out of 10

It’s taken us quite a while to get around to tasting Blue Nun Riesling, a non-vintage German wine that has been marketed in the U.S. for decades. This was in part because I tend to lean toward red wines, and in part because I’ve avoided man of the ever-present supermarket boxed wine. This Riesling has pear and pineapple flavors, with a hint of citrus in the finish. It’s relatively sweet and simple, and lacks the crisp, acidic finish that might tone down the sweetness.

This wine will appeal quite readily to those who aren’t regular wine drinkers – its fruity sweetness won’t offend at all. In fact, “inoffensive” is a good way to characterize Blue Nun Riesling. As such, it might be a good choice for a picnic white or similar uses.

Killer Marketing: How to Sell Boxed Wine

Killer Juice Cabernet SauvignonWe tasted Killer Juice Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 and liked the wine. We were also impressed by Killer Juice’s use of the packaging to enhance the shelf appeal of the wine.

In a typical supermarket or wine shop, the customer is presented with a staggering array of wines. Boxed wines in particular may be a challenge, since many consumers associate the concept with ultra-cheap product from brands like Franzia. Killer Juice does several things to stand out beyond the wine’s attractive black packaging.

Killer Juice Gold MedalTheir first step is far from unique – they put a big gold emblem on the box to promote the Cab’s winning a gold medal at the 2007 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition. Other wineries do that, but most don’t. Particularly for a boxed wine, a prestigious-looking award is a vote of confidence that could turn an uncertain wine shopper into a buyer.

Killer Juice Gold MedalThe second thing Killer Juice does is even more clever. Many wine shoppers may have difficulty assessing the value of a box of wine. For one, boxes are deceptively compact – a three-liter box doesn’t look like it holds the same amount of wine as four 750ml bottles, even though it does. Many box wine makers print the equivalent number of bottles, or even use little bottle pictures to illustrate the capacity of the box. Killer Juice goes a step farther, and prints “Contains 4 Bottles of Killer $10 Wine” on three sides of the box.

This message communicates more than quantity. It says something about quality to the consumer – a $10 bottle value suggests wine that is better than plonk, and might actually be pretty good. In one fell swoop, Killer Juice establishes an equivalent bottle value, and highlights the big savings their package offers.

Will these small enhancements make Killer Juice boxed red wines fly off the shelves? Probably not. But they will help, and as the glassy-eyed wine buyers stares at the shelf laden with boxwines, they could tip the balance.

Killer Juice Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Killer Juice Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $19
Maker: Killer Juice Vineyards, Ripon, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 3-liter box, twist spigot
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

It’s been two years since we tried Killer Juice Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2006 vintage of this boxed Cab is a more than worthy successor. The nose was mild, with ripe berry and woody notes. This Cab had a big, rounded cherry flavor with oak and black pepper in the finish. Crisp tannins contributed to a nice balance overall.

At the 2008 Twin Cities Food and Wine Experience, Killer Juice Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 took the “Best Value Cabernet Sauvignon” award. That may be a bigger accomplishment that it might seem to be at first glance – the other varietal winners of value awards were all bottled wines. I’m sure the Killer Juice makers were very pleased by this result.

This wine hasn’t received a lot of blog attention, but How I Eat gave it high marks for everyday drinkability. The Wineauxs declared the 2005 vintage “simple and inoffensive – great for burgers and pizza.” We go along with these reviews – if you are looking for a very drinkable boxed red wine that you can put on your counter and enjoy every day, Killer Juice Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 is a fine choice.

(Our previous tasting: Killer Juice Cabernet Sauvignon 2003.)