Manyana Tempranillo 2005

Manyana TempranilloPrice: $7
Maker: Bodegas San Valero Soc. Coop, Cariñena, Spain
Varietal: Tempranillo
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 12.5%
Our Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Manyana Tempranillo 2005 is a surprisingly light shade of red in the glass, and has a mild fruit nose with berries and licorice. The wine is light-bodied, starting with cherries and strawberries leading into a moderately dry finish. This wine wasn’t particularly to my taste – light, dry reds just aren’t in my sweet spot (no pun intended, of course).

Manyana Tempranillo is imported by the ubiquitous Prestige Wine Group – they also offer a Crianza and a Shiraz from this winery.

Santana Tempranillo 2004

Santana TempranilloPrice: $9
Maker: Bodegas Victorianas, Spain
Varietal: Tempranillo
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

We tried Santana Tempranillo 2004 as part of Wine Blogging Wednesday #35. For WBW #35, Passionate Spain, our assignment was to try a wine from Spain, preferably under $10.

We found Santana Tempranillo had a very nice licorice and raspberry nose with some spicy and woody notes. On the palate, this wine was light-to-medium-bodied. It wasn’t overly fruity, with dark berries yielding to herbal, woody flavors; mild pepper and prominent tannins dominated the slightly acidic finish. This wine was a bit less fruity than we usually find in wines in this price range, but was surprisingly accessible and well balanced. This wine grew on us, and we found it to be more sophisticated than one might expect for a $5 wine. All in all, Santana Tempranillo is a great value, particularly if you are looking for a red that’s a bit less fruity than similarly priced California or Aussie wines.

Santana Tempranillo is made by Bodegas Victorianas, part of the Spanish firm Grupo Faustino. We couldn’t learn too much about Bodegas Victorianas from their website. It appears that this Tempranillo is part of their New Santana line; they also have Don Hugo, Don Darias, and Santana Classic lines. We don’t see all that much Spanish wine in our local shops; if Santana Tempranillo is an indication of what they can produce in a bottle that retails for $5 (in a strong Euro environment to boot), these wines have a lot of potential. Can “Two Peseta Pedro” be far from reality? 😉 (I know Euros are now standard, but I couldn’t come up with a good nickname to fit “Two Euro ____” – suggestions are welcome!)

Santana Tempranillo 2004 is a pleasant wine that’s a steal at $5, and offers a distinctly different flavor when compared to New World wines in the same price range.

WBW #35 – Passionate Spain

We were happy to see Michelle from My Wine Education’s straightforward selection for Wine Blogging Wednesday #35 – “Passionate Spain.” In addition to leaving the field wide open – a wine from Spain – Michelle encouraged us to select a bottle that cost under $10 – definitely in our preferred “affordable” category here at Box Wines.

Santana TempranilloFor the first time in recent memory, we didn’t have to make a last minute run to the wine shop to find something suitable for this month’s WBW challenge. We had just returned from our Trader Joe’s expedition, and just happened to have a bottle of Santana Tempranillo 2004 in our mixed case. It cost about $5 – just about as affordable as you can get outside of Two Buck Chuck. We haven’t blogged about this varietal much at all. The only one we’ve tried lately has been Infinitus Tempranillo 2004, which we enjoyed. (The Santana Tempranillo is actually a blend that includes 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.)

According to Wikipedia,

Tempranillo is a thick-skinned black grape used to make full-bodied red wines. It grows best in cooler regions as it does not tolerate hot or dry weather well. Pests and diseases are a serious problem for this grape variety, since it has little resistance to either. The grape forms compact, cylindrical bunches of spherical, purplish black fruit with a colourless pulp. The fruit is very dark in colour and forms a bead-like sphere for which it also carries the name of Ull de Llebre (Catalan for “Eye of the Hare”) in Catalunya, a major Tempranillo-growing region. It is known by a bewildering number of other names, usually after the region in which it is, or has been, grown.

Back to the Santana Tempranillo, we found it had a very nice licorice and raspberry nose with some spicy and woody notes. On the palate, this light-to-medium-bodied wine wasn’t overly fruity, with dark berries yielding to herbal, woody flavors; pepper and prominent tannins dominated the slightly acidic finish. This wine was a bit less fruity than we are used to, but was surprisingly accessible and well balanced. This wine grew on us, and we found it to be more sophisticated than one might expect for a $5 wine. We scored it at 8.5 out of ten, which on our scale means we liked it quite a bit and would buy it again. All in all, Santana Tempranillo is a great value, particularly if you are looking for a red that’s a bit less fruity than inexpensive California or Aussie wines.

Santana Tempranillo is bottled by Bodegas Victorianas, part of the Spanish firm Grupo Faustino. (Architecture buffs may be interested in the fact that Grupo Faustino has engaged renowned architect Norman Foster to design their latest winery.)

Kudos to Lenn Thompson for launching WBW and keeping it organized and thriving. We enjoyed this month’s straightforward WBW challenge that encouraged us to try something different in a very affordable price range – we’re looking forward to some of the other great finds by WBW bloggers this month!

Les Hauts de la Brune Coteaux du Languedoc 2004

Les Hauts de la Brune Coteaux du LanguedocPrice: $8
Maker: Domaine de la Brune
Varietal: 80% Syrah, 10% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

We picked up Les Hauts de la Brune Coteaux du Languedoc 2004 as an alternate choice for WBW #33 – its inexpensive price disqualified it from the $15 – $30 price range, but we thought we’d give a sub-$10 wine from the Languedoc-Roussillon region a try. At that price, and with its 80% Syrah composition, this wine would compete directly with a broad range of Shiraz/Syrah wines from Australian and California. The nose was very mild, with spicy berry aromas predominating. Our initial take on this wine was that it was rather thin and very dry. Even an hour or two of breathing didn’t alter our feelings much. Oddly, after being stored for a day (with argon) and another hour or two of air, the wine smoothed out considerably. We found mainly cherry, currant, and black pepper notes, with slightly sharp tannins. We’re not crazy about this wine, but ultimately it was fairly drinkable.

We’re not sure if this is the winery’s official site, but it indicates that this wine earned an impressive 90 points from Wine Spectator. Based on that, it’s an incredible value, though I can’t say I’d rate what I tasted at nearly that exalted a level. Feel free to give this one a try, though if you are into a fruitier Syrah/Shiraz I’d suggest one of the many decent Australian Shiraz choices that are in the $5 to $10 range. If you do pick up a bottle, plan on plenty of time, or decanting (maybe an aquarium bubbler?) to bring out the flavor and balance in this wine.

WBW #33 – Languedoc-Roussillon value wines

One of the fun things about Wine Blogging Wednesday is that it gets you outside your comfort zone and forces you to try something different. WBW #33, hosted by Doktor Weingolb, is no exception. There’s little chance I would have tried to hunt down a wine of this month’s theme – Languedoc-Roussillon value wines, in the $15 to $30 range – without the impetus of WBW. Indeed, I had to visit a couple of stores before I found some wines that fit the bill. I finally hit paydirt in a well-stocked spirits and wine shop. I carried in Dr. W’s list, and soon had two store staffers scurrying around reading labels and making suggestions. (If you are on a wine scavenger hunt, it’s always good to visit the wine shop when it’s not busy – the staff have time to kill, and can be very helpful.) Thanks for a great theme, Dok W!

Chateau Tour Boisee Minervois

Chateau Tour Boisee Minervois 1999

Our primary selection for this WBW challenge was Chateau Tour Boisée Minervois 1999, which we found for $17. Though we found this wine to be a bit dryer and more mineral in nature than our usual California and Aussie fare, we liked it quite a bit. The nose was very prominent, exhibiting berry, anise, spice, and caramel notes. On the palate, this wine was a mix of juicy cranberry and plum with peppery notes. Overall it was quite astringent and puckery, though the bold flavors and complexity balanced the wine to the point where that character wasn’t unpleasant. Extra breathing time rounded out the flavor to a degree, but some bite remained in the wine’s sustained finish. The wine is composed of 30% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 30% Carignan, and 10% Cinsaut. For additional commentary and wine details, see Chateau Tour Boisée Minervois 1999.

We also bought a secondary bottle – Les Hauts del la Brune Coteaux du Languedoc 2004. This cost only $8, and hence didn’t meet the WBW #33 criteria. Check out the full report. Like the Minervois, this is a rather dry red, but overall it is not nearly as flavorful. We’d happily trade two bottles of this Languedoc for one of the Minervois.

A big thanks to Doktor Weingolb for hosting, and of course to Lenn Thompson for launching this virtual community.

Chateau Tour Boisée Minervois 1999

Chateau Tour Boisee MinervoisPrice: $17
Maker: Domaine La Tour Boisée
Varietal: 30% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 30% Carignan, 10% Cinsaut
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.8%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

We tried Chateau Tour Boisée Minervois 1999 (Marie Claude) as part of WBW #33. From the beginning, this wine makes its presence known. It had a prominent nose, with berry, anise, spice, and caramel notes. Its flavor was a mix of juicy cranberry and plum with peppery notes, with a mineral character. Overall it was quite astringent and puckery, though the bold flavors and complexity balanced the wine to the point where the astringency wasn’t unpleasant. Extra breathing time rounded out the flavor to a degree, but some bite remained in the wine’s sustained finish. Our personal tastes lean toward the slightly fruitier, less dry offerings of California and Australia vineyards, but it was interesting to try the more European Chateau Tour Boisée Minervois. After this intriguing experience, I might have to seek out some other reds from similar regions to compare.

The wine is imported by Wine Adventures, and according to the commentary on this wine, “Jean-Louis Poudou represents the fifth generation of the Poudou family to produce wine on this domaine in the Languedoc region of southern France. The wine is a blend of 30% Syrah 30% Grenache 30% Carignan and 10% Cinsaut, with the average age of the vines about 60 years old. The wine is unfiltered and aged in steel tanks. Full bodied, the wine has the taste of dark fruits and spice. A wonderful finish adds to the enjoyment of drinking this wine. Food and Wine Magazine rated this wine a “best buy” in September 2001.” Wine Adventures has been around since 1999, and was originally founded to bring good French wines to Iowa. The firm now claims distribution in 11 states.

Interestingly, Domaine La Tour Bois̩e practices biodynamic farming Рwho knew? I should have hunted this one down for the earlier WBW #29, when I had difficulty finding a biodynamic entry and ended up with a pedestrian (but apparently fully organic) Fetzer Valley Oaks Gewurztraminer. Chateau Tour Bois̩e Minervois 1999 would have been a far more interesting choice.

WBW #33 Reminder – Languedoc-Roussillon value wines

I’ve done a few Wine Blogging Wednesdays at the very last minute, and missed one or two because I couldn’t find what I was looking for in the time available. So, with a couple of days to go, I thought I’d post a quick reminder about this month’s WBW. It is WBW #33, hosted by Doctor Weingolb – details are here. The theme is Languedoc-Roussillon value wines, in the $15 to $30 range. If you need to find an appropriate bottle quickly, print out this list and take it shopping. I had no luck at my well-stocked mega-supermarket wine section, but a visit to a conventional spirits and wine store with a fairly extensive selection found a few candidates quickly.

It’s not too late – head out to your favorite wine store, list of Languedoc-Roussillon wines in hand!

WBW #32 – Regular vs. Reserve Wines

The Wine Cask Blog is hosting this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday, and the theme is an interesting one: regular vs. reserve wines of the same varietal from the same vineyard. We see them on the shelves all the time, and we may choose between the labels with little thought… Need a gulpable red for a burger cookout? Go with the inexpensive regular label. Dinner at the boss’s house? Better show up with the reserve, it’s probably better and it’s definitely more expensive. But how often do we actually taste the wines head to head? In my case, I don’t recall ever doing that. Perhaps at a vineyard wine tasting, but I’ve certainly never bought a bottle of each to compare. Until WBW #32, that is.

Jacob's Creek Shiraz and Reserve ShirazSince our theme is affordable wines (not to say cheap wines), we opted for a pair inexpensive Australian Shirazes. We found Jacob’s Creek Shiraz 2003 for a mere $6, and, for exactly double the price (but still affordable at $12), Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz 2003. We opened both bottles to let them breathe, and, after a while, began the comparison.

Jacob’s Creek Shiraz 2003

Price: $6
Maker: Jacob’s Creek
Variety: Shiraz
Packaging: Bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.8%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

Tasting Notes. This wine’s nose was quite pleasant for a $6 wine, with licorice and spice mixing with ripe berry notes. The wine’s flavor mixed juicy berries with oak and pepper, with a slight tannic sharpness in the finish. This isn’t a great Shiraz, but for the price it’s reasonably balanced and complex. We tasted this wine a year ago, and it was good to see that our findings were quite consistent with the earlier tasting (see Jacob’s Creek Shiraz 2003).

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz 2003

Price: $12
Maker: Jacob’s Creek
Variety: Shiraz
Packaging: Bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Tasting Notes. The strongest note in the nose is licorice, backed up by ripe blackberries. On the palate, this wine is very smooth. Plum and chocolate cherry flavors, with oak, soft tannins, and mild spice in the finish. This is a well-structured wine that lingers impressively.

Comparing the two wines, there were definitely some similarities, notably the licorice aroma and fruit-forward nature. The regular Shiraz was a bit rougher, though, while the Reserve was smoother and more complex. There’s no doubt that given the choice between the two, we’d pick the Reserve as the better wine.

The next question is a bit different: is Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz worth twice as much as Jacob’s Creek Shiraz? That’s a question that in part relates to the economics of the buyer. For a well-heeled wine buyer, $12 is still a cheap wine… there would be no reason to consider the even cheaper regular variety. For a starving artist (do they still exist?), the extra $6 might well be significant. So, we’ll ask the question in a more provocative way – if one found oneself at the wine shop on the way to a small dinner party with just $12 in cash, should one buy a single bottle of the Reserve or two bottles of the regular Shiraz?

I’ll weasel out of that question by saying it depends on the guests. The regular Shiraz from Jacob’s Creek is good enough to please the casual wine drinker, and the extra bottle might add to their enjoyment (not to mention further dulling their palates). For guests who would appreciate a better wine, go with the Reserve; you’ll run out quickly, but they will compliment you on your selection.

Thanks again to the Wine Cask Blog for coming up with this interesting assignment, and to Lenn at Lenndevours for creating and managing this virtual wine tasting.

WBW #31 – Post-Game Commentary

Wine Blogging WednesdayWBW #31 was my first Wine Blogging Wednesday as a host, and I really appreciate all of the wine bloggers who took a chance on something unfamiliar – we had people tasting wine from boxes, cans, juice packs… great job, everyone, and sorry if you happened upon a clunker! Thanks, too, to Lenn Thompson for starting this community effort!

I didn’t know quite what to expect from the topic of “box wines & non-traditional packaging”. While I was quite sure nobody would discover a wine they would rate in the high 90s, I did hope that people would encounter some decent wines they could recommend to their friends for every day drinking. I also hoped that with the worldwide dispersion of WBW bloggers that we’d encounter quite a few totally new wines. After all, we hear how diverse the choices are in Australia, where more than half the wine consumed is in boxes, and that 3-liter boxes are the fastest growing segment in the U.S. wine market.

Late Additions. If you have already perused the WBW #31 summary, be aware that we’ve added a couple of more tastings to the original WBW #31 roundup. LizKitchen compared three Chardonnays from three continents, and A Guy, A Girl, and A Bottle temporarily became a A Couple With Cans for the purpose of this WBW theme. ChâteauBrys reported on a teeny (187 ml) bottle of 2002 Delicato Chardonnay.

Sofia Who? As it turns out, we had a few novel choices, but quite a few participants had difficulty finding anything beyond the mass market boxes. We also found some surprising overlap in the choices. By far the most popular choice was Sofia Blanc de Blancs, a sparkling wine in a can that comes with its own bendy straw – Gastronomic Fight Club, My Wne Education, Wine Outlook, A Guy, A Girl, and A Bottle, and Huevos Con Vino all tried this one. To my great frustration, despite the fact that the wine is apparently packaged in Indiana I have yet to identify a local source for this.

Interesting Finds. We did have a few unusual choices – I’ve never seen a Sherry in a box, but Cook (almost) Anything found a cask of Seppelt Cream Sherry. Wine for Newbies found Cuvee de Peña 2004 from the Rhone region of France. And Winecast discovered a box of Casa La Joya Cabernet-Carmenere from the Colchagua Valley, Chile. Dr. Vino came up with another interesting one, Domain Sorin Cotes de Provence 2005 Rose – but it is available only in France.

Plonk Avoided (Mostly). Thankfully, nobody bought a 5-liter box of Franzia (or Almaden or Vella) and said, “Gaaak – this is awful!” We were hoping to avoid experiences that would put people off outside-the-bottle wines for the next decade, and, by and large, we were successful. There were a few notably bad ones. Spittoon hated Tesco Sicilian Red Wine, though Andrew later pointed out that Tesco is the UK equivalent of WalMart. Winehiker Witiculture scored French Rabbit Pinot Noir a mere 9 out of 20. Grape Juice didn’t find much to like in the little plastic bottles of Virgin Vines Shiraz. Tales of a Sommelier found the Paul Masson White Wine Carafe quite lacking. If there’s one characteristic shared by these choices, they tend to come from the lower end of the non-traditional spectrum – with the possible exception of the somewhat stylish French Rabbit, these are wines that don’t aspire to greatness, or even a high level of mediocrity. Let’s recognize the sacrifices made by these bloggers – they tried this stuff so that you (and many, many readers) won’t have to!

Surprise Bargain. One box brand that I’ve avoided to date has been the very low priced Corbett Canyon in a 3-liter box. I’ve seen it on the store shelf for under $10, and mentally I’ve lumped it in the same category, more or less, as the aforementioned 5-liter plonk. I was really surprised that two bloggers who participated in group tastings reported that Corbett Canyon was a group favorite – Citizen Wine ‘s group liked Corbett Canyon Chardonnay, while The Boxed Wine Spot‘s group enjoyed Corbett Canyon Pinot Grigio. I guess I’m going to have to give this brand a try after all!

All in all, this has been a lot of fun and very informative. A big “thanks” to all, and let’s keep the conversation going!

WBW #31 – Tasting Roundup

Wine Blogging WednesdayWe’ve had a lot of really neat entries for Wine Blogging Wednesday #31, with the theme, “Box Wines & Non-Traditional Packaging.” This was an interesting challenge – some found it easy, while others had difficulty finding a wine that met the criteria but wasn’t the low-end plonk that has traditionally been the mainstay of boxed wine in the U.S. So, without further ado, we’ll start the summary – entries are listed in approximate order of arrival. (If I somehow missed your entry or have mangled your name or comments, please accept my apology and drop me an email at boxwineguy -at – boxwines -dot- org.)

Sofia Blanc de BlancsSnekse at the Gastronomic Fight Club couldn’t find an appealing box wine, so instead chose champage in a can: Sofia Blanc de Blancs, from Francis Coppola. To complete the non-traditional approach, snekse even drank it through a straw. He commented, “Not a top of the line wine, but if I could find it for $3 a can again, I’d consider buying it. It would be a fun summer wine in a perfect container for picnics.” Snekse rated it an 87.

Barokes CansEdward at the Wino Sapien also went the can route, tasting two: Barokes Bin 241 Chardonnay Semillon NV, and Barokes ‘Bubbly wine’ Bin 171 Cabernet Shiraz Merlot NV. Edward found both of these to be just fair, rating them 83 and 82, respectively. Edward thinks it will be a while before wine in cans is accepted by wine drinkers, who have yet to fully embrace screw cap closures on conventional bottles.

Kathy at the Boxed Wine Spot tried in vain to locate some interesting and different boxed wines, so instead she planned an impromptu tasting event with eight friends. They tried five different Pinot Grigios: Corbett Canyon 2006 Pinot Grigio, Delicato 2005 Pinot Grigio, FishEye 2005 Pinot Grigio, Trove 2005 Pinot Grigio, and Wine Cube 2005 Pinot Grigio. Not surprisingly, the tasters all had different opinions. The biggest winner of the night was the FishEye – it elicited five votes for “top pick”, including the guest Kathy considered her expert. The very inexpensive Corbett Canyon scored about as well as the FishEye with the group at large, though the expert didn’t much like it. This was so much fun that Kathy’s ready to try it again, perhaps with Shiraz.

Bulk wine pouringLisa at Vinorati took quite a different approach, opting to sample some bulk wines. Once common in Europe, the practice of filling a customer’s container directly or furnishing a plastic bottle is gradually being phased out, according to Lisa, with some of that volume going to the more convenient bag-in-box product – read the post for a historical perspective on bulk wine distributon. The wines she tried were all red table wines: Saint-Emilion Cave Cooperative, Bordeaux Superieure, and Vin de Table (Montagne Saint-Emilion) . Lisa liked the Saint-Emilion Cave Cooperative the best, considering it a decent party wine, while the phrase “cherry cough syrup” figured in the notes for the last wine.

Wine for NewbiesBill of Podcast: Wine for Newbies made an excursion to Sam’s Wine & Spirits to hunt down some different boxed wine. He found Killer Juice Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 and Cuvee de Peña 2004. The Killer Juice cab earned a mere 75 points from Bill. The Cuvee de Peña, a blend of various Rhône varietals, fared better. Bill liked the color and balance of the wine, rating it an 82.

Seppelt Cream SherryHaalo, who hails from the Cook (almost) Anything… at least once blog, a kind of wine we haven’t seen in a box before: a fortified wine, specifically Seppelt Cream Sherry. Once Haalo got past the fear of being seen exiting the store with a two-liter cask of sherry, things improved. Haalo liked to color and nose of this sherry, and commented, “Not overly sweet, it’s rich but not cloying – well-balanced with just the right about of acid to make it refreshing. Serve chilled it’s perfect for pre- and post- dinner sipping.” Haalo also reminds us that, for better or worse, Australia was the origin of the bag-in-box package.

RainDance ShirazMichelle, of My Wine Education, apparently took the assignment as a real educational opportunity – she tasted four wines in three packaging styles: 2003 Aussie Sweet White (can), Sofia Mini(can), French Rabbit Cabernet Sauvignon (TetraPrism), and Rain Dance South African Shiraz (box). Michelle liked the Sofia (though she did decide to pour it in a glass rather than sipping through the straw or chugging it directly from the can). She also enjoyed the Rain Dance Shiraz, finding it to be easy-drinking and straight-forward.

Three Thieves Pinot GrigioDr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 found the assignment the hardest WBW yet, but found 2005 Three Thieves “Bandit” Pinot Grigio in a 4-pack of TetraPaks. He recommends pouring the wine into a glass to gauge the aroma, which he notes is difficult to do through a straw. Dr. D says, “This was certainly not the worst pinot grigio I’ve ever had, and at $2.75 per juice box, or under $8 for the equivalent of a 750ml bottle, it represented good QPR.”

Hardys ShirazFarley of Wine Outlook contributes comments on Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs (can) and 2004 Hardy’s Shiraz (box). Clearly, WBW participants have a thing for the Sofia cans, and Farley liked the sparkling wine a lot. The Hardy’s, unfortunately, didn’t fare quite as well. “Very thin, rather bitter, with very little fruit or any other flavors” summed up the flavors Farley found.

Tesco Sicilian Red WineAndrew at Spittoon may have found it necessary to use the receptacle from which his blog takes its name when he tried Tesco Sicilian Red Wine. We haven’t seen that brand before, and we won’t look for it now. Andrew found it to be quite awful: “God its terrible. Sweet fruit initially, simple, then a hollow centre, a whack of tannins and the overwhelming feeling of disappointment. Acidic. Rough. Unbalanced.” Sorry to inflict that on you, old chap!

Delicato ShirazSonadora of The Wannabe Wino fared better than Andrew (thank goodness) by trying a 2005 Delicato Shiraz. At the outset, the thought of boxed wines brought only Franzia to Sonadora’s mind, but she was surprised to find the Delicato Shiraz quite drinkable. She judged to to be the equivalent of a $7 – $8 bottled Shiraz.

Russ of Winehiker Witiculture hiked over to Albertson’s to find a 2004 French Rabbit Pinot Noir, a one-liter TetraPak carton. Despite its promising French origin, this is one rabbit that wouldn’t run, or even hop, for Russ. The color and aroma were promising, but this Pinot Noir was a big disappointment on the palate for Russ. He awarded it 9 points… that sounds quite good, until you realize it’s on a scale of 20.

Seb of The Table took a highly unorthodox approach to tasting 2004 Killer Juice Cabernet Sauvignon. Forget the fancy Riedel stemware, the starched tablecloths, and other elements of fine dining. Seb instead chose to taste it in the middle of the night, in a bus parked in the woods, with candles as the sole light source… poured in a mug to accompany cold pizza, the Killer Juice cab served its purpose, even if it didn’t prove to be a great wine.

Trove CabernetLenn of Lenndevours (originator of Wine Blogging Wednesday) was a bit worried about the whole box wine idea… he’d never had one that was even gulpable. Fortunately, Lenn picked up a box of Trove 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, and found it to be better than expected. Lenn found, “lots of red berries, especially cherries, throughout, fruity but not Australian or overdone. Very little oak and rather juicy, medium body.”

Three Thieves Pinot GrigioCatherine of Purple Liquid tried two different wines: 2004 Three Thieves Bandit Pinot Grigio (Tetra Pak) and 2005 Hardy’s Stamp of Australia Cabernet Sauvignon (3 liter box). Catherine liked the Pinot Grigio, and suggests pouring it into a bottle to serve to guests! The Cab proved to be an adequate everyday drinking wine, but the 3 liter quantity was a bit intimidating; some of it may end up in a stew!

Casa La Joya Cabernet-Carmenere Tim of Winecast also found the topic to be the most daunting WBW yet. Tim was up to the challenge, though, scoring a 3 liter cask of Casa La Joya Cabernet-Carmenere NV from the Colchagua Valley, Chile. This is one of the more unique wines in this WBW, and is exactly the kind of wine we were hoping some entrants would discover to share with the rest of us. Tim described the wine as, “Purple-black in color with aromas of dark fruit, black pepper and mint. Full bodied on the palate with flavors of blackberry, bell pepper and gunmetal finishing with moderate tannins.” He found it to be a nice everyday wine and a good value at under $5 per bottle-equivalent.

Huevos con Vino was another entrant who tried Sofia Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine. Read the post for an interesting discussion of the marketing origins of this Sofia wine – it’s a product targeted at a young market looking for convenience and a readily accessible flavor. Though the product may not appeal to serious wine drinkers, it may serve as a gateway to introduce a new generation of consumers to the pleasures of wine.

Virgin VinesErin and Michelle write the Grape Juice blog, and decided not to stray very far from traditional packaging: they found Virgin Vines in little plastic bottles. Trying Virgin Vines Shiraz, Erin and Michelle weren’t impressed, summing it up as “Typical poopy bottom of the barrel Californian.” They think it’s a marketing-driven wine that doesn’t have much to offer. They both rate it, “I wouldn’t make faces.”

Dr. Vino comes up with another of the unique finds for this WBW – unfortunately, Domain Sorin Cotes de Provence 2005 Rose is available only in France. It is made without chemical fertilizers or pesticides in the vineyard, and is comprised of four classic grape varieties from the region. It comes in a 5-liter box, with a price of about $6 per bottle-equivalent.

Tom of Citizen Wine offers the largest group of boxed wines in this WBW – a group of 17 members of the newly formed San Francisco Wine Enthusiast Meetup group sampled a total of 18 bag-n-box wines. Read the post for more details, but one of the big favorites was the low-cost Corbett Canyon Chardonnay. The wine determined to be the best of the group was a box of Hardys Shiraz.

French RabbitAlder of Vinography did a nice writeup on 2005 French Rabbit Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d’Oc, France. He provides intersting background on the wine, and concludes that “this stuff ain’t awful.” Alder continues, “This is a totally unobjectionable Chardonnay that most folks would be pleased to drink, though it displays little personality or complexity… I’ve certainly been served worse at some weddings I’ve attended.”

Garry of Tales of a Sommelier went in a completely different direction and tasted a Paul Masson White Wine Carafe. The bottle can be pressed into service for vase duty, but, according to Garry, the wine itself is quite bad. He notes, “there really wasnt much taste at all, chilling it made it slightly more palatable, but barely…”

Joe and Pam of A Guy, A Girl, and A Bottle temporarily became A Couple With Cans by trying this WBW’s most popular choice, Sofia Blanc de Blancs. Their podcast format captures the ensuing sound effects in high fidelity. Pam gave the sparkler a thumb up, and Joe thought the small package format would make the Sofia a good choice for mixing with other wine or spirits without having to uncork a whole champagne bottle.

Liz of LizKitchen invited a few friends over for a small group tasting and selected three Chardonnays from three continents: Banrock Station’s 2006 Chardonnay from Australia, Wine Block Chardonnay from California, and French Rabbit Chardonnay from France. The Banrock Station wine was enjoyed by all, and judged to be a good party or picnic choice. The Wine Cube earned high marks for its amazingly compact packaging, but was found to be rather mead-like. The French Rabbit drew mixed reviews, ranging from “undrinkable” and “unpleasant” to “fine.”

Maarten of ChâteauBrys considered trying a single-serving wine box, but instead tried a wee (187 ml) bottle of 2002 Delicato Chardonnay from California. Maarten commented, “The Chardonnay itself is a nice US-style Chardonnay: lots of oak, grease and vanilin. For lovers only.”

As noted above, if I’ve missed your entry or messed it up in some matter, please drop me an email. I’ll publish some additional commentary on the lessons from this WBW tomorrow.

A big THANK YOU to all participants, particularly those who ended up with some not very good wines! Your reporting will save some other readers from having the same bad experience!