Saturday, January 07, 2006

Thinking "In The Box"

Well, I'm shopping for wine last week and I come to the boxed wine section and I say to myself, "Self, we ought to try this box wine thing and see how it is", not really expecting much. So I ask the sales guy, "How are these boxed wines". He says (with $ signs in his eyes), "They are great." So I buy the Carl Reh Riesling because I like Riesling (duh) and it's the only boxed Riesling on the shelf. I know nothing about Carl Reh or his Riesling, but the box says "Riesling Qualitatswein Rheinhessen, Product of Germany, The grapes for this cool-climate Riesling come from vineyards planted on the rolling hills close to the river Rhine (I immediately imagine the rolling hills along the river Rhine and it's a pleasant thought of those time-honored vines overlooking a riverside castle or two); A long ripening period allows the grapes to develop a complexity of flavours (NOW I know we're in Europe) and aromas reminiscent of peaches and apricots, with a subtle twist of lemon." And the price is right- $11.99 for the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine. OK, I'm cheap- I've come to terms with it, you should too. So I bring it home and my wife asks me what I purchased. I say I bought some boxed wine and she immediately disowns me, saying she had some boxed wine at some kind of gathering and that it tasted like water with wine flavoring. OK, so it looks like I will be drinking 3 liters of Riesling on my own whether I like it or not. So I chill the box o' wine for a while and then pull the little tap mechanism out of the box (still not believing that there really is 3 liters of wine in this small box), and I pour myself a glass. Hmmm. Not as bad as I was expecting. It has a touch of mineral and a touch of citrus and a bit of apricot. A bit thin compared to the Finger Lakes Rieslings that I enjoy, but for $3 a bottle, I really can't complain. It would be a really refreshing summer wine. I finish a glass and as I go back to the frig for another I think to myself, "Self, I think I like the concept of Wine on Tap in my frig, I just need better wine to be on tap." One thing I was curious about was how well the boxed wine would hold up over time. The sales guy said boxed wines were good for 6 weeks, but the box I bought says to consume within 3 weeks. But as I drank more of the Carl Reh Riesling over the next week, I could tell that it was rapidly losing what flavors that it had when first opened. So the boxed wine experiment proved to be interesting. There's no doubt that it is more portable and convenient for taking to parties and picnics and there is added convenience in not having to wrestle with a cork and I sort of liked being able to have wine on tap when I wanted, but the romance and "specialness" of wine is lost without the traditional bottle and cork. Many questions remain in my mind such as, Can boxed wines retain flavor and aroma as well as bottles and Will more and better wines be appearing in boxes (or tubes)? I like the concept because of the value and convenience, but I think that boxed wines already have an ingrained perceived inferiority to bottled wines that wine marketers would have to overcome. I would be very interested in hearing your opinions on boxed wines.
Here is an article on all you ever wanted to know about boxed wines.


Jennifer said...

The first (of only a few) time I had boxed wine was when I was in El Salvador in the 90s and it seemed the most expedient and cheap way to get a lot of wine for a group of people. Since I didn't care about vintage or keeping it long (I was just thankful we had cold water for our showers!) I wasn't too picky.

I'll add that I haven't looked at a boxed wine since. Now, if one of my favorite wineries came out with a box--say Robert Sinskey or Silver Thread--I'd entertain the idea--but probably for picnics and potlucks only.

Finger Lakes Weekend Wino said...

I know what you mean. It has taken me this long to even try boxed wine, so there is an obvious negative bias that a lot of people have about it. I guess if it really were more cost-effective for wineries and it did not have any negative effects on the wine, then you would think that wineries would release more wine in boxes. I guess , especially for small wineries, that the cost of investing in new packaging equipment would be a major expense. But I do believe that I would buy boxed wine from my favorite wineries if it were available and I felt that the taste was not compromised in any way.