The Search for the Best Boxed Wine: Week 0

The Back Story:

I kicked off the beginning of The Search for the Best Boxed Wine (that’s right, I’m officially designating this experiment with capital letters) with one of the bigger names in boxed wine fare: Black Box.  I had a choice between the Chardonnay and Merlot. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find their Riesling, which I hear is the most consistent and palatable. I decided, with whatever reasoning I managed to cobble together at that point, that it would be more difficult to mess up a white wine than a red wine, so I opted for the Chardonnay Monterey 2008. Was it a worthy kick-off to this experiment? The answer is a resounding… maybe.

(from the Black Box website)

The Results:

The appearance of the wine was a pale straw color with a tinge of gold. The wine has good legs, and the swirl suggested a somewhat thick texture.

The nose of the wine was rather weak and floral with hints of banana, apple, and honey. The good news is the alcohol, at 13.5%, doesn’t really come through, suggesting it will be at least drinkable.

The mouth feel of the wine was surprisingly thin, with a briny acidity. It felt weak in the mouth, but it caused a thick feeling in the back of the throat and caused a rather immediate sensation of heartburn. This suggests a lack of balance as the acidity is just over 7 g/l.

The flavor of the wine was also fairly weak, slightly sour with unripe apple and citrus, rather dry with sugar exactly at 4 g/l. There was just a hint of alcohol flavor in the palate, but it was fairly cool and didn’t disturb the flavor too much. Despite the balance in the alcohol, I would still describe the wine as backward; it was hard to focus on the subtle flavors through the acidity. The wine also benefited minimally from aeration, meaning it’s about as good as it gets right out of the box. Frankly, I think the grapes were just harvested too early, a problem I imagine is pretty common for mass-produced wines.

For the Casual Drinker:

Despite the high acidity and lack of balance, it was still fairly drinkable. It was just sweet enough to keep the acidity from simply overwhelming the wine, and there was just enough flavor to keep the wine from being a complete disappointment. That said, to be blunt, I wouldn’t lead off a night or a party with this wine. This would be best to break out after the senses have been slightly dulled by a first, more balanced bottle of wine. It’s very drinkable, just rather unimpressive. The acidity is also good for a dose of heartburn if you’re not expecting it.

The Conclusion:

A rather inauspicious beginning to my experiment. Actually, that’s a little harsh. It retails at $25 for 3 liters, averaging just over $6 dollars per 750ml “bottle,” which makes it a win as long as it’s drinkable. I’ve seen it as low as $16 before, meaning it can be a fantastic bargain table or party wine if you luck out. It could have gone a lot worse, I know, and as far as expectations for boxed wine goes, this one surpassed it, but the point here is to find something even experienced wine drinkers can get into. 4/10

Current Line-up:

Black Box Chardonnay Monterey 2008:

  • Week 0 – 4/10 – imbalanced (high) acidity, balanced alcohol, briny, weak texture, slightly sour, fruit-forward, weak nose

Retired Line-up:

None so far!

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9 Responses to “The Search for the Best Boxed Wine: Week 0”

  1. drinknectar Says:

    I’ve heard that of the inexpensive boxed wine, this is one of the better ones. Decent for parties or to bring out after the good stuff is gone.

    Thanks for taking it for the team.


    • wineaccguy Says:

      Haha this box might actually get finished, assuming it makes it the entire 5 weeks. I wouldn’t even say I was slumming it so bad that I was taking one for the team. I probably wouldn’t buy it again, of course, but I was pleasantly surprised.

  2. Andrew Says:

    Their Merlot is decent – I tried it at a party. You could do a lot worse for the price.

    • wineaccguy Says:

      Yeah, I’ll definitely end up giving it a shot in a few weeks. Gotta space out the brands, you know? You reminded me to post the price… I got it at 18 bucks for 3 liters, averaging at $4.50 a “bottle.” The fact that it’s even drinkable is a win in my book.

  3. Erin Says:

    I had the Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon a couple of weeks ago. I found it very easy to drink (although it probably wasn’t the most complex wine I’ve ever had) and may have even referred to it as “crack wine” because it was pretty darn addictive.

    • wineaccguy Says:

      Yeah, they have an impressive line-up under their brand, and they’ve even come out with a couple reserves recently. I’d be interested to taste the whole gamut one day and see how the reserves compare to other wines from their respective regions.

  4. Brandon Houlihan Says:

    I was surprised to hear about the banana but it intrigues me. I especially appreciate reviews like this because starting the night off with something that give you heart burn is no fun. This sounds like a good pick to take to an outside event in the summer, I shall keep it in mind.

    • wineaccguy Says:

      The banana actually isn’t that unusual for unoaked Chardonnays, or many whites that thrive in the New World for that matter; they often exhibit at least a hint of tropical notes in their nose or taste. Viognier, my favorite cheap varietal, is an island getaway in a bottle if it’s done right.

      I’d like to see one of those in a box, actually. Let’s make it happen, Trader Joe’s!

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