The Search for the Best Boxed Wine: Week 2

The Back Story:

Pinot Evil labelPinot Evil’s Pinot Noir is one of those shapeshifters in the wine world. Because they don’t have a dedicated vineyard, they’re free to chase the best grapes they can find for their wine. The drawback is there’s really no guarantee of quality from cask to cask, and this is reflected in the fact that the wine is non-vintage. Pinot Evil eschews the entire traditional wine-making process, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s certain to offend old-school wine sensibilities.

Pinot Evil used to use a variety of what is referred to as “vin de pays” Pinot Noir grapes from France, meaning the wine produced was regulated and tested but not necessarily reaching Appellation d’origine contrôlée standards. I haven’t had any of the French production, but from what I’ve read and heard it was less than impressive, and that’s being kind. See Drinkhacker for an extreme and Fermented Reviews for a more moderate take on it.

The new Pinot Evil only recently began production, meaning it’s just now getting worked out in the consumer market. They’re now currently harvesting their grapes and making the wine all in Hungary, then shipping it off to be packaged in Pinot Evil Cellars in California. From an environmental standpoint, this is ideal. You get both the authentic Hungarian winemaking elements and the cost- and energy-saving benefits of shipping in bulk. Packaging in bag-in-box also helps to save shipping space and weight cross-country.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a deep, pure red translucency, though it has a rather thin texture. There’s no inkiness or opacities tainting its lighter color.

The nose of the wine is very hot, especially at 12.7% alcohol. I’m getting primarily cherries, though there are some interesting earthy undertones with mushrooms and cinnamon making an appearance.

The mouth feel of the wine is a little bit silky and surprisingly aggressive. I was expecting it to be flabby, but there’s a pleasant tanginess that suggests a good balance between the acid, tannins, and alcohol.

The flavor of the wine is primarily sour redfruits, a strong cherry and cranberry attack. I’m getting a weak chocolate flavor on the mid-palate, but beyond that it’s fairly simple and fruity, with a disappointingly short finish and an odd metallic tinge after the initial flavors subside. The acidity is a little high, but not too bad given the relatively meager tannins. It’s initially off-dry (residual sugar at 6.5 g/l), and you’ll get a nice, light burst of sweetness with the attack, but as the wine approaches the finish it creates a powdery dryness.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is the first boxed wine I’ve had that truly offered a sense of balance. The acidity is low but just high enough to provide structure to a lighter-bodied wine with low tannins. The nose is rather alcoholic, but as long as you keep your nose out of the glass when you smell, you’ll be able to experience an interesting, earthy bouquet. The flavor of sour berries will definitely please your tastebuds, even though the finish is far too short. I would be more than comfortable serving this to a big party. The flavor is so delicate, though, you’d need to pair it with a meal that’s not too spicy or otherwise aggressively flavorful, maybe a dish from one of the various meats you can get from a pig.

The Conclusion:

For the price, $18.99 retail for a 3 liter cask, averaging to $4.75 per bottle, this is a fantastic bargain that would do well for a dinner party, at least so long as the wine snobs aren’t allowed to see the box or the non-vintage designation. Bottles normally retail at $5.99, so if you go boxed, you’re getting 20% off the price. Translated another way, that means around 20% of what you’re paying on that bottle is for the fancy glass packaging. Even if you’re not a green kind of person, knocking that much off the price is well worth slumming it with a bag-in-box. I could definitely see myself buying this guy again, if only to have a backup red wine to share. 5/10

Note:: This review applies to the regular box packaging of Pinot Evil, which is no longer available in stores. I have not tried the Octavin release of this wine to see how it compares.

Current Line-up:

Pinot Evil Pinot Noir NV

  • Week 0 – 5/10 – slightly imbalanced acidity, balanced alcohol, earthy nose, red fruit flavor, short finish, slight metallic undertaste.

Bota Box Shiraz California 2006:

  • Week 0 – 3/10 – imbalanced (high) acidity, imbalanced (high) alcohol, smooth texture, black fruits, very hot nose
  • Week 1 – 3/10 – imbalanced acidity and alcohol, smooth texture, no loss in flavor, hot nose, maybe  a bit more bitter finish

Black Box Chardonnay Monterey 2008:

  • Week 0 – 4/10 – imbalanced (high) acidity, balanced alcohol, briny, weak texture, slightly sour, fruit-forward, weak nose
  • Week 1 – 3/10 – lost nothing on the nose, lost some flavor, still very imbalanced acidity, similar mouth feel, texture, increased sourness
  • Week 2 – 2/10 – Nose and flavor are starting to get musty, still overly acidic, beginning to taste flat, metallic, alcohol flavor still balanced

Retired Line-up: None so far!

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13 Responses to “The Search for the Best Boxed Wine: Week 2”

  1. Ben Simons Says:

    Sounds like this one was at least drinkable, which might have been a generous description with the previous ones you’ve reviewed. Also looks like the Black Box is falling fast. Not seeming very impressive.

    • wineaccguy Says:

      Yep. I think the Black Box might be retiring after this week. It’s deteriorating more rapidly than a boxed wine should. The Bota Box Shiraz actually tasted okay after my taste buds were dulled from a few glasses of other wine. Something to keep in mind, I guess.

  2. Sip with Me Says:

    I’ve tried this wine before in bottle, was lured in by the price at WinCo. Haven’t bought it again, and not sure I’m any more sold on the box. But I do understand this wine better now, thanks to your great research!

    • wineaccguy Says:

      I gotta tell ya, given the trendy label and punny name, I was expecting not good things from this wine. I’m almost curious to try the bottled variety from French grapes just to see how bad it used to be.

      Yeah, I’m not doing a good job of selling the wine because it’s just an average bargain wine. Trust me, if I find a wine that knocks my socks off, I’ll be a lot more enthusiastic about it!

  3. Roland G Says:

    I bought the 3 liter box of Pinot Evil Pinot Noir and found it to be one of the worst box wines. The wine had no body and an awful bite. By comparison, the Bota Box Zinfandel is 10 times better. Dont buy this wine.

    • wineaccguy Says:

      I’d be curious to know which “vintage” you tried. They’ve gone through three iterations recently, and from what I hear, the one before this one was undrinkable. The one after, which was just released, I’ve not yet had. If that one fared poorly, that would be a very unfortunate regression.

      • Roland G Says:


        The date code on the box says ‘best if consumed prior to April 28, 2011′

        Underneath that there are these numbers:
        02810 21:18R1

        I complained to the store manager who said while he had customers who thought the wine was very good, he thought it was awful.

    • wineaccguy Says:

      Yes. I put “vintage” in quotes because Pinot Evil is non-vintage, so it was more a question if when it was packaged. They have a shelf-life of one year, I believe, which means that the one you had was the newest packaging. If it was in an octagonal box, at least. That’s a shame, because the non-Octavin box I had was drinkable.

      Thanks for the info! I’ll put a note in the review to let people know it’s no longer applicable.

  4. roland g Says:

    Just to clarify, the wine box was rectangular, not octganol

  5. roland g Says:

    I’m not sure what you are disagreeing with. Are you saying 1) the rectangular box you tasted was in fact the same batch as what I tasted, and 2) you think it is drinkable, while I said it was not?

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