The Search for the Best Boxed Wine: Week 7

The Back Story:

Double Dog Dare is a producer of rock-bottom wines. Seriously, if you thought Two-Buck Chuck was pushing the limits of wine price credibility, you can find reviews on Snooth or Cork’d stating the reviewers found bottles of their wine for $1.67. For less than the price of a 20-ounce bottle of Pepsi, you can have a 750ml of California Chardonnay, albeit non-vintage. I’ll let the review speak for how much of a bargain this is, but first, a tangential back story about where I got it:

This particular boxed wine was an impulse buy during a shopping trip at Total Wine. For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter (or just missed the exchange), I recently lamented a very poor showing by a Greek wine that I purchased at Total Wine. Ever the vigilant brand manager, Greg Tuttle from their Maryland offices replied to apologize for the regretted purchase.

At this point I felt pretty bad, because as a supporter of their brand, I had unwittingly contributed negatively to their image, and I certainly don’t tweet out every positive experience I’ve had with them (more on this in a later post). Greg offered to refund the purchase by mailing me a gift card, but at first I turned him down because I’d let my family finish the bottle. He insisted regardless, so I gave him my address and he ended up giving me double what the wine was worth! Spurred by this wonderful discovery, I headed to the Durham-area Total Wine to cash in on the gift.

I remembered I needed a boxed wine for this week’s experiment, but I didn’t want to take another risk on a wine with a gift from Greg that was compensation for a bad wine. To alleviate this dilemma, I ended up with a selection that would suggest to the average person that I had multiple-personality disorder. In addition to the Double Dog Dare Chardonnay box, I also got a fine dessert wine and a six-pack of fruit beer.

To celebrate my brother’s graduation from college, finishing 6 years of music education in just 4 years, just by the way, I bought a Tokaji, 3 puttonyos. He’s got a sweet tooth when it comes to wine preferences, and he’d been not-so-subtly hinting at me getting him an Eiswein as a graduation gift. Since he’d spent the last 4 years having Wagner, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Handel, and the other dozens of hyped German composers shoved down his throat by his professors, though, I decided to buy him some non-German fare. It cracked me up that a 500ml bottle of Tokaji cost more than twice as much as a typical 3 liter box of wine, and my brother, still of the college finances mindset, acted like I was insane.

I also got a six-pack of Kona Brewing Company’s Wailua Wheat ale. It’s brewed with passion-fruit, and I’ll be damned if I don’t look forward to late spring when this beer hits the store shelves. It”s one of the few fruit beers I’ve had that actually makes sense. I’m sure I’ll be posting a review of it fairly shortly, maybe in a summer ales focus piece. I’ve got ideas.

The focus of this post, though, should be on the Double Dog Dare NV Chardonnay. Here we go!

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a very dull straw, and it displays little depth in a medium viscosity.

The nose of the wine is rather unfortunate. I’m getting notes of  light citrus, apple, and oak. The alcohol scent is far too prominent, and there’s something way off, something chemically like nail polish.

The mouthfeel of the wine is medium-bodied with a syrupy, abrasive texture. It just feels harsh.

The flavor of the wine is actually not as bad as the rest of the wine would suggest. It’s almost entirely apple, with an off-dry sweetness. The alcohol isn’t too prominent at 12.5%, but the acidity is far too high, leading to a wincingly sour finish of vanilla oak and apple. It tastes like a sour, bitter apple juice.

For the Casual Drinker:

If you can get past the horrendous nose, the wine is drinkable, if barely. The acidity is far too high, so raise your heartburn alert to maximum chest-clutching. Fix it with a lighter chicken or fish dish, not too heavily seasoned, if you serve it with food, but I recommend waiting until the last wine of the night when you or your guests won’t be as sensitive to the acidity.

The Conclusion:

Double Dog Dare manages to provide a wine at a price so low that even quaffing it would be considered a minor victory. The price of $11.99, roughly $3.00 per bottle is enticing, but bear in mind that, in this case, you’re getting what you pay for. From what I understand, you can get it on the west coast for less than $10.00 for a box. If that’s so… well, it’s still a risk. From what I gather online, the quality varies wildly from bottle to bottle. As far as this box is concerned, though? I’m not sold.


Current Line-up:

Double Dog Dare Chardonnay, California NV

  • Week 0 – 3/10 – Very off-putting nose, dull, listless color, rough mouth feel, apple and oak flavor, imbalanced acidity.

Big House Red, California 2008

  • Week 0 – 7/10 – Lean, light texture, floral and red-fruit flavors, good balance, slightly hot nose, medium finish
  • Week 1 – 6/10 – Flavor has deteriorated a bit, and there’s a harshness that I possibly didn’t detect before.

Wine Cube California Vintner’s Red Blend 2008

  • Week 0 – 3/10 – Weak structure, heavy oak nose, red-fruit profile, heavy vanilla oak flavor, light-bodied, very short finish.
  • Week 1 – 3/10 – Exactly the same as before. Somehow, and I don’t know how, this sweet vanilla red wine manages to be drinkable.
  • Week 2 – 3/10 – Nose is a little bit off, but the flavor is still the same as before.

Monthaven Central Coast Chardonnay 2008

  • Week 0 – 5/10 – Imbalanced (high) acidity, balanced alcohol, apple, tropical, oaky flavors and nose, medium-bodied, way too bitter finish.
  • Week 1 – 5/10 – Similar balance in acidity and alcohol, similar flavors and nose, similar bitter finish
  • Week 2 – 5/10 – Starting to taste a bit more imbalanced, flavors and nose have faded slightly, finish is less bitter
  • Week 3 – 4/10 – Odd caramel scent on the nose. Flavor has deteriorated and the balance is still off.

Retired 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.
  • Week 1 – 5/10 – Still as fresh as when it was opened. Similar earthiness, red fruits, short finish, slightly imbalanced acidity.
  • Week 2 – 5/10 – Still tasting pretty fresh. Still balanced. Flavor tastes on par with previous tastings.
  • Week 3 – 4/10 – Flavor is beginning to diminish, causing the alcohol flavor and metallic taste to come through more.
  • Week 4 – 4/10 – Holding steady from last week. Still a slightly off flavor, but it hasn’t diminished since.
  • Week 5 – 4/10 – Nose is a bit more harsh. Cherry flavor is strangely more prominent.
  • Average score: 4.5/10. Length of stay = 5 weeks. Final score is 5/10. I would completely recommend this wine as a stalwart backup for any occasion as well as a decent sipper on its on right.

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
  • Week 2 – 3/10 – Still imbalanced, same texture, flavor, and nose. Holding its meager flavor well.
  • Week 3 – 3/10 – There’s something a little off on the flavor, but it’s not enough to drop the score. Still mostly the same.
  • Week 4 – 2/10 – Tastes very soft now, like the structure is beginning to deteriorate. Weak flavor, alcohol is strangely no longer prominent in the flavor
  • Week 5 – 2/10 – The flavor profile is very different. Very soft, very meek, hardly representative of the big fruit that preceded it.
  • Average score: 2.6/10. Length of stay = 5 weeks. Final score is 3/10. Had a pretty decent stay, though it came from humble beginnings. If nothing else, you’ve got over a month to drink it.

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
  • Week 3 – 1/10 – Nose and flavor lost distinguishing characteristics. Taste mostly of acid and alcohol. Flavor is officially wince-inducing. Consider this guy retired.
  • Average score: 2.5/10. Length of stay = 3 weeks. Final score is 2/10. Started off all right, but deteriorated too quickly to make it a contender for the best boxed wine.

Washington Hills Merlot NV

  • Week 0 – 3/10 – Imbalanced (high) alcohol, decent acidity, red fruit, blueberry, oaky flavors and nose, short finish.
  • Week 1 – 3/10 – Still hot on the tongue, balanced acidity, flavors are all holding true. Nose hasn’t changed.
  • Week 2 – 3/10 – Nose and flavor are still the same, mediocre but not any worse.
  • Week 3 – 2/10 – A slightly unusual, chemical flavor is starting to come forward. It’s really affecting the flavor.
  • Week 4 – 0/10 – Nose consists entirely of alcohol now. Flavor is unrecognizable. This guy is retired.
  • Average score: 2.2/10. Length of stay = 4 weeks. Final score is 1/10. Started poorly, and the wine was essentially undrinkable after 3 weeks. Not a good trait in a boxed wine.
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4 Responses to “The Search for the Best Boxed Wine: Week 7”

  1. @nectarwine Says:

    I love the personal story interwoven in here! You never mentioned if your brother enjoyed the wine you bought him…

    Curious, how long is this Box Wine experiment going to continue? So far you’ve managed to choke down 24 liters (almost 100 bottles) of mediocre juice. You’ve got to treat yourself to some killer wine from time to time ;)

    Josh @nectarwine

    • wineaccguy Says:

      We haven’t popped the cork on it yet. He just got in a couple days ago, and we haven’t had an evening to celebrate yet. I also got us a sparkling Shiraz. I’m thinking about doing a blog post out of it, if he’ll consent. I think it’d be interesting to get his unadulterated take on the wines.

      This boxed wine experiment will continue for awhile, I think. I’ve still got access to at least a dozen more boxes, and even if it no longer exists as a weekly fixture, I can always add more boxed wine reviews in the future, keeping with the format.

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