The Search for the Best Boxed Wine Wrap-Up

After many interesting weeks of buying and rating boxed wines, I’ve finally concluded my experiment. I set out to prove that boxed wines were a viable alternative to bottled wines, and that winemakers would eventually embrace this trend. Along the way, I learned a few things about boxed wine:

Boxed wines actually test better than bottled wines for flavor-altering chemicals, but phenomenally worse for oxidation. The PET bladder that most boxed wines use is oxygen-permeable. Until a better alternative presents itself, oxidation will always be an ongoing problem.  This means that:

Red wines will last about a year after they’ve been boxed. Basically, it’s unwise to pick up any vintage more than 2 years old. The 2008s I was drinking on weren’t all that impressive in 2010. The extra sulfites present help prevent oxidation.

White wines will last about 6 months after they’ve been boxed. Once we hit 2011, avoid the 2009s like the plague. If you can catch last year’s vintage early in the year, you should expect the wine to be at its peak.

I was very, very hard-pressed to find a Rosé boxed wine. There must still be concern of too much backlash against two historically reviled trends combined in one product.

There are very expensive boxed wines out there, up to and way over $50 per box. For the purposes of this experiment, I declined to include those.

edit:: @Tishwine on Twitter asked why I didn’t try more imports. I only used the boxed wines I could get at local wine shops, Total Wine, and grocery stores. Consider me very intrigued, however, as I’ve noticed some interesting boxed wines at a high price point, and I’m almost certain to get into more expensive or rarer fare for a future post.

Now that I’m done, I’ve compiled all the wines I tested, summed up the experiences in a quick paragraph, and gave each one an overall rating that encompasses flavor and longevity.

Was I pleased with the results?

Yes. Yes I was.

I had horrible wines, I had good wines, and I had one prime example of what boxed wines can be.

The trend?

Octavin was hands down the best distributor, giving me my top 5 wines. Because they’re expressedly focused on legitimizing the word “premium” in boxed wines, I have to give them a special shout-out for all the leg work they did to attract passionate, open-minded producers.

Before I give anything else away, please, check out the wines!

The results (ranked in order from best to worst):

Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc2009 Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc: 7/10. This is a classic, aggressive, beautifully flavored Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I actually had a lot of trouble keeping my pace with this box. It drank so well for so long, I actually finished it a week early. If you can get the 2009 before we hit 2011, I highly, highly recommend it for anyone who likes a crisp, acidic Sauv Blanc.

Seven wine boxNV Bodegas Osbourne Seven: 6/10. This hearty Spanish red blend of seven varietals is an interesting mix of red fruits, spice, and earthiness. It has a very smooth mouth feel, though the alcohol flavor is a little too prominent. A very pleasant, versatile offering that has a good staying power.

Pinot Evil labelNV Pinot Evil Pinot Noir: 5/10. This is a very interesting, very simple Pinot Noir. Somehow, and I don’t know how, a bargain-priced Pinot Noir manages to be more than drinkable; it’s actually delicious! There’s a bit of an imbalance, and the metallic undertaste keeps it from being better than good. Still, if you’re looking for a pleasantly tannic, light red-fruit-flavored wine, you could do worse than this guy.

2008 Monthaven Central Coast Chardonnay: 5/10. Though I’m not usually an oaked Chardonnay fan, this boxed wine didn’t disappoint. The imbalanced acidity is especially palpable on the finish, which is cruelly bitter. The flavor deteriorates a bit too much after 3 weeks, but until then, it’s a very serviceable, average white wine.

2008 Big House Red: 5/10. This mind-boggling blend of varietals manages to even out into an agreeable, lean, balanced combination of dark floral and red-fruit flavors. The only issue with it is that after 3 weeks, the flavor significantly deteriorates. If you’re doing a weekend trip and need a lot of wine in a small space, this is definitely a good candidate.

Angel-Juice-Pinot-Grigio2009 Angel Juice Pinot Grigio: 4/10. I’m not a Pinot Grigio fan by any means, but this wine’s apple and melon flavors were actually pretty tolerable. Became harsh rather quickly. Still made it most of the way while still being drinkable. If you’re a Pinot Grigio fan, I say have at it. If you’re not, there’s no reason to sniff near this box.

2006 Bota Box Shiraz: 3/10. Imbalanced, lacking in flavor, but hanging onto its meager flavor for much of the experiment. This Shiraz is typical for a bad Shiraz. If you can get past the lack of balance, and you really like your black fruits, I guess you could do worse. I’d personally rather deal with the extra weight and volume of 4 bottles than buy this wine.

2008 Wine Cube California Vintner’s Red Blend: 3/10. I feel dirty giving this wine a score even that high, but to be honest, it was consistent and drinkable. Way too much oak, way too little tannic structure, and a flavor of vanilla sugar made the flavor offensive to my tastebuds, so if you don’t like oak, don’t get within 50 feet of this wine.

NV Double Dog Dare Chardonnay: 2/10. I’m not going to split hairs here; this wine is barely drinkable. It maintains its plain apple flavor fairly well, though it picks up an odd chemical note that just won’t go away. I can’t think of a situation in which I would recommend this wine.

2008 Black Box Monterey Chardonnay: 2/10. Had a lifespan not terribly longer than a bottled counterpart. Its flavors were not impressive to begin with, and the structure just wasn’t there. It had a briny, throat-clogging acidity that made it the opposite of smooth. This is best consumed within a weekend. Again, go for a bottled Chard instead.

NV Washington Hills Merlot: 1/10. Not a good representative of a state that produces quality Merlot. The red fruit and blueberry flavors are obscured by too much oak, and the structure is just off. It doesn’t last long once opened, and the experience wasn’t much to write home about anyways. If you’re serving to a lot of people who like oak, maybe this will do in a pinch, but it’s simply not a viable long-drinking option for most of us.

The Search for the Best Boxed Wine: Week 10

The Back Story:

Ladies and gentlemen, the first iteration of the Search for the Best Boxed Wine has come to an end. After this boxed wine is exhausted, we will take a hiatus to allow the boxed wine market to change and develop. Once the 2009s are in full swing, we’ll revisit the experiment. Until then, I’ll continue to monitor these boxed wines, and I’ll create a full wrap-up post at the end of June. I appreciate you guys sticking through with this, giving me your attention, and not mocking me too much as I binged on mediocre juice. Hopefully we’ve at least been able to change a few minds about the economic viability of serving wine in bag-in-boxes.

I was hoping to end the first 10 weeks with a really kick-ass boxed wine, one that would put all the others to shame. We head to the unplumbed depths of the “award winning” 2009 Angel Juice Pinot Grigio in search of untold beauty wrapped in PET and cardboard.

(Disclosure, I snort-laughed when I noticed the “Outstanding Value” label on the box.)

The Results:
Angel-Juice-Pinot-Grigio
The appearance of the wine is a slightly pale straw, and it appears to have a medium viscosity.

The nose of the wine is very sweet and ripe, with tropical notes, melon, and citrus. Alcohol is detectable but not particularly hot at 12.5%.

The mouth feel of the wine is medium-bodied, a bit creamy, but it has a dead-weight kind of feel to it. Not a whole lot of activity.

The flavor of the wine is surprisingly bland. There’s a bit of honeydew melon and lime, but that’s basically it. Finish consists of, as far as I can tell, some sort of tropical fruit, possibly ripe banana. It’s difficult to tell because the balance is a bit off… you can taste the acidity on the finish. Alcohol is pretty well balanced, at least at around 50 degrees. As soon as the wine warmed up a bit, the flavor actually got a little bit more open. Apple became detectable, even prominent, and the citrus and melon flavors matched the acidity even better.

For the Casual Drinker:

It’s difficult to entirely recommend this wine. Pinot Grigio isn’t known for having an aggressive flavor, but that’s exactly what this wine needs in order to counteract the acidity and alcohol. As such, you’re getting a good, pleasant flavor, but it’s tempered by the imbalance. The acidity is definitely a heartburn risk and it’s a bit temperature sensitive, so don’t serve it too cold or the flavors will be too subdued. The flavor’s not opening up any in the glass.

The Conclusion:

At $20.00, or $5.00 per bottle, it’s certainly filling its niche as a bargain wine. It’s not inherently bad, just a bit flawed, but at that price, it’s perfectly fine. 5/10.

Current Line-Up:

Angel Juice Pinot Grigio 2009

  • Week 0 – Decent Pinot Grigio flavor, slight imbalance, opens up as it warms.

Bodegas Osbourne Seven NV

  • Week 0 – 6/10 – Red-fruit, spicy, slightly earthy. Bit imbalance in the alcohol. Very smooth and well-rounded.
  • Week 1 – 6/10 – Still a great flavor and a good balance. Still a pleasant tannic character.

Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc 2009

  • Week 0 – 6/10 – Tropical, citrus, herbal flavors and nose. Slightly imbalanced acidity and alcohol.
  • Week 1 – 6/10 – Very similar to last week. Possibly I forgot to flesh this out last week :-). It’s still great.
  • Week 2 – 6/10 – Very good flavor, balance is maybe a little bit more off.

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.
  • Week 1 – 2/10 – Flavor and balance have taken a dive. The chemical from the nose is noticeable on the flavor
  • Week 2 – 2/10 – Consistent from the last week. Weak flavor and nose, imbalance.
  • Week 3 – 2/10 – Still doing what it does. It’s imbalanced, chemically, but still clinging to its flavor.

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
  • Week 2 – 5/10 – Harshness has intensified. The flavors are still good, just slowly fading.
  • Week 3 – 4/10 – Alcohol is detectable in the mouthfeel, finish, and nose. Flavor is a bit rougher.
  • Week 4 – 3/10 – Odd cigarette flavor and scent now… this wine is not lasting well at all.

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.

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.
  • Week 4 – 3/10 – Flavor has deteriorated further. Alcohol flavor is starting to take a prominent feature.
  • Week 5 – 3/10 – Held steady for the final week. Still drinkable, and the flavor’s still partially there.
  • Average score: 4.2/10. Length of stay = 5 weeks. Final score is 5/10. Though it didn’t finish strongly, this boxed wine is good for a few weeks of very tasty drinking.

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.
  • Week 3 – 3/10 – Same flavor, just a bit weaker. Odd buttered popcorn scent on the nose now.
  • Week 4 – 3/10 – Alcohol is becoming prominent on the nose and flavor. Other than that, it’s holding up well
  • Week 5 – 1/10 – Became much harsher, flavor took a nose-dive. It’s about time… it’s time to retire.
  • Average score: 2.7/10. Length of stay = 5 weeks. Final score is 3/10. I really didn’t want to like this wine, but it held up extremely well after being opened. Too bad it simply wasn’t well made.

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.

The Search for the Best Boxed Wine Week 9

The Back Story:

The boxed wine we’re covering this week, Seven by Bodegas Osbourne, is a fascinating study in terroir and structure. We’re familiar with that famous French / Aussie blend, GSM, comprised of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, and the qualities that each component brings to the table. Syrah is the big, meaty, aggressive wine, contributing massive tannins and dark fruits to the wine. Mourvèdre, with its delayed ripening, brings a higher acidity and more nuanced structure to the mix. Grenache, a lighter, sweeter, and soft wine, craves the structure and tannins the other two provide. It’s an example of a basic, well-reasoned and -tested formula for a successful blend.

If GSM is an algebra equation, Seven is calculus integration. Though not nearly as staggering as the Big House Red’s array of varietals, this wine still has an extensive list of varietals to sift through. It consists of 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 18% Shiraz, 8% Tempranillo, 8% Garnacha (Grenache), 8% Petit Verdot, and 8% Graciano.

The wine begins with the potent structure of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz, and the dry, red fruit profile these grapes bring to the table are tempered by the earthiness and softness of Spanish stalwarts Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Graciano. These grapes all take on the terroir of Spain incredibly well, and the combination of aggressive tannins in the big reds, softer, gentler profile of the Grenache and Tempranillo, and high acidity of the Petit Verdot and Graciano should make for an interesting experience.

The Results:

Seven wine boxThe appearance of the wine is a deep red with a slight ruby tint and a pure translucency. It appears to have an average viscosity.

The nose of the wine is a bit hot, featuring mainly red-fruit and spice with a distinct milk chocolate scent and a note of leather. Smells rather like a cordial cherry.

The mouth feel of the wine is fairly medium-bodied, very smooth. The tannins are palpable but not very prominent. The alcohol is very detectable here, lending the wine its light and airy smoothness.

The flavor of the wine is, like the nose, a simple red-fruit and spice affair. There are simple, broad flavors of cherry and cinnamon. It’s slightly earthy, leathery, with a metallic tinge, and there is a detectable oak. The finish is medium, a bit shorter than expected, accompanied by chocolate. There’s a bit of sweetness offsetting a surprisingly tame tannic profile. It has a very good balance, though the alcohol comes through quite a bit, especially on the finish.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is a nice, tame, simple red wine with a very agreeable flavor profile. Not too big, not too tannic, not too sweet, this is a crowd-pleaser. The chocolate and cherry flavors will suit most palates, and the lack of “chewy” tannins should make this at least acceptable to white wine drinkers. It’s a bit tame, so keep it away from overly spicy meals, especially tomato-based soups and sauces. Most red meat, though, is fair game.

The Conclusion:

The massive varietal blend equals out to a relatively simple fruit- and chocolate-centric wine. For a red wine, especially boxed, this is pretty good. 6/10

Current Line-up:

Bodegas Osbourne Seven NV

  • Week 0 – 6/10 – Red-fruit, spicy, slightly earthy. Bit imbalance in the alcohol. Very smooth and well-rounded.

Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc 2009

  • Week 0 – 6/10 – Tropical, citrus, herbal flavors and nose. Slightly imbalanced acidity and alcohol.
  • Week 1 – 6/10 – Very similar to last week. Possibly

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.
  • Week 1 – 2/10 – Flavor and balance have taken a dive. The chemical from the nose is noticeable on the flavor
  • Week 2 – 2/10 – Consistent from the last week. Weak flavor and nose, imbalance.

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
  • Week 2 – 5/10 – Harshness has intensified. The flavors are still good, just slowly fading.
  • Week 3 – 4/10 – Alcohol is detectable in the mouthfeel, finish, and nose. Flavor is a bit rougher.

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.
  • Week 3 – 3/10 – Same flavor, just a bit weaker. Odd buttered popcorn scent on the nose now.
  • Week 4 – 3/10 – Alcohol is becoming prominent on the nose and flavor. Other than that, it’s holding up well

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.

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.
  • Week 4 – 3/10 – Flavor has deteriorated further. Alcohol flavor is starting to take a prominent feature.
  • Week 5 – 3/10 – Held steady for the final week. Still drinkable, and the flavor’s still partially there.
  • Average score: 4.2/10. Length of stay = 5 weeks. Final score is 5/10. Though it didn’t finish strongly, this boxed wine is good for a few weeks of very tasty drinking.

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.

The Search for the Best Boxed Wine: Week 8

The Back Story:

This weekend was the first weekend in a long time where I had absolutely no obligations. I got to watch baseball and basketball, get caught up on some work, and, perhaps most importantly, enjoy a glass of wine on the porch without interruption. At 1PM, the temperature was in the mid-80s, the sun was bright without a cloud in the sky. My friends, this was a day that called for a Sauvignon Blanc.

Coincidentally, on Thursday, I got two more boxed wine industry samples, a red and a white. While I’m certainly not one to judge someone’s drinking preferences, I was in absolutely no mood to have a red wine on such a gorgeous, warm day. To kill two birds with one stone, I decided to go ahead and get my boxed wine tasting done early so that, in case the boxed wine was in fact a good one, I’d have a near limitless supply of buzz for my lazy Saturday. I can tell you for a fact I got a nice little sunburn that afternoon. What about the wine? Well… the wine I opened that day was the Silver Birch 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. It’s from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, so if you know what that means, you pretty much already know what to expect from this wine.

The Results:

Silver Birch Sauvignon BlancThe appearance of the wine is a very pale straw, and it appears to have an average viscosity.

The nose of the wine is primarily tropical and citrus, with a slight heat coming from the alcohol. There are distinct notes of mango and lime, and I’m getting a hint of herbs as well. It actually smells like a dry Viognier.

The mouthfeel of the wine is lighter and active, as Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough are wont to be, and it packs a punch in its compact frame, as Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough are wont to do.

The flavor of the wine is very dry, very crisp, with an attack of tart orange and lemon flavors with a hint of sage. There’s a bit of cut grass, and a medium finish of watermelon candy. The flavor holds up fairly well to the acidity and alcohol (at 13%), which are both more prominent than they should be but don’t get in the way of the flavor too badly.

For the Casual Drinker:

As with pretty much any New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you’re getting a dry, highly acidic wine. Heartburn? Check. The flavors are fairly typical for a Sauvignon Blanc, so you’re getting mainly citrus with some subtle tropical and herbaceous notes. The standard Sauvignon Blanc pairings apply here: veggie dishes, lighter seafood fare, chicken with a lighter spice or pepper rub, and sushi. It’s very crisp and refreshing, a perfect wine for being out in the hot sun.

The Conclusion:

This wine is as good as any sub-$10 Sauv Blanc I’ve tasted, and at $22, or $5.50 per bottle, it’s a fantastic bargain. The only issue I have with it is a minor imbalance, and it’s easy enough to overlook and enjoy. 6/10

Note: This boxed wine was provided by the distributor as an industry sample.

Current Line-up:

Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc 2009

  • Week 0 – 6/10 – tropical, citrus, herbal flavors and nose. Slightly imbalanced acidity and alcohol.

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.
  • Week 1 – 2/10 – Flavor and balance have taken a dive. The chemical from the nose is noticeable on the flavor

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
  • Week 2 – 5/10 – Harshness has intensified. The flavors are still good, just slowly fading.

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.
  • Week 3 – 3/10 – Same flavor, just a bit weaker. Odd buttered popcorn scent on the nose now.

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.
  • Week 4 – 3/10 – Flavor has deteriorated further. Alcohol flavor is starting to take a prominent feature.

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.

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.

3/10

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.

The Search for the Best Boxed Wine: Week 6

The Backstory:

I’m noticing a trend in my higher-scoring boxed wines, and it’s something that I set out to prove with this experiment. Artisanal wineries are beginning to use the boxed wine packaging to great benefit. Now that I’ve had my third offering from them, I can safely say now without feeling like a shill that Octavin Home Wine Bar is leading the charge of bringing boxed wine out of the supermarket territory and into the, well, the wine bar territory. I’ve paid for one of theirs (the Pinot Evil) and received two samples so far, and those three are my top scoring boxed wines thus far. See my review of the Monthaven Chardonnay for a description of their business model.

The 2008 Big House Red is a California blend of thirteen different varietals. It might sound like a lot, but the 2006 blend actually had twenty grapes that went into the mix. The winemaker, Georgetta Dane, essentially sets out every year to create a dynamic blend out of a vast palette of varietals. This year, the winning varietals were as follows: Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Montepuliciano, Mourvedre, Sangiovese, Algianico, Tannat, Nero D’Avola, Sargentino, Touriga, Barbera, and Petit Verdot. I can’t even begin to crunch the individual characteristics each varietal brings to the blend, but as far as the overall wine is concerned, I’ve got you covered.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a very deep reddish violet, a pure translucency with a bright violet tint at the edge. The swirl suggests a somewhat thin texture and viscosity.

The nose of the wine is rather hot with notes of black cherry and redcurrant. There’s a certain baking spice smell to it, leather, and and a perfume-y floral scent that’s heavy in violets.

The mouth feel of the wine is medium-bodied with a somewhat lean and dusty texture. It’s a far cry from the “big red” feel that the varietals in the blend would suggest. That’s not a knock against it, it’s just a bit unusual.

The flavor of the wine is an interesting profile of an atypical “fruit bomb.” It’s jammy, I definitely get that, but there’s a distinct absence of the typical sweeter red and black vine and tree fruits. The fruit I’m getting on the attack is cranberry, matched very well by a very light, powdery dryness. It has a surprisingly meek flavor considering the varietals involved and the alcohol level of 13.5%. It’s almost harmonious; the acidity is a bit low but palpable. The alcohol, however, integrates very well into the flavor. The tannins are softer than you would expect, but with the nuanced flavor, it’s a good balance. There are also hints of plum, allspice, and vanilla on the mid-palate. I’m getting oak, but it’s not overwhelming. There’s a medium finish of rhubarb, which is actually a pleasant flavor to fade out on.

For the Casual Drinker:

This wine has the potential to be a big, hearty fruit bomb, but the enormous blend softens it out and tones down the fruit flavors with some vegetable and floral qualities. It’s not sweet, not too potent, not overly alcoholic… it’s an all-around smooth and nuanced wine. It’s bigger than a Pinot Noir, meeker than a Syrah, and leaner than a Cabernet Sauvignon. This limits its pairing options: it’s more suited to a cheese or pork dish, something that doesn’t contain an overwhelming amount of spice, pepper, and tomato. I tried it with a tamer creole-chicken-based pasta dish, and the wine was just mellow enough to match.

The Conclusion:

This is the first boxed wine I’ve experienced so far that I would absolutely recommend to someone. It certainly surpasses the quality of most bottled wines in its price range (at $21.99 for 3 liters, it would retail at approximately $5.50 per bottle). I’d rank it well above the Pinot Evil, which was my front-runner for the best boxed wine thus far. 7/10

Also good to see the discriminating drinker over at Drink Hacker giving this a try. Check out the glowing review of this wine as well as the not-quite-as-glowing review of the Monthaven Chardonnay

Note: this wine was provided by the distributor as a sample.

I missed this yesterday, but for a second opinion on this wine, check out Brian Wing’s Norcal Wingman for his review posted May 10.

Current Line-up:

Big House Red, California 2008

  • Week 0 – 7/10 – lean, light texture, floral and red-fruit flavors, good balance, slightly hot nose, medium finish

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.

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

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.

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.

Retired Line-up:

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.

The Search for the Best Boxed Wine: Week 5

The Backstory:

There’s really not much to the story of this wine, the 2008 Vintner’s Red Blend Wine Cube, California. It’s a Target exclusive, out of a set of at least eight varieties, and according to their packaging is the only one to win a significant gold medal. Information about this vintage of the wine is nearly impossible to find. All I have is the packaging to go on: it’s a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, percentages unknown. That’s it.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is more translucent than I would have expected, a deep red with a slight violet tint at the very edge. It appears to be rather thin.

The nose of the wine is primarily red-fruits, though it’s also very oaky, and there are distinct cherry and strawberry scents. At 13.5% alcohol, the nose is a bit hot, but it’s not terrible.

The mouth feel of the wine is rather thin and rather light-bodied. There’s not much structure to this wine.

The flavor of the wine is way overoaked… I’m getting a ton of vanilla and a rather high amount of sweetness, and it’s overwhelming almost all the meager red-fruit flavors. What I can detect is a black cherry and strawberry, and it’s got a rather high amount of alcohol flavor. Very short finish. It honestly tastes like weak vanilla extract.

For the Casual Drinker:

It’s not a typical red, though it’s a more typical cheap red. I cannot see that many people would be willing to drink down 3 liters of this stuff, seeing as how the flavor is so simple and so poorly represented. It must have been pretty bad to get this much oak. You could maybe make sangria with it, though, if you needed a cheap, quick fix for an outdoor party and only had a Target nearby.

The Conclusion:

Based on the fact that there’s an overwhelming vanilla presence, and the result of the winemaking is a too-sweet red wine, I’m tempted to give it a near-undrinkable rating. Since flavor is subjective, though, I’ll relent. After all, though the structure is weak, it’s not an overwhelmingly unpleasant wine. 3/10

Current Line-up:

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.

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

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.

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.

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

Retired 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
  • 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.
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