The Search for the Best Boxed Wine: Week 4

The Back Story:

We’re well into our experiment now. We’ve officially opened 15 liters of the boxed stuff and spent a little over $100 to do it. Has it been worth it so far? Well… no. Not at all. But there IS hope on the horizon.

This week, I received in the mail an industry sample from Octavin Home Wine Bar, a new boxed wine distributor. They seek out up-and-coming wine-makers who would be willing to offer their wines in a more environmentally-friendly packaging. They will begin releasing their wines in May beginning with the 2008 Monthaven Central Coast Chardonnay. Coincidentally, they will also begin distributing the Pinot Evil that I reviewed two weeks ago.

To be honest, I like the direction this company has taken. They only release their wines in these distinctive packages, and they’re staking their reputation on making boxed wines that are a step above the rest. I’ve already had the Pinot Evil, and assuming the quality persists, it’s a good addition to their line-up. How does the Monthaven Chardonnay fare, though? At the very least, it exceeded my expectations.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is light gold with a greenish tinge. It appears to be fairly viscous.

The nose of the wine is predominately green apple, with oak, slight floral and tropical notes. It’s not terribly aromatic. Cool alcohol scent coming through the aroma.

The mouth feel of the wine is very full and tangy, with a moderately creamy texture.

The flavor of the wine is rather full-bodied. I’m getting apple first and foremost, as in the nose, but with a distinct oaky, buttery undertone. A hint of overripe bananas combined with floral characteristics round out the finish, which becomes a trifle bitter as it lingers. It’s off-dry, with a high acidity balancing with a considerable sweetness. I’m actually rather impressed with the flavor, though the acidity is a little high. The alcohol, at 13.5%, fits right in with this wine.

For the Casual Drinker:

I would wholly recommend this wine… if it weren’t for that bitterness. There’s just something off on the finish. As it stands, it’s still a heck of a bargain, and aside from the finish, it’s got a great flavor. It’s not over-oaked like many cheap Chardonnays from the West Coast, but it aged just long enough in American oak to pick up an extra dimension to its flavor. For the price, you can’t go wrong, especially if you’re looking for a more aggressively-flavored white wine to pair with a spicier meal.

The Conclusion:

Like the Pinot Evil, there’s just something slightly off on the flavor that ruins what could be a home run of a boxed wine. In the end, it suffers the fate of other boxed wines, and that’s being cursed to only reach the level of averageness. It retails at $23.99, averaging to $6 per bottle. If it weren’t for the lack of balance and the extreme bitterness on the finish, I would call this far and away the frontrunner for the best boxed wine. 5/10

Disclaimer: this box was provided by the distributor as a sample.

Current Line-up:

Monthaven Central Coast Chardonnay 2008

  • Week 0 – 5/10 – imbalanced (high) acidity, balanced alcohol, apple, tropical, oaky flavors and nose, medium, way too 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.

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.

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.

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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