Russ Winton: Wine List

Russ Winton: Don’t box yourself in

Boxed wines sales are up. Just visit the wine wall in your local supermarket and count the number of boxed wine brands available. The reason is simple. Wine drinkers have discovered the wine in the box today is not at all like the sweet-blush-swill they drank in the 1980s. Over the past five years, the quality of the wine put into boxes has increased dramatically.

The wine box was an Australian invention, patented in 1965 by winemaker Tom Angove of Angove’s Winery. The bag-in-the-box idea spread to South Africa and Europe, where it was readily accepted – but in the United States, not so much. The stigma of the sweet ’80s plonk contributed to the idea that all wines in boxes were cheap and if you did buy it, you were looking for quantity rather than quality. That has all changed.

Wine boxes have several advantages over glass bottles. There is no need for a corkscrew and therefore no possibility of cork taint. Wine boxes are shatter-proof, portable, convenient (it fits neatly in the refrigerator), environmentally friendly (recyclable packaging and lower carbon footprint) and, best of all, the wine stays fresh for up to six weeks. Your leftover wine is safe from oxidation. A 3-liter wine box is equal to four bottles of wine, which will give you 20 five-ounce glasses of wine, perfect for large Super Bowl-like parties, picnics or camping trips.

In our house we have boxed wines available for that cup called for in a recipe or to solve the most common problem in our house, not quite coming out even with dinner and needing just one more glass. We also keep it chilled for drop-in guests who always expect a glass or two.

We serve it in a chilled carafe, which looks a heck of a lot better than a cardboard box sitting on the coffee table. We pour good daily wine, not Friday or Sunday wine. The wine is not so serious that it requires deep thinking, or head nodding, or concentrated introspection. It’s good daily wine, period. I suggest you refrigerate both white and red and decant them so they can breathe for 20 minutes or more. The SRP for a 3-liter wine box is around $20 but usually sale priced for $18 or less, which figures out to less than $5 a bottle.

What’s in our carafe

The Bota Box brand always has been a favorite of mine. Its pinot grigio, shiraz and old vine zinfandel are excellent. The Black Box Chilean sauvignon blanc, the Argentinian malbec and the California merlot are definitely worth tracking down. The Wine Cube, sold only at Target, produces an excellent pinot grigio, Riesling and pinot noir.

Good luck wine box hunting and remember: It’s time to think what’s inside the box.