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- Boxed wines go far beyond the Franzia that probably first comes to mind.
- Boxed wines are a great option for serving big groups on a budget.
- I recently taste-tested and compared several varieties and brands of boxed wine and detail my favorite options below.
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When you think of boxed wine, there’s a good chance that the first thing that comes to mind is the college days of head-ache inducing Franzia. The sickly sweet Fruity Red Sangria option made a frequent appearance at college parties I attended for good reason: it can serve a crowd and it’s extremely budget-friendly.
That’s true of most boxed wines. As certified sommelier and wine expert Alisha Blackwell-Calvert notes, “In a party or picnic environment and in a chef’s kitchen, boxed wines have proven to be a fuss-free addition.”
Not to mention that they’re popular with campers since they’re more packing- and environmentally-friendly than their glass bottle counterparts. Many boxed wines will keep for 30 days to six weeks after being opened, which is great for anyone who likes to have a casual glass at a time without needing to worry about having a bottle go bad.
With those benefits of boxed wine in mind, I set out to discover if Franzia was really as bad as I remembered (it was) and if there were better options I would actually enjoy sipping on (there are!). Blackwell-Calvert also gave me some handy tips on what to look for in a boxed wine to get me started.
How we tested
While I’m no sommelier myself, I’ve done plenty of wine tastings over the years both in-person and virtually, plus I’ve taste-tested my way through a good number of canned wines. And, if we’re being honest, no real wine snobs are putting wine boxes in their cellars, so most boxed wines are made with casual wine enthusiasts in mind anyway. I enlisted the help of my fiance and some friends to help me taste-test on a (socially distant) outing to a nearby park where we sipped and compared a range of options to choose our favorites.
The best boxed wines to try in 2021
- Bota Box
- House Wine
- Chateau Montaud Provence Rosé
- Vin Vault
- Viña Borgia
- Waterbrook Two Ponds
- Black Box
Found in eco-friendly and relatively easy to transport boxes, Bota Box conveniently comes in three different sizes: 3 liters, 1.5 liters, and a “mini” size of 500 milliliters. The three-liter option is the more traditional boxed wine size and your best bet for serving several people. But the minis still come out to three glasses of wine and provide a compelling case for an easier option to take on a picnic or a short weekend camping getaway.
Bota Box was a particular favorite of our taste-testing day. While every option we tried received praise from the group, the Cabernet Sauvignon was particularly tasty and the Malbec was my personal favorite of every boxed wine I sampled. It featured notes of blueberry and blackberry and had just the right amount of spice while still being easy to drink.
Bandit was another standout favorite brand for the group. Clearly marketed towards outdoor enthusiasts and those taking boxed wine on-the-go, these wines come in smaller one-liter and 500-milliliter options. The brand was founded in 2003 as an adventure-ready option and is based out of California.
Eco-conscious consumers will like that the boxes are environmentally-friendly and that 1% of all Bandit Wines sales are donated to nonprofits including the National Park Foundation and Protect Our Winters, among others.
The Insta-worthy packaging alone sets these boxes apart. Each option is based on and depicts a different national park on the box. For example, the zesty and fresh Sauvignon Blanc highlights Zion National Park in a bright green box while the bold and layered Cabernet Sauvignon reps the Grand Canyon and comes in a crimson pack.
We enjoyed several of the Bandit wines, but the boxed whites really stood out. The Sauvignon Blanc, in particular, was a highlight thanks to fresh, not-too-sweet fruity notes like green apple.
I discovered House Wines as a favorite when sampling canned wines, and its boxed wines don’t disappoint either. Created in Walla Walla, Washington, House Wine is the brainchild of an ex-rock n’ roll manager and embodies the true casual drinking spirit.
Sold in large three-liter boxes with easy-pour spouts, House Wines are a convenient option whether you stock them on your kitchen counter or the back of a truck bed for a tailgate. The rich and smooth Pinot Noir paired well with our picnic cheese plate. In general, the boxed rosés weren’t my favorite, but the House Rosé was one of the best with crisp floral and fruity notes that were particularly refreshing.
Chateau Montaud Provence Rosé
Keeping with a suggestion from Blackwell-Calvert to opt for wines from specific regions rather than general countries, I opted to try this rosé from Provence and was rewarded with my favorite of all the boxed rosés I sampled. If I hadn’t poured it out of the box myself, I would have been shocked to find out it didn’t come from a bottle.
Dry, light, and easy to drink, the citrus and fruity notes make it an excellent choice for enjoying on a hot summer day.
Vin Vault specializes in boxed wine and features a portfolio of award-winning varietals. Its head winemaker has noted that he enjoys crafting wines that benefit from the unique qualities of a box. This certainly came across in the wines we tasted, which lived up to the hype.
While I typically stay away from blends, the Red Blend was a unique and delicious flavor profile with an interesting dark roast coffee finish that really came through and made it stand out. White wine enthusiasts will also enjoy the Chardonnay, which is rich but with fruity notes that keep it from being too heavy.
While it can be harder to track this option down in its boxed version, it’s well worth it if you can find it. From the Aragon region of Spain, this wine is from vineyards planted on a plateau of the Huecha river.
The Garnacha I tasted was rich and complex, particularly for boxed wine. It featured notes of dark fruits with a spicy finish. It’s also a great option for barbecues — the winemaker notes that it pairs well with grilled veggies, pizza, and even hamburgers.
And, true to Blackwell-Calvert’s tip, at $20 for three liters, it’s an excellent value.
Waterbrook Two Ponds
Like House Wine, Waterbook is based out of Walla Walla, Washington. Established in 1984, the winery features a 49-acre vineyard and the two namesake ponds. You can sample the wines at its tasting room or in some restaurants, or you can have the wine make an appearance at your next gathering courtesy of its boxed options.
I found the Chardonnay crisp and easy to drink thanks to tropical fruit flavors and a hint of vanilla. Meanwhile, the Cab Sav has a bold and slightly acidic profile that those looking for a dryer red wine will enjoy.
Black Box is a fairly well-known brand but may come as a surprise that it’s the standard house wine at some restaurants. While it may not be the fanciest wine in town, it’s still a big step up from Franzia. For a no-fuss, easy red or white option, Black Box is an excellent choice. And, after all, boxed wine really is all about no fuss.
I personally enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc as a refreshing white option, though the Cabernet Sauvignon is a good pick for a red. And for those who truly want the college throwback, they do have a Red Sangria available.
What to look for in a boxed wine
Blackwell-Calvert gave me some handy pointers on what to consider when buying boxed wines.
“Fresh, unoaked varietals fair better in a box,” she explains. “Typically, a producer’s best juice isn’t going into a box, but I recommend looking for one with a more specific region than ‘country wine,'” she says.
While boxed wines from great foreign wine regions can be harder to track down and aren’t always as readily found online or at local stores, Blackwell-Calvert particularly recommends boxed wine from countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Sicily for great values. “Because those countries are not in high demand, you can get delicious wine at a reasonable price,” she notes.
While I preferred rosés and bubbles when I tested canned wines, I was surprised to find that overall, the reds were actually my favorites of the boxed options. However, tastes and favorites will of course vary from drinker to drinker.
Precautions to consider
Be mindful of pours
Be wary of your pours when drinking boxed wine since it can be easy to over serve when there’s an easy-pour spout at your disposal and no waiter expertly measuring out a glass.
Blackwell-Calvert echoed these cautionary sentiments adding that it’s even easier to overindulge because “with boxed wine, the contents are usually not visible to the consumer,” unlike with traditional glass bottles where you can see exactly how much is gone. “That makes it is easier to overindulge and lose track of how many glasses are consumed,” she says.
Use ice packs to keep wine chilled
Unfortunately, most boxed wines aren’t quite as easy to transport as cans, so we brought a large cooler to keep them in. We packed it with ice and quickly realized we had made a grave error.
Since many of the boxes are made of thin cardboard, they became soggy and some actually tore apart leaving us to awkwardly use just the bladders. I suggest using ice packs instead if you do plan to keep your boxed wine in a cooler.
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