It’s festival season.
As we pack up and head out for weekend-long music binges, there are certain essentials one needs to consider. Coolers, comfy flip flops, sunscreen, and, of course, boxed wine. The perfect companion to events that eschew glass containers, boxes of vino are both economically and environmentally advantageous. Unfortunately, like many low-budget alcoholic options, they also carry a well-deserved stigma of being poor quality.
Well-deserved, that is, until recently.
Like beers in cans, a new breed of cardboard-ensconced alcoholic grape juice has been making waves, replacing the low-budget suburban mom’s pink party drink of choice with at least somewhat artisanal selections. Chief among these is the Bota Box, an earthy brown rectangle containing the equivalent of four standard 750ml bottles of wine for a measly $20. Unlike many of their substandard compatriots, Bota Box has been working hard to bridge the gap between rotgut and Rothschild, and they deliver, at least to a point.
For the sake of this review, we got our hands on their 2012 Cabernet. Claiming vaguely to be from “Valle Center, Chile”—a broad swath of the country’s chief wine-producing region that spans climate-types and almost 250 miles—bang-for-your-buck-wise you really can’t go wrong.
In fact, once you get past the fact that you’re serving yourself wine from a spicket, it’s pretty danged good. We used standard issue red plastic keg cups to complete the festival vibe, and there’s something oddly appropriate about the way the purple-y juice reflects in their white lined interior. While you aren’t going to get the intense complexity of a more select wine, that’s also not really what you’re going for here. Let’s face it, sipping wine while running around listening to music is generally a quantity over quality game, and for that purpose the Bota Box is ideal.
Heavy on red berry flavors, it does dip into darker territory with an earthy tang, though after the first glass (cup?) full your palate is no longer picking up any of the finer points, and it’s essentially a heavy adult fruit juice. Noticeably lacking is the sickly sweetness or stomach-curdling acidity that often accompanies super cheap wines, and for this alone I really can’t recommend it enough. It’s even good enough to have at home with a steak or spaghetti and meatballs, though if you live somewhere über-hip and food-y you may want to transfer it from the box to a bottle before parading it in front of potentially judgmental guests (we had fun doing this and then watching friends with supposedly “refined” tastes compliment it).
Like any wine, once you remove the conceit it’s really all about taste, and for price and convenience this one tastes more than fine.
Added perk—once your wine tap has seemingly run dry, you get to rip the box open and perform a ritual known as “milking the bag”, in which the plastic bladder is held aloft and the remaining splash of juice is drank directly, and preferably dramatically, from the push-button dispenser.
One word of advice: don’t forget you’re drinking bulk wine, often in bulk quantities. Where a typical bottle will yield four modest glasses, there is no such self-arrest on the sugar-filled three liter Bota Box, which means that it’s much easier to find yourself with one heck of a throbbing headache the next morning. And an epic case of wine lips.