Remember the late ‘80s? I do! There was wine in boxes, probably some unforgivable saignée White Zinfandel that gave you a hangover just looking at it. No one drank it. At least, no one admitted that they did. Except your in-laws in Buffalo, who also stuck ice cubes in it. “Uh, no thanks, I already had a, um, spritzer.”
Once upon a time, there was no such thing as high-quality wine with a screwcap instead of a cork, too. Sometimes snobby prejudice dies a slow, rattly-breath, agonizing death in the wine world. The shocking reality is that there are now real, actual, serious, non-swill wines appearing in box-format, and, like the once-verboten screw-cap, they even have some advantages. They have a smaller ecological footprint. They stay fresh for weeks versus days. They cost less than their bottled equivalents. And, like Monsieur LeScrewcap, they completely eliminate the potential for cork taint.
However, there are still plenty of swilltastic wines that only your auntie-in-law in Buffalo wants to drink, so it can be a difficult field to navigate. Here are our picks for 10 Vins de Box that are dependably tasty. These aren’t ranked in any particular order, except that impartially listing these guys from lightest-bodied white to feistiest full-figured red.
Esporao Alandra White
A white blend from Portugal, this is an ephemeral wine made from grapes you have probably never heard of and that aren’t seen much outside of Portugal and Spain. Bright, fresh and balanced with apple and apricot notes, a bit of spice, and marine notes. Portuguese wine is under-recognized in the US, making it even more of a steal.
Big House White
A blend-and-then-some of California-sourced varietals (Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon blanc, Malvasia Bianca, Viognier and other uncredited cast members). Light, tropical-floral, dinner friendly and a slam dunk for a warm day. This wine is at it’s best chilled, preferably not with ice cubes in your glass, because c’mon. Once a Bonny Doon release, the Big House torch was passed to Georgetta Dane in 2006, and it remains delicious and intelligent.
La Petite Frog Picpoul de Pinet
This is a seriously tasty wine. Picpoul is a tart, high-acid grape not unlike Albarino. This one’s got a big personality, with lots of lemon, lime and nectarine upfront and a long, dry finish. Your new best friend for seafood.
House Wine Riesling
The Pacific Northwest, having basically conquered Pinot Noir, is really coming into its own on the Riesling front, and, being the Pac Northwest, experimentation and a maverick attitude are givens so there’s lots of diversity. (Except where ironic facial hair is concerned: That’s almost as consistent as Champagne-making.) House Wine Riesling is juicy and pleasant, with a strong honeysuckle and pineapple nose and good acidity. Rieslings are sometimes sugarbombs; this one’s quite balanced. A good friend to spicy foods.
South African whites kick a significant amount of ass. This unoaked Chardonnay is blended from cool-climate and warm-climate fruit from two of the most highly regarded Cape growing regions. The result is a smooth and quite tasty wine with a predominantly peach and vanilla character. Aromatic and pleasant. Also, it’s kind of a juice box format here.
Vina Borgia Garnacha
Spanish Garnacha is a peppery red that tends toward cherry and blueberry notes. This one highlights blackberry, blueberry licorice and spice with an earthy finish. Playful.
La Vieille Ferme Vin Rouge
A classic Rhone red (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Cinsault) and a great value. Plummy approach with an array of intriguing herbaceous notes. Earthy and dry, with spice and fruit notes alternating on the palate. Lingering finish.
Vinchio-Vaglio Serra Piemonte Barbera
Italy’s Piemonte region is home to much highly tasty wine, including this one. Deeply colored and robust. Dominant notes are black cherry spices, black cherry, plums, and black cherry (did I mention there’s a strong cherry component to this stuff?) Smooth, silky tannins. Your pal if you’re on grill-tending detail.
Bota Box Shiraz
Medium-bodied and very juicy. California Shiraz with a lot of dark fruit at the center, blackberry, fig and peppercorn nose, blueberry jam on the palate. Dense aromatics and supple texture.
Black Box Platinum Series Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon
Yep, even California Cabs can box it. Central Coast fruit, oaky and plum-forward. Pleasant aromatics (spices and tobacco, a little leathery). Blackberry-driven palate with a little vanilla on the finish.