The best box wines of 2008

“Merry Christmas!” I said to my aunt as she greeted us at the door for our annual wintry get together with my cousins. “Here’s 24 liters of wine!” Although I had told her that I would bring the wine, I hadn’t mentioned that it was eight three-liter boxes of wine. Season’s greetings!

So my relatives were the latest involuntary recruits in my effort to find the best box wines of 2008. You might think that the best box wine is kind of like being the tallest resident in Gulliver’s Lilliput. And you’d mostly be right. But since I called for more wine to be put in box format for economic and environmental reasons earlier this year, I thought that I owed it to you to do a quick survey of the landscape. I still think they make sense economically since they pack in the same amount as four regular bottles and mostly sell for around $20 (although the most expensive one I tried was $40).

What I like best about the packaging is the ability to squeeze off a glass a night for an extended period of time, thirty days or more according to the producers.

Standing tall
1. Yellow + Blue Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (about $11 for one liter; find this wine)
This organically grown red from Argentina sees no oak, is shipped to North America in a tanker where it is packaged into a Tetra Pak–think juice boxes for adults. I’ve poured this wine, introduced for the first time in 2008, many times to groups this year, often blind and from a decanter, and it has been almost universally praised. And when I tell them it’s the equivalent of $8 a bottle, they usually wonder where they can get a case.

2. “From the tank,” Estezargues, 2007. Cotes du Rhone (about $40; find this wine)
fromthetank1This big blend of grenache, syrah and carignan, has that ripe, juicy quality from many of the wines of the region. New to the US market this year, it’s organically grown and has a complexity that you really wouldn’t expect from a three liter, bag-in-box format. One word of caution: I found that this wine depreciated a week after opening so it may be best at parties, rather than nursing it over a whole month.

The best of Lilliput
Underdog Wine Merchants is a relatively new unit of The Wine Group, a boring sounding company that is actually the third largest producer of wine in America. They know a thing about box wine too since they make the dreaded Franzia, which has stigmatized the box format almost single handedly. But with Underdog, they are generally cranking quality up a notch, appealing to specific demographics with various brands, which can more often than not, seem to be trying a bit too hard with cutesy names or text on the packaging.

bohovineyardsThe best of their offerings, in my view, are the BOHO Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay (about $20 for 3L; find this wine). You won’t mistake the Cab for a St. Estephe in a blind tasting but it seems to have something approaching on structure, without excessive flab that many super-low-priced Cali Cabs have from oak chips. The Chardonnay is also restrained in it’s oak effect, a good thing in my view.

Honorable mention
Darling Hills, Ovation, South Africa (about $20 for 3L; find this wine): a 50-50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault, the workhorse grape originally from the South of France. It has a smoky note–think chipotle–that some that I served this absolutely adored, others hated. One thing’s for certain: the wine changed for the worst after only a couple of weeks of being open, so drink up.

killerjuiceKiller Juice (about $20 for 3L; find this wine): Another wine from Underdog, this wine is packaged with a Harley aesthetic and the dramatic proclamations about the “killer” quality. While I found it a little two brawny and low in acidity, it was a favorite at my aunt’s house as my cousins kept squeezing off pours from this one. A crowd pleaser.

I look forward to reviewing box wines again in 2009. Three liter box wines have been a strong growth segment for the past few years and consumer attitude, as least on this site, are ready. So I’m raising a glass in the hope that more producers will continue to see better wines in this format.

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28 Responses to “The best box wines of 2008”

  1. Tyler, why do you think it is so slow to catch on? Do you think with the economy in the crapper,it will gain some traction? I use box wine for cooking. It lasts forever,stays fresh and at least as far as cooking goes does the trick. I am looking forward to trying some box wines for consumption as well. If you want ,I will let you know which I try and what I think.
    At least to me,it seems like a no brainer.
    Merry and happy holidays and keep up the good work.

  2. Hello overthere,
    I hope you have nice hollidays. I already know that bag in box wines ar good.

    In our site we present lots of French wines, with Medoc select we where choosen for the best of Bordeaux. Our Medoc was tasted by pro’s from The Netherlands and out of 360 wines the BIB Medoc was the best.

    Further we have some Gamay, Minervoisand Roussillons wines. The sell exellent.
    The taste great. So we are expanding the assortment with Chile, Spanish, Italian en German wines in box. We even can deliver a 3 liter box with Whiskey.

    Als the best from Holland, regards Hans.

  3. I’m partial to the Boho lineup too… I haven’t been able to track down the Yellow + Blue Malbec yet, but hope to give it a try soon.

    Thanks for your support of box packaging!


  4. Hello, I’m fond of BIB. I’ave found a delicious Malbec from Franc. ChateauCessac, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm,
    tasts like barns, tabacco, very groundy, very special.
    Hou should try it.
    grtz Hans

  5. What I want to see is a BIB apparatus that can be bought empty so that I can fill it with my own blends and enjoy it over the course of some days or weeks.

    Anyone know of such a thing?
    Anyone want to make some money by creating one?
    Would there be demand, other than from me?


  6. […] post from Dr. Vino (The best box wines of 2008), lists some nice choices for box wines. I have been encouraged by the emergence of good, vintage […]

  7. Thom – the miserable quality of wine in a box is what has held the BIB format back, I would say. But with the economy not doing well, producers may be drawn to format to deliver the same wine at a lower price.

    Hi Box Wines Roger – thanks for dropping by. I’m curious what you think is the duration of a wine in BIB? Does it last the 30 – 45 days in your experience? And anyone else?

    The YB seems to have had a very strong launch for a small brand is appears to be available in a lot of states now.

  8. I’ve certainly had boxes last a month without any big change in quality, but I’ve had a few that seemed to fail more quickly. I think sometimes air gets sucked back into the bag when it starts getting low – you can hear a little “gulp” when you are pouring. Once you hear that, drink quickly. When you are pouring and see the stream slowing down, tilting the box (or even extracting the bag) will help prevent air inhalation.


  9. My own parents got into box wine around a year ago. My father, as Thom noted on the comments for himself, loves using it for his cooking. He finds it’s a financially sound, and makes just as much sense as growing your own herbs when you can.

  10. […] Dr Vino’s wine blog Dr. Vino – Chicago,IL,USA Yellow + Blue Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (about $11 for one liter; find this wine) This organically grown red from Argentina sees no oak, is shipped to … Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)11/12/08Argentina Wine2007 Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec AlamosElectricity Used to Age Wine, Infuse New Life Into Cheap Stuff […]

  11. […] Dr. Vino’s boxed-wine picks for ‘08 […]

  12. I have enjoyed both the red and white versions of From the Tank. Since I bought them for parties, they never lasted more than a few days but stayed fresh .

    Another great boxed wine that I have found in the Boston area is a Portugese Red- Alandra – 4L box made of Moreto / Castelão and sells for $19.99 at Marty’s . Bright jucy and really quaffable.


  13. […] The best box wines of 2008 […]

  14. […] came across an article a couple of days ago listing the best box wines of 2008, and thought that would be a useful topic to post about.  However, upon further examination, I […]

  15. Boxed wine is great and travels well, too. Good for camping or cooking with (if you don’t want to open a bottle that may go bad). Bota Box says it stays fresh for 45 days!


  16. Tried the Yellow+Blue Malbec and Torrontes yesterday. I must say these are by far the best boxed wines I have ever tried. And both were varietally correct and well made. If I had tasted blind I would have sworn the Torrontes was Susana Balbao’s “Crios” Torrontes…impressive.

  17. Hi, I have a resonable experiance with BIb wine and I know that de “rouge” stays very good, some of the wines are after 12 months closed in bib still nice. The “blanc” is not that “forte”
    When you open a box you can easely enjoy the wine for 8 weeks, but who are doing that. Most of the time you use the wine in a few weeks so… DRINK!
    greetings from Holland, when you are in The Hague, drop in our store.

  18. I am writing to let people know about the custom cabinets that I create specifically for boxed wines. These cabinets are are furniture quality custom units that are either free-standing, or countertop, and are available in all kinds of colors and styles. They will accept most all bladders, and eliminate the cheesy cardboard box. For boxed wines that keep so well, why not have a cabinet for them that owners will be proud to keep on display?

  19. […] “Best box wines of 2008“ Permalink | SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Would you, could you in a box?”, url: […]

  20. In many ways, being pushed by a green revolution in many segments of things we use on an everyday basis, boxed wine will certainly become more popular than it ever has before. Costs of course also factor into the mix. I try to spend some weeks every year in Italy. Where we live in Tuscany we don’t buy wine in local enoteca’s but go direct to vineyards and buy in demijohn or as I’ve seen in the recent past, many of the vineyards will sell you the wine by the box. I guess it’s another one of those changes in life that we all experience..

  21. Dr.Coleman,
    I recently tried both the Yellow+Blue Malbec and the Killer Juice Cab and found both of these wines to taste rather dreadful. The Melbec was however far superior to the Killer Juice offering in my opinion. But,is this really as good as it gets when it comes to alternative packaged wines? To say that these wines were among the best, is not saying a whole lot for this group. The Killer Juice Cab is truly abysmal and the Melbec was marginal at best. I love the “green concept” and I’m fully supportive of vineyards being “bio-dynamic”, but in the end doesn’t the wine still need to actually taste good?

    Unfortunately, I have yet to taste a good alternative packaged wine. But I remain hopeful and optimistic that one does in fact exist. I would personally love to see what a producer like Concha Y Toro, Rosemount Estates, Lindemans or Columbia Crest could do with these alternative packaging methods to really get a sense of whether or not the bad stigma associated with box wines can once and for all be laid to rest.

    For now, the Yellow+Blue Torrontes is the cream of the crop in this expanding field in my opinion.

  22. Does anyone know where I may buy Darling Hills Ovation? See it listed on this site but can’t find information. Thank you, Jackie

  23. Just wondering, have you had La Vielle Ferme in a box, (Cotes du Ventoux). Great buy.

  24. The market performance of BiB seems to differ a great deal between countries, as in Scandinavia the phase of consumer skepticism appears to be entirely over. For instance in Norway, a frairly broad selection of BiB wine is available, and recent trends indicate more quality producers will contribute, such as efforts by Vignerons d’Estezargues, Fenocchio or Bibi Graetz’ Casamatta.

    I forget my source, but was convincingly informed that the BiB should maintain freshness for approx 21 days, at which point it becomes increasingly likely that significant amounts of air will enter the bladder.

  25. Are you compiling any list for 2009 or 2010 best boxes yet? Will like to see the review as well.


  26. A searched for 2010 list. I hope you’ll enlisted them soon. Bookmarked this site.

  27. Sept 10 – Bought a box of Grand veneur reserve Cote du rhones in the boston area for 29.99 for a BBQ of ribs and chicken.

    Very juicy with real CDR character and a steal at that price.

  28. Have you updated the box wine choices?


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