Box vs bottle blind

99990lDoes a wine from a box taste any different from the same wine in a bottle?

I recently led a tasting and we were able to put this question to the test. I poured the Domaine Grand Veneur, Cotes du Rhone, reserve, 2007 from a bottle (retail: $14) and a three-liter box ($45) and served them blind in two glasses. (search for this wine)

The assembled group couldn’t really discern one from the other. While everyone agreed that the wine was a good value, some people preferred one over the other but the reasoning was all over the map. Although this sounds like a non-finding, it is interesting that neither format outpaced the other even though one format is decidedly less expensive per ounce/glass.

I look forward to trying this experiment again but it is difficult to find the exact same wine packaged in two different formats. Domaine des Estezargues, Cotes du Rhone 2007 and apparently there’s one from Washington State; hit the comments if you’ve done a tasting like this or know of other wines in both formats for our further experimentation.

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22 Responses to “Box vs bottle blind”

  1. It’s not only complicated to find wines packaged in both bottle and box, but also to find bit more complex wine worth the test (don’t see a point doing it with the lowest level cheap crap). Here in Czech Republic it’s actually easiest to do it with same wine as you did, Domaine grand Veneur’s CdR. I did similar test with Domaine du Chardonnay 2006 Chablis from 5L box and classic 0.75l bottle and almost everybody preferred box, but because slight bottle oxidation, I suppose. And we never repeated the experiment 🙂

  2. Thanks, Tyler, for offering outside confirmation of something we’ve been saying for nearly a year now. We carry the wine in both formats, and there is no appreciable difference between the two, except perhaps that the wine in the bag will last longer because there is essentially no air contact.

    For a white experiment, I’d propose the Cave de Pomerols Picpoul de Pinet, which is available in glass under the name “Hugues de Beauvignac” (and sometimes “Le Jade”) and in box under the name “La Petite Frog.” Yes, really. (My favorite bit is the cartoon frog, shown drinking a glass of red.)

  3. Hi J.Č. / Jižní svah – Thanks for chiming in. Funny that the Grand Veneur is available there too in box; as I understood it, the 07 is only the second vintage available in the US. But there have always been more (or, better) wines in a box in Europe anyway. What was the price you paid?

    Hi Dave, Glad to hear you had the same experience w the same wine.

    Oh, and here’s the Washington State wine I was trying to remember: Powers Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, which is $14/btl and $24 for 3L box. At least it seems to be the same according to their site.

  4. And even if you think it would be the same wine from the looks of the labeling, it is not necessarily the case.

  5. Per – True, you should always check the lot numbers!

    But do you have reason to believe that, beyond lots, a wine with the same name from the same producer and year would be different from bottle to box?

  6. Felix Salmon weighs in with this comment on twitter: Ideally you’d drink only half the wine in the bottle, then repeat the tasting 5 days later.

    Ha, yes, that would certainly decide it!

  7. The Cuvee de Pena (Cotes Catalan AOC I believe) is available in bottle and box, and the importer told me that it’s the same wine. I have not compared them, though.

  8. Alandra’s Tinto (from Spain) comes in bottle and box.

    Note that while a “tapped” box keeps oxygen out of the wine better than an uncorked bottle, a box with plastic lining is more permeable than a sealed bottle.

    i.e., Don’t cellar your boxes

  9. I believe in a blind tasting you wouldn’t find much difference, however the overall experience of uncorking a bottle and pouring a glass would make the bottled wine more enjoyable. Another thing to mention is in areas where there aren’t a large community of wine connoisseurs the higher end bottled wines tend to go a little south sitting on the shelves out in the light. I have noticed their box counterparts tend to keep better on the market shelves.

  10. I would be curious to see the difference in free SO2 levels between the box and bottled wines. My expectation is that the box will have a much higher FSO2 to counter act the effects of oxidation; which is inherent in box wine.

  11. “you should always check the lot numbers!” It would be odd if two bottlings had the same lot number – one batch=one lot. So a box and a btl would not have the same number. Normally.

    Since boxes account for 50%+ of consumption in Sweden this is an issue that has been extensively discussed in that wine-impoverished country.

    I have only followed the discussion at a distance (thank God). Sometimes wine seem to be different, sometimes not. (As often in wine, there is not ONE answer.)

    But there seems to be two conclusions:

    – wine spoils quicker in (unopened) boxes than in (unopened) bottles, so after some time it will inevitably be different

    – some producers seem to put different wines in boxes than in bottles even though the label indicates that it is the same wine

    On the other hand, does it matter?

    Do you WANT to buy a wine in box? Then do it.

    But don’t expect marvels.

  12. DrCraze–the aesthetic side of it can be replicated using a decanter or even an old empty wine bottle. In fact, I’m surprised I don’t see that suggestion more often–fill the decanter in the kitchen and serve at the table rather than filling wine glasses straight from the box and carrying them to the table.

    Red Truck offers the same wine in traditional bottles as well as a box that’s shaped and decorated to look like a wine barrel.

  13. There’s an Italian IGT called Giacomo that comes in both formats.

  14. Derrick: Reputable producers are the first to acknowledge that bax-in-box wine is not meant for cellaring!

  15. Benito~For me I guess its the whole ritual involved in having an actual bottle of wine. As of late I no longer buy boxed wine, not for taste reasons, only because I recycle the bottles in many of my products.

  16. While I can’t offer any empirical data to either support or refute the box vs. bottle controversy, I can support the consensus that the Domaine Grand Veneur, Cotes du Rhone, reserve, 2007 is an incredible value. I completely agree with the tasting notes and rating by the WA. I am sipping it right now and enjoying it more then I’ve enjoyed wines costing 10 times more. One thing I’ve learned is that when it comes to wine – price and quality don’t always coincide. This wine is an incredible value (I paid $11 for it)

  17. I have had both the Grand Veneur CdR and the Picpouls (all from Cave de Pomerols) mentioned in the comments in both box and bottle numerous times…but never together.
    My impressions were that I slightly preferred the boxed versions in the case of both wines. They just seemed brighter and fresher. However, in no instance did I drinker “deeper” into the boxes – just had a taste when they were first opened.

  18. I doubt that wine in a box can be stocked without degradation for more than a few years.
    It will mostly depend on the materials used for the inside bag.

  19. You could also try the 2008 Caves de Pomerol/Hugue Beaulieu Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc. Same importer as the Grand Veneur – Kysela – so whoever supplied the Veneur CDR will surely have access to this wine too. The BIB picpoul is called “Petit Frog”, but it’s the same wine from the same producer.

  20. The only wine I’ve ever had in both BiB and bottle was one of Brocard’s Bourgognes (either Jurassic or Kimm.), but they weren’t side by side so not really a comparison (I liked both).

    I’m a geeky guy who likes trying different things , matching with meal, etc. So no “house wines” for me. But I did recently have the 07 “From the Tank” CdR (Domaine des Estezargues I believe) from BiB, someone who just wants a good food-friendly red to have a glass or two each night would find a bargain there.

  21. I’ve tasted the 2007 Grand Veneur CdR from bottle and box back-to-back (although not blind). The bottle had been open for some time (perhaps a day?) andthe wine from the box tasted a bit fresher, but the difference was not huge. It is a very good value in either format.

  22. […] boxed wine vs. bottled: most people can’t seem to tell which is which, from the little bit of reading I’ve […]


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