It's been just over three years since we did one of our first major tastings of box wines ("Sipping From the Spigot," Aug. 10, 2007), and the quality just keeps getting better and better. One of the better brands, Bota Box, whose wines all run about $18 per box, makes a couple of wines that are so good you could usually fool folks into thinking they are drinking wine that costs more than $10 a bottle instead of a $4.50 equivalent. The Pinot Grigio is a perfect example. It's a California wine, so it won't taste as good as the gold standard from northeastern Italy, but nor will it taste as watery as the majority of other Italian versions. The Old Vine Zinfandel is an even bigger surprise.
Delicato Family Vineyards, Bota's owners, also makes Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin, and the taste similarity is amazing given the price disparity.
Pepperwood Grove's Big Green Box is a play on its eco-friendly container. (It should be pointed out that most all box wines are more eco-friendly than bottled wines, if only for reducing the weight for transport and avoiding the glass-making process). Pepperwood Grove's $7-a-bottle wines have always tasted like $10-12 wines, but the box wines do too, and they run $18 for the equivalent of four bottles. The California Chardonnay and Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon both possess that rarest of attributes in an inexpensive wine: palate-cleansing acidity.
The Bota Box wines are all over town now, and the Pepperwood Grove wines will be shortly. For anyone who relishes a nice wine at an unbeatable price, these are well worth trying. If you usually drink wines in the $10-15 range, these wines will come as a pleasant surprise. And, of course, the original reason for box wines is that they show no degradation after a month of being open. Try that with a bottle!
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