Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I've been drinking a box wine for a month!

I often tell everyday wine drinkers they should drink more box wine. For the last few weeks, I put my mouth where ... well, I put some box wine in it. A lot of box wine.

There are a number of great things about box wine:

* It's actually in a plastic pouch inside the box that deflates as you take wine from it, so the wine isn't exposed to oxygen. An open box of wine in your fridge might stay good for a month.

* A 3-liter box contains the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine, and is much cheaper per ounce.

* Glass is heavy, so shipping a box of wine from France takes less fuel and is better for the environment.

Box wine hasn't caught on in this country because a lot of indifferent wine is sold in boxes, and people blame the medium for the message. New York Times political columnist Gail Collins once published a book that called wine in a box one of the Ten Worst Ideas of the Millennium, a list that also included foot binding and trench warfare. This is the problem for box wine: ignorant know-it-alls.

The heavy wooden box of Château Tassin Bordeaux blanc showed up at my door mysteriously, in a container with an unrelated bottle of red Bordeaux. I get a lot of unsolicited wine bottles but boxes are rare (confidential to trade: I don't want more!). This box, as you can see, is striking. I like Bordeaux white, it's one of the world's most underrated wine values. You wouldn't believe the backlog of untasted wine samples at my home. But even though we needed refrigerator space -- we were expecting a $400 hunk of meat any minute! (that's another story) -- I put this in there to test it.

My wife grumbled about space priorities so I tasted it that night, and then we shifted from tasting to drinking.

It's a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, and you can distinctly taste both: it has the racy green fruit of Sauvignon Blanc with a bit of the beeswax of Semillon. It was terrific, and I kept refilling my glass until I had so much that I passed out and missed the end of the Hitchcock movie. (Did he kill her?)

Several days later, we had people over for the $400 hunk of meat. I had a bottle of sparkling wine chilled, but for some reason I decided instead to greet them instead with a glass of this box wine. It went over great: my fellow food writer asked for seconds.

I wanted to learn more about the wine, and there was no info online, so I used the "Contact us" form for the producer and this is what I got back: "We are a family at the head of a big wineyard in Bordeaux. We produce a lot wine of quality in Bordeaux on 1000 ha. We sell some wines in USA which is an important market for us. Château (Tassin) is one of our wines which is mainly red, but there is a little production of wine for this château which is only sell in new York to Wineberry company. It is made from Sauvignon and Semillon."

Well, that cleared up nothing, so I used the "Contact us" form for Wineberry, and here's what I got back: "For our 3L bag-in-box we are having the wines ‘boxed’ directly at each Domaine that we source from, by the winemaker/cellar master. We then pick up the boxes and ship them via container to NY- we do this in small batches every 2-3 weeks, always keeping fresh inventory to ensure that the box you buy has been boxed by the winemaker a few weeks before it’s on the shelf of a wine shop. The wood boxes are sourced from sustainable forests in France and when full (with the equivalent of 4 bottles) they weigh approx. 6lbs. When empty, the wood boxes weigh .9 lbs, compared to a single ‘average’ glass bottle that weighs 1.5 lbs, thus reducing weight (by) about 5.1 lbs. These wines are sold in NYC, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. May I ask what type of media your contribute to?"

Geez, that's humbling, as there's a helluva lot more info about me online than there is about Château  Tassin. The box is still in my fridge, and last night I got into it again, 27 days after opening. It wasn't quite as complex as before; I didn't notice the Semillon notes as much. But it was still fresh and delicious. My wife, given the choice of that or a just-opened bottle of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, chose the boxed white. She no longer resents its refrigerator space.

The box seems pricey at $36, but that's the equivalent of four $9 bottles, so it's actually quite cheap. Order one here.

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Benjamin said...

Decent quality, available in a classy but lightweight box, and sold in MA? It's a beach house miracle!

jo6pac said...


jason Carey said...

Wow I thought I posted a pretty thoughtful comment about the possible ill health effects of plastic consumption and you deleted it. I was certainly not in any way being combative, I was just pointing out that there are possible health risks to flexible plastic of any kind.

W. Blake Gray said...

I don't remember deleting any such comment. Are you sure you posted it here?

There are a few reasons I reflexively delete comments. One is that I don't allow people to sell things in the comments, or to use comments to link to a commercial site. Is it possible you did one of those?