Boxed Wine 101

2007 From the Tank Cotes-du-Rhone Vin Rouge
 From the Tank

What’s the downside?

Stigma: Even though the quality of boxed wine has drastically improved in recent years and you can find a large selection of fresh, even organic wines in boxes, some people still turn up their noses at them. Possibly it’s because they can’t forget the box of sweet White Zinfandel or blush sitting in their parents’ or grandparents’ kitchen, says Brad Nugent, the beverage director at the restaurant Porter House New York. “The fact is, wine as a whole has gotten better. Producers, sommeliers, and consumers are all better educated and able to make, swirl, and sip higher-quality wine,” he says. “Looking at it from this perspective, it is natural to assume that boxed wine is being held to higher and higher standards and will continue to improve.” Does this mean that your neighbors won’t pooh-pooh your box of wine? Not necessarily. But they may change their minds once they taste what’s inside.

Palate exhaustion: What if you want to drink Sauvignon Blanc before dinner, Chardonnay with your salad, and a nice Pinot Noir with your lamb chops? Bottles of wine allow you to open and enjoy more than one varietal over the course of a meal. This is particularly important to people who like to pair wines with their food. In this case, large-format boxed wines are not ideal, says Nugent. “The problem with boxed wines for personal consumption [as opposed to for large gatherings] is that you can get tired of them. To finish a box of wine, you have to make it your go-to wine for a few weeks. Most people like a little more variety.”

Do all boxed wines come in such large packages?

No. Wine packaged in Tetra Pak cartons are another option for people looking for wine in alternative packaging. Tetra Pak cartons are like the boxes of juice or chicken broth you find in the grocery store.  When filled with wine, they typically come in 1-liter or 500-milliliter sizes and have a screw cap for dispensing. Like bag-in-a-box wines, they are considered environmentally friendly and portable—perfect for tossing in a bag for a picnic. But unlike boxed wines, once opened, they don’t last any longer than wine in a bottle.

How do I choose a decent boxed wine?

There are more boxed wines on the market today than ever before, and more wineries are selling them. Nugent recommends the following wines:

  • From the Tank Vin Rouge, a Côtes-du-Rhône with rich, ripe cherry fruit flavors; $40.
  • 2012 Maipe Malbec, with notes of plum, fig, and chocolate; $30.
  • 2011 Bota Box Pinot Grigio, with flavors of peaches and citrus fruits; $20.
  • 2012 La Petite Frog Coteaux du Languedoc, a fresh and crisp white from France with hints of grapefruit and lime; $33.


Check out our roundup of the best boxed wines for more options.

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