Drinking Out Of The Box… RED

When we last left you, we’d started on an exciting foray into the wonderful world of boxed wine. We’d done this because, while far less sexy, boxed wines (approximately four bottles per 3 liter box) are a better comparative value than their bottled counterparts. And because the plastic bladder inside the box collapses as the wine is emptied, boxed wines are naturally protected against oxygen spoilage, so they are usually good for around four weeks once they’ve been opened. A regular bottle will last for only a week or so with preservation measures taken, under the best circumstances.

We sampled ten wines – five whites and five reds – at a party with friends. Our sampling was extremely unscientific; we ranked our favorites, writing down our impressions on yellow-tipped Post-It Notes for the white wines and red-tipped Post-It Notes for the red wines. These were the results.

The Reds:

Big House, Small Price

2009 Big House The Usual Suspect Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaker Georgetta Dane earned a Masters in Food Science from Galati University in her native Romania, and began working at a winery right out of school. A few years later, she and her husband moved to Monterey, California, where Ms. Dane eventually worked her way into the role of lead winemaker, or the “Warden.”

This wine blends 90% Cabernet with 10% Grenache, and I picked up notes of blackberry, currant and vanilla on the nose, and tasted vanilla, mocha and tar, blueberry and blackberry fruit in the glass. This is a pretty full-bodied wine with light tannin and a medium finish. Party guests described “Mixed berries, light. Great;” “Dark berry, ain’t too bad. Me like;” “Sweet, strong after taste. I like it. Berry.” ( 13.5% abv, $22 for 3L).

Back In Black

2009 Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon. Ryan Sproule was on a trip across the pond when he noticed how popular boxed wines were over there. When he returned from his trip, he launched Black Box wines – the United States’ first “super-premium, appellation-specific, vintage-dated wines in a box” – the kind he’d experienced in Europe, but wasn’t able to find stateside. Today, Black Box offers eight different boxed wines, with grapes sourced from some of the world’s top wine-growing regions, including California’s Central Coast, which is where Sproule gets the fruit for his Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon.

They said: Sweet…light. Pretty good.” I said: “Scents of oak, currant and vanilla. On the palate, this had medium tannin, and flavors of blackberry, cherry and watermelon. Not a ton of complexity, but great balance. Tied for favorite red of the night.(13.5% abv, $20 for 3L)

Good Tone, Nice Body

Jack Tone Vineyards California Red Wine Bottle Blend. McManis Family Vineyards – the makers of the Jack Tone red and white blends – are well-known in the value market for producing consistent, drinkable wines from the inner Central Coast of California. The Jack Tone Vineyards Red Wine Bottle Blend is a combination of Syrah and Petite Sirah, although the company says they may include Petit Verdot and Zinfandel in future years.

This was a guest favorite (“The red box!”). Some of the descriptions of it were, “Very dark and delicious. Hint of fruitiness. Very warm and full bodied aftertaste. WONDERFUL;” “Hints of tobacco, vanilla, a bit acidic, strong;” “Deep notes, charcoal, red notes – redwood;” “Bold flavor, Roquefort, aftertaste;” “Dark berry flavor. Tad sour. Yummy;” “Strong kick. Very good;” “Full, acid;” “Blueberry. Little Strong;” “Way too thick.”I picked up notes of tobacco, vanilla, mocha, plum and black fruit; with a rich, round mouthfeel. (13.5% abc, $20 for 3L)

Double Ohh! Seven

2010 Bodegas Osborne Seven Red Table Wine. Winemaker Jose Maria Nieto starts with tradition but then takes a “Nuevo Vino” approach with the rest of his winemaking technique for this easy drinker from Octavin Home Wine Bar. Nieto says his goal is, “To create a very distinctive, flavorful, modern Spanish wine that still reflects the traditional characteristics of our Spanish roots.” One way he’s accomplishing this is to blend traditional Spanish grapes in with other, international favorites, in this blend of seven varieties: 25% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot, 18% syrah, 8% petit verdot, 8% tempranillo, 8% grenache and 8% graciano.

There was a lot of feedback about this wine: “I like this one. Merlot. Light. Simple;” “Tastes like every wine you’ve ever had before;” “Very balanced basic wine. Good;” “Smooth. Very nice. Reminds me of berries and oak.” My impressions were: Blackberry, plum and raspberry on the nose, with a bit of earth and a little graham cracker and oak and alcoholic heat. This wine is thin but fruity, with flavors of mushroom, cherry, blueberry, vanilla, and chocolate, with a splash of heat on the back-end. This also tied for my favorite red. (13.6% abv, $22 for 3L)

Rock Around The Block

Trader Joe’s Block Red Shiraz. This Australian Shiraz from Trader Joe’s is sort of like a slightly more grown-up version of the grocery store’s famous “Two Buck Chuck.” At $10 for 3 liters, the math works out to about $2.50 per bottle. They’ve done an amazing job at getting 3 liters of wine into a very small package, and it’s definitely a budget option (I’ve never seen another boxed wine priced for less). At that price it’s certainly not bad, but I’ve gotta say, in this case you get what you pay for.

Them: “Full, fruity;” “Shiraz was not too sweet, which normally makes Shiraz terrible;” “Light, sour, ooh;” “Acidic, blasé, popcorn, cherry/plum, candy cane.” Me: Cherry, vanilla, oak. Very sweet. (13% abv, $10 for 3L)


Winners: Jack Tone, Seven



Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes

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