Don’t diss the box: Quality wine still to be had

You’re a wine drinker, and you’ve passed them in your local grocery. You look at them with curiosity, puzzlement and perhaps even disdain.

It’s time to lighten up to box wines and enjoy the often tasty and economical solution to wanting just one glass some nights. Boxed wines are better than ever before and shaking off the past negative images of swill in cardboard.

There is no point trying to convince anyone the grocery boxed wines are super, high-premium wines because for the most part, they are not. Some brands will advertise that way, but it’s misleading. Two of the most prominent in the Midwest are Black Box and Bota Box.

A definition or two is in order before going any further. The boxed wines come with an air-tight plastic pouch inside with a pour spout attached. Generally, once opened, the wines will last a month. The container holds four bottles of wine. Different companies do offer different sizes and have various price points.

Now some advice about handling the boxed wine. I suggest refrigerating it after opening to make it last as long as possible, particularly if you’re going to keep it four or five weeks.

If you’re a regular wine drinker, it’s probably less necessary to stick it in the fridge. The wine is in a sealed plastic pouch, so it gets no air whatsoever. No air is a very good thing for storage but not so much for drinking. Pour your glass of wine from the box and let it sit a bit before you drink. The box contains 20 five-ounces pours.

Black Box has been a longtime player. Black Box got its start in 2002 with the promise of super-premium wine in an environmentally friendly box. Black Box is a leader in the business and sells for around $23. You can find it for as low as $19.99 in many places.

The Black Box menu includes Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, Shiraz, a red blend called Red Elegance, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. The wines have been listed by Wine Enthusiast 27 different times as a “best buy.”

Go online for lots of reviews, and you’ll see the Merlot is often the highest rated.

In small-market Indiana, all I’ve found is the Cab and Chardonnay. The Cabernet is a satisfying glass of wine with soft fruit, correct Cabernet flavor and an ever-so-light hint of tannins. It’s quite drinkable.

The Delicato Family Vineyards company of brands from Manceta, California, offers Bota Box. The Bota lineup includes Cabernet, Merlot, Old Vine Zin, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Chardonnay, a blend called Redvolution, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato and a second blend called Blackhawk.

The Bota Cabernet was a bit sweet but probably likable for newer wine drinkers. I didn’t find it to be correct in flavor profile for Cab, but there was certainly nothing wrong with it. I bought the Bota Brick, which sold locally for $9.99, a smaller version of the standard box.

Keep in mind most of these wines are blends. In California, for instance, a wine only has to include 75 percent Cabernet to be called Cabernet. And let’s face it, this isn’t Napa Cab.

I’d rate the Black Box significantly better for regular wine drinkers and Bota a good starting point for a beginner. Black wins the nod for overall quality.

Check the blog from time to time, as I intend to explore more boxed wines. All stores have them. Many Meijer stores have a large selection.

The best part of boxed wine is enjoying one glass at a time. Don’t underestimate the quality until you’ve tried them.

I would love to hear from regular Grape Sense readers if you have thoughts on other brands. I’ll share that in a future column.

Howard W. Hewitt of Crawfordsville writes every other week about value wine. Contact Howard at