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Box wine

2003-10-14 16:01:31.102551+00 by Dan Lyke 9 comments

An article over at Cool Tools (Formerly "Recommendo") touted the benefits of boxed wine. I used to keep boxed wine around for cooking, for many of the reasons listed in that article, and I recently heard some winery shill say something like "well, everyone knows that wine in glass bottles tastes better...".

Whenever I hear someone say something like "everyone knows", my bullshit detector pegs. Kinda like the whole "tearing lettuce bruises it less" and "mushrooms absorb water if you wash them"[1]. And my experiences in tasting and learning about single malt scotches have taught me that there's a lot of the irrational collector experience going around in the alcohol connoisseur; I'll bet a bunch of these folks are the target market for Monster Cable phone cords.

So, anyone out there have experience with this? I haven't looked recently, are there mid-range wines available in a box so that a blind taste-off could be arranged?

[1] There may be other reasons to not tear lettuce (the aesthetics of straight cuts) or wash mushrooms (surface texture, for instance), but Harold McGee has offered up some pretty convincing experiments that you can do in your own kitchen (and I've done enough of to convince myself that he's right) that both of the stock explanations for these things are hogwash.

[ related topics: Health Food Wines and Spirits Economics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: Box wine made: 2003-10-14 16:41:03.722457+00 by: Johnny

The thing with boxed wine isn't that the fact that it is kept in a box (or plastic bag) changes the taste. It's just that the purpose of these is to have a lot of wine for not too much money, and so "large volume" wines are used, usually blends, and usually fairly low quality. In Quebec, boxed wine is very commonly sold, and so there is a fair amount of choice, with some moderately not-too-bad wines available. If you're not too demanding, these can make decent everyday wines, not too expensive, and they keep well for a long time since they are vaccum packed.

#Comment Re: Box wine made: 2003-10-14 17:56:42.90548+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yep. My hope was that I could find the same reasonably good wine in both bottles and bags so that I could have someone else pour the wine, leave the room without communicating me (so we're double-blind), and I could see if I could taste the difference. I'd want it to be a drinkable wine, as I'd hate to have "cheaper" flavors (ie: excess sweetness or similar) masking something that otherwise I could detect.

#Comment Re: Box wine made: 2003-10-15 08:45:36.713362+00 by: dws

I scanned the box wines at the local Beverages and More a few weeks ago. The selection is a lot better than what the local Safeway has, but seems to be about 1/3rd of what it was 15 years ago. No comments on quality. My data there is way stale.

#Comment Re: Box wine made: 2003-10-15 17:36:29.680848+00 by: other_todd [edit history]

As has already been said, the problem is not the box, the problem is that no one is putting good wines in a box. It doesn't help that the wineries of quality have an infrastructure - racks, corking machines, etc - that's built for bottles.

One day you will see the end of the cork cork, despite continual inertia - it's an increasingly scarce and unreliable resource, and the only thing holding back polymer "corks" is tradition. You may even see plastic wine bottles become the norm one day. But I think the box has been too stigmatized by bulk wines now to recover.

By the by, I don't slice lettuce because it always seems to get brown marks along the cut edges instantly. Personal experience there. I do rinse off mushrooms. I don't like eating dirt. They get a little soggy but that can be dealt with.

#Comment Re: Box wine made: 2003-10-15 19:54:15.799532+00 by: Mars Saxman

That day is pretty close for me, other_todd - probably three quarters of the corks I see are plastic already. I don't miss the genuine corks at all.

#Comment Re: Box wine made: 2003-10-15 20:36:31.188882+00 by: other_todd

Interesting! We buy several dozen bottles of wine a year and I think we're not seeing better than one plastic "cork" out of five. I wonder which producers are using it more heavily than others?

#Comment Re: Box wine made: 2003-10-15 20:45:15.596078+00 by: other_todd [edit history]

(hit reload when I shouldn't have - duplicate post deleted)

#Comment Re: Box wine made: 2003-10-15 20:45:49.372965+00 by: Dan Lyke

Todd, I keep promising to go back to the McGee books and re-read 'em. I've never had the browning problem, and he didn't either, but I think he traced some of those effects back to knife type. Carbon steel forged blades, or stainless?

#Comment Re: Box wine made: 2003-10-15 23:47:43.671894+00 by: other_todd

Dan, it's been so long since I actually cut lettuce that I can't remember. Probably carbon steel, though, that's what I used exclusively before meeting my wife, and it's mostly what my mother used (I think I first noticed this back when I was a kid). The dark kind of blade, that stains (and rusts if you don't dry it). That's carbon, right?