Drinking

Our Wine Guru’s Top Picks for Boxed Wine

Box wine has long had a lousy reputation — poorly made and too sweet, and that’s just for starters. These days, though, a handful of the country’s biggest wine producers has improved box wine quality in ways that many of us never thought possible.

It’s possible to buy a box of wine that’s professionally made and tastes like the grapes that are in it. Plus, they can last as long as a month after they’re open and often offer tremendous value. It’s not unusual to see 3-liter boxes, the equivalent of four bottles, selling for $18, which is just $4.50 a bottle.

Having said this, not all box wine is created equal. First, look for wine in 3-liter or 1-liter boxes. Four-liter box wine remains as sweet and poorly made as ever. Second, beware boxes with marketing-driven names like RedVolution and Nighthawk, which are mostly just sweet (unless, of course, you want sweet). Third, some grapes, like pinot noir and chardonnay, don’t translate well into boxes and often taste processed and overdone.

Finally, there can be little consistency from box to box, so just because a box was well made the first time doesn’t mean it will be the next time. That’s a combination of mass production techniques, which make quality control difficult, and the quality of the grapes used to make the wine. When grapes are cheap, producers can afford to buy better quality grapes; when grapes are costly, they buy less expensive grapes and the wine suffers for it. So, producer matters. Find one you like, and stick with it.


These boxes should get you started — and know they’re just as likely to be found at supermarkets as at wine shops.

La Vieille Ferme Red, White and Rosé

Around $25 for 3 liters ($6.25/bottle)
click to enlarge LA VIEILLE FERME
La Vieille Ferme
This French producer makes terrific cheap wine in a bottle and the boxes are no exception. The white is fruity but not sweet; the red is rough but not unpleasant, and the rose is dry, fruity and delicious.

Black Box Malbec

Around $20 for 3 liters ($5/bottle)
Most Black Box reds are simple, usually varietally correct and the epitome of easy drinking. This has lots and lots of dark berry fruit, plus soft tannins (the bitter bite at the back of the mouth).

Bota Box Dry Rose

Around $22 for 3 liters ($5.50/bottle)
This California pink wine helped start the rosé boom several years ago, and I’ve gone through more boxes than I care to remember. It’s a touch fruitier than it used to be (lots of strawberries) but still crisp and refreshing. Plus, low in alcohol — just 11.5%.


Bandit Pinot Grigio

Around $8 for 1 liter ($6/bottle)
BANDIT PINOT GRIGIO
Bandit Pinot Grigio
Charles Bieler, who helped to start this juice box wine company, makes top-notch rosé in France and Washington. Hence, this California white is s step up from most bland and boring versions. There’s some apple and minerality.

Fred, Piemonte Barbera

Around $30 for 3 liters ($7.50/bottle)
FRED BARBERA
Fred Barbera
There aren’t many Italian box wines, let alone those made with the barbera grape. Look for tart cherry fruit and that Italian style that makes one think of red sauce and sausages.
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Jeff Siegel
Contact: Jeff Siegel