This post was originally intended to be posted on November 9th (one week ago), but life got in the way. This is only important because the dates reflect how long the wines reviewed stayed fresh.
I don’t have much experience in recent history of drinking boxed wines. Most of my memories come from vacationing in Mexico with friends and family in my very early twenties lugging along boxes of Franzia for the occasion. We had no budget for wine then, and it transported easily. The taste? Let’s be honest, when you’re twenty and on the beaches of Mexico, are you really looking for taste?
Recently however, I have seen a significant increase in marketing for new boxed wines and have been curious as to how far along the quality of these wines have come over the years. So when I was asked to participate in a twitter live tasting of some boxed wines from Pepperwood Grove, produced by Don Sebastiani & Sons, I gladly agreed.
Don & Sons, the producers of a variety of recognizable value priced wines (including Smoking Loon and Pepperwood Grove among others), have finally released their first boxed wines. They did so after research they conducted that concluded “consumers were hesitant to buy 3L boxed wines because they didn’t see a brand they liked, or know, available in retail… and held the perception that the standard 750 ml bottled wines were of better overall quality than box wines.” They addressed this issue by producing a series of box wines from one of their most solid and respected brands, Pepperwood Grove. Thus THE BIG GREEN BOX.
THE BIG GREEN BOX is not only bright green in packaging, but is also green by environmental standards. According to Don & Sons, it is made from 100% recyclable packaging and printed on paper sourced from sustainable forests. Once opened, they claim that the wine will remain fresh in the refrigerator for up to a month.
The twitter tasting took place on October 14th, a month ago, and consisted of four of their newly released box wines: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Old Vine Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The suggested retail of each wine is $19.99. Remember, these wines come in a 3L box, which is the equivalent of four (4) regular size bottles of wine. Broken down that’s $5/bottle.
Why did I wait so long to post this?
I waited to post this review until now to see if the wines did, in fact, stay fresh for the next four weeks. Basically, with all four of these wines open, I had the equivalent of sixteen (16) bottles of wine open. That’s a lot of wine to have opened… even for me, so it wasn’t hard to experiment with letting them sit for a month and check on their progress every few days. The day this post was written was November 9th (one full month after the wines were opened).
Since the tasting was done via twitter I kept my notes short and sweet. Here were my initial thoughts, via twitter style:
Pinot Grigio, California (3L) $19.99
The Pinot Grigio smells like sweet lemon and lime with pears and apples, with dry minerality and oak. The mouth was a bit dry and less fruity than expected.
I did not find a lot of flavor in the mouth or body of the wine and thought it to be a bit dry and one dimensional, however could see it being popular among many who just want a simple dry white wine.
Chardonnay, California (3L) $19.99
Fruity with banana though not very complex. It has a nose of lemon and toast with tart green apple, banana, and citrus with a mouth full of sweet butter, green apple, and more citrus (lemon, lime, grapefruit). Not my cup of tea for a Chardonnay, but for $5/bottle, I can see this one being popular.
Overall I thought both of the white wines would be decent poolside wines. The packaging makes them good for picnics, poolside, and trips. Plus, you never have to worry about any bottles breaking!
Old Vine Zinfandel, California (3L) $19.99
The Old Vine Zinfandel has a fruity mouth full of blackberries, plums, figs, and spice with a dry finish. Simple but decent everyday Zin for equivalent of $5/bottle! Not bad.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Valle Central (Chile) (3L) $19.99
The Cabernet Sauvignon has the most appealing nose of all four wines with sweet vanilla, caramel and toast, milk chocolate, with blackberries and red raspberries. The mouth on the Cab continues to be spicy with more sweet vanilla, caramel, and dark berry jam. Simple, but certainly easy drinking.
THE BIG GREEN BOX wines exceeded my expectations for boxed wines. I preferred the reds to the whites, although the whites would make for easy summer pool or picnic wines. The reds, though simple, were good value for the $. I’d say if you’re curious, you have nothing to lose.
One other thing of note was the pour spouts on the wine. In my experience, simiar packaged beverages with pour spouts at the bottom of the packaging (wine or not) have the tendancy to leak and create messes in your fridge or floor. I was very impressed that the spouts on these boxes were very solidly made and never once leaked nor dripped.
Good uses for these wines:
Cooking: Throughout the month I had the wines opened, I used them for cooking many times with good results. Most recently I made Ina Gartens recipe for Parker’s Beef Stew, which called for an entire (750 ml) bottle of wine. Now I will always advise you to use a bottle of wine for cooking that you like or would gladly drink because when you cook with wine the flavors reduce and intensify. So if you’re using a wine you’re not fond of, those undesirable flavors will also intensify, thus producing an end product that doesn’t taste so good. For this stew I used the Cabernet Sauvignon, and I’m not gonna lie, the stew came out fantastic! But then again, every single recipe I’ve tried of Ina Garten’s has been fantastic.
I also used the Zinfandel in my Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with a Cranberry Wine sauce (which I promise to post here soon!). Again, a winner.
I found having the opened wines to be very convenient for mid-week cooking when I didn’t feel like opening up a brand new bottle!
Everyday Sipping: In addition to cooking with the wines hubby and I would pour a glass here and there when we didn’t feel like opening up an entire bottle of something else. It worked great for a simple after work glass of vino.
Camping or Picnics: It’s definitely not camping season here in Connecticut, but I can see these wines being extremely convenient for camping, and much safer than bringing glass bottles! Same goes for picnics.
How long did they really last?
It wasn’t until November 9th (about four weeks later) when all four wines really lost their flavor and zing. So honestly, they really did last close to a month (while sampling them for many uses) before they went bad. Compare that to a regular bottle that lasts 2-5 days (and that is if you use a wine preservation tool).
I’m not saying I’m going to run out and stock my house with boxes of wines, but I can certainly see the value in having some around from time to time.
Have you had any box wines recently?
Don’t be shy; let me know about your experience (both positive and negative)!