The Hungry Engineer

Wine in a Box

14 Oct 2009

You remember how in college it was a funny joke to buy the box of wine from Wal-Mart and stick it in your fridge? And it was extra hilarious that it was dispensed via a spigot in its side? Well, now the joke’s on us. As it happens, our first experience with a more recent boxed wine offering was actually pretty positive.

black box sauvignon blanc

As part of Foodbuzz’s Taste Maker program, I opted in to receive a free sample from Black Box Wines. They generously sent us a box of the 2008 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It’s fantastically easy to set up – pop out a finger hold, pull up a tab, slide the little spigot into place, and replace the tab. And ta-da – wine that I can dispense from my refrigerator literally at the push of a button. This could be dangerous.

Our first tastes of the wine were very promising. The aroma was clean and crisp, the flavor smooth and lingering. But here’s the thing. I’m not a wine connoisseur. I think Sean would be comfortable with me saying that he really isn’t either. We enjoy drinking wine, but we lack the background to be very … expressive about it. To that end, we thought it would be fun to make a learning experience of this. We spent some time comparing the Black Box wine against others of the same varietal to get a feel for the differences in flavor, aroma, and general quality between them.

stoneleigh sauvignon blanc

The first bottle we tried was the Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc (2008). At $16.99, this was our most expensive bottle. We chose this one because it was also from New Zealand and thought it would give us the best comparison with the Black Box wine. It was decidedly crisp and clean and the aroma that hit you hardest was that of grapefruit. This was easily my favorite bottle.

girard sauvignon blanc

The next wine was the Girard Sauvignon Blanc (2008), from the Napa Valley. Its price point was a more reasonable $10.99. This one had more the aroma of pears (to my nose, at least), and its flavor was much closer to that of the Black Box wine. For my part, I couldn’t have chosen a favorite between the Girard and the Black Box. Sean preferred the Girard, but he was forced to taste each wine several times before making that declaration.

We probably had too many variables for this to be a truly scientific study. The Stoneleigh had a screw cap, the Girard had a cork, and the Black Box, naturally, was boxed. The Stoneleigh and Black Box were made with New Zealand grapes, the Girard with Napa Valley. But it was an interesting exercise in flavor and aroma comparison, which is what we were going for.

the three taste-tested wines

For my part, I’m sold. The Black Box wine has a suggested retail price of $24.99, though we’ve generally seen it sold around here in Austin for less than $20. As the box holds the equivalent of four bottles of wine, the cost per “bottle” (between $5 and $6.25) is considerably less than the other two we tried. And while the Stoneleigh was the clear favorite, it wasn’t so much better than the Black Box wine that I could justify paying three times the price for a bottle. Also, because the dispensing method keeps air away from the wine, the Black Box company states that their wines stay fresh for four weeks after opening. At the end of the day, we enjoyed this wine and would happily buy it again.

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