To Box or Not to Box; Wine, That Is

The only thing a "Modern Smug" fears more than people who still eat pizza with their hands or don't cook with pink Himalayan salt yet, is box wine. Box wine represents a 180 degree shift from the sexy shaped bottles, the wonderful glug, glug, glug sound of the stemmed chalice as it is filled with liquid-party, and the endless inexperienced waiters who struggle to coax out that stubborn cork only to leave bits of wood floating in your drink. Bottled wine's forgotten cousin is a bit square, but there is no doubt of its growing popularity amongst all classes of people.

Unlike other perplexing trends like wearing beanies and Ugg boots in 100 degree weather, there are some major benefits to this trend of wine packaged in a box. Once opened, bottled wine must be consumed within a few days. Box wine, on the other hand, lasts for weeks. The trick is to minimize oxidation, which the box wine's plastic bag and easy-to-pour spout easily achieves.

Aside from purely functional benefits, some box wines are actually pretty good. Let's stop kidding ourselves; there are tons of expensive bottled wines that cause your eyebrows to furrow and your lips to purse in distaste. The New York Times featured an article yesterday where they were quite impressed with the 2010 Cotes-du-Rhone from Domaine le Garrigon and the 2009 Cotes-du-Rhone from Estezargues. They also mention that both are under $40 and contain roughly 4 bottles worth of wine. A great wine in a 4-bottle volume with a space-saving shape and a handle is a win in my book.

Even our Bar Director at Red Rooster in Harlem, Christian Post, says, "I'm tired of people being so snobbish and having a snotty attitude in the wine world. They sit in their ivory towers and condescend on people who choose less expensive wines. Box wine is generally not high quality wine, but you can get very decent box wine for everyday drinking. It makes great sangria, and there are plenty of other uses for it. To me, wine is to be consumed with food and I could pair any kind of bottled or box wine with some kind of food out there. Box wine faces the same stigma as tap wine. We serve tape wine here at Red Rooster and it still faces a long uphill climb in improving its image, though it's already widely used throughout Europe, specifically in France and Italy. It's similar to when the screw-cap came out. Just because it has a bad name attached to it, doesn't mean it's necessarily bad."

When asked if he thought box wine would make it onto fine dining menus in the near future, Christian replied, "Probably not. I guarantee you every restaurant might have box wine on hand, but they probably cook with it. As for adding it to the wine list, probably not any time soon."

To all the non-wine connoisseurs out there that are interested in vino, but may still not want to pay an exuberant amount for a pricey bottle, I recommend checking out The Wine Trials 2011 by Alexis Herschkowitsch and Robin Goldstein. Each year their wine list book offers the best 175 wines under $15 that consistently beat $50 bottles of wine through blind, brown paper-bag test tasting. Their yearly trials have resulted in overwhelming evidence that people tend to like cheaper wines to more expensive wines. The Wine Trials 2011 is a great guide to newbie winos or to those who just don't want to waste half a paycheck on a bottle of fermented grape juice. The guide also includes food pairing recommendations and new to the 2011 issue, ironically enough, are reviews on excellent box wines.

Finally, for those of you still thinking that serving box wine is declasse just remember: a fine wine is like a great book; it cannot be judged by its cover and sometimes its cover is square. I challenge all wine drinkers to set up a blind taste test to compare the bottled to the boxed. You just might be pleasantly surprised.

Have you tried box wine? What do you think?