It will not surprise you to know that I am a wine snob. I can't help it. It just goes with the territory. But being a snob does not mean that I am not willing to expand my horizons from time to time and try something about which I may have preconceived notions.
Lately, I've been hearing a lot of good things about boxed wine - not all boxed wine, mind you. There are certain brands you won't find in my fridge anytime soon. But certain reputable producers are funneling their wine into 3-liter bag-in-box packaging instead of bottles, and I find, somewhat to my surprise, that I'm OK with that.
Boxed wine certainly does have its benefits. For example, when you take wine from the bag and put it in your glass, the bag does not fill with air, as a bottle would. Thus, the wine remaining inside the bag does not encounter oxygen and stays fresh for a longer time. Bag-in-box wine is also quite economical, containing the equivalent of four standard bottles of wine, often for the price of one or two. And they certainly reduce the carbon footprint of the wine, not only in reduced glass and cork usage, but also in decreased weight in transport.
Aside from material savings, another reason why boxed wines might be less expensive than bottled is that many winemaking regions don't allow boxed wines to be labeled as coming from that region. Thus, the wines are subject to lesser taxes than they would be if they were bottled and labeled as such and also demand lower prices on the market because of the lack of "name." This is the case for the La Nevera line of boxed wines. The grapes are grown in in Rioja, one of Spain's most prestigious regions. But because the laws of Rioja do not allow for boxed wines, La Nevera (which translates literally as "the fridge") pays lower taxes and can charge less for its wines.
2016 La Nevera Rosé Selección Especial ($28 for 3 liters) is made of 100 percent organically grown garnacha grapes from the region of Rioja Baja. It is at once floral and fruity, with notes of spicy pink flowers and mixed red berries. It's clean enough to be refreshing, but with enough stuffing to stand up to some pretty hefty foods - a new favorite barbecue wine, perhaps.
Also made from organic grapes is Delicato Earthwise Red Blend ($23 for 3 liters), which debuted on the market just in time for Earth Day of this year. Also from Spain, this time from the region of La Mancha, it is a blend of syrah, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon and garnacha tintorera (a grape known more commonly as alicante bouschet). This is a relatively full-bodied red, with ripe red fruits, some roasted and cured meats characteristic of both syrah and tempranillo, as well as earthy touches of leather.
I didn't set out to sample all boxed wines from Spain, but it happens that my third selection, René Barbier Mediterranean White ($25 for 3 liters), also hails from that country, this time the northeastern coastal region of Catalunya. The grapes in this wine - xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada - are more often found in Spain's answer to Champagne, cava, but can also make a perfectly delicious still wine.
To be completely honest, this wine is not perfectly delicious. I had tasted it before and found it quite drinkable, but this time, it lacked complexity to the point of being thin and had a bit of a watery apple juice character about it. It's possible this particular box was flawed. Regardless, I found that, if I took the bag out of the box and stashed it in the door of my fridge, it made a convenient and space-efficient source of cooking wine. So it still has its upside.
In the end, I wouldn't say that I'm a 100 percent convert to the concept of boxed wine, but - much like with the advent of the screw cap - it's important for wine professionals and consumers to be open to new ideas and trends. Many have their place in the production of quality wine and serve as a reminder that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover - or its box.