Wine for Everyone
Close your eyes and turn up your patrician noses, wine snerbs: BOX WINE IS TOTALLY FINE. In fact?! BOX WINE IS GREAT!
Box wine is bae: It contains up to seven bottles in one bag and box, making it far more eco-friendly than the materials and weight used for bottles. Boxed wine is cheap—like, almost always under $30 and usually closer to $18 cheap. It’s a great party option... you’re far less likely to run out and your guests are gonna get all wine drunk and loopy. And box winemakers are really upping their game—I just discovered that a $12 bottle of rosé we served at our wedding is now available in a box—you can serve and feel almost classy. Also, if you’re a light drinker, a box will keep for over a month, unlike a bottle that must be finished within a few days.
With so many options on the market these days, I pulled an assortment of seven boxes of red wine and a big group of friends with wine expertise ranging from “I’ll have whatever is open” to an actual winemaker. I covered each box with paper and had everyone sip and vote, with chicken wings as a palate cleanser (in keeping with the fact that this was a classy event). Here’s our ranking of the best box wines you can find in Portland. And remember, kids, if you don’t open the box and squeeze the bag for that last glass at the end, you’re doing it wrong.
Cantine Povero Barbera ($25.50 at Vino, 137 SE 28th)
Turns out one of the fanciest box wines was also voted the best, even though no one knew it. Our tasters commented on its bright flavor, lovely light color, and dry notes. While most box wine is passable, this one was legitimately enjoyable, and was one of just two boxes that were drained completely by night’s end. Tasting note: Goes great with wings.
House Wine Original Red Blend
($17.99 at Hollywood Fred Meyer)
This blend of half cabernet sauvignon and half merlot was the best of the everyday boxes, shocking the crew at its unveiling by coming in second. While I personally found it to be way too bold, everyone else fell for the super fruit-forward strength of House Wine.
Domaine le Close de Lumiéres Côte du Rhone
($27.50 at Vino)
The Rhône Valley is a serious place, y’all. Lots of real fancy wines come from there... and so does this box. We loved how rich and fruity it was without being totally over the top. This was the other box wiped out during our tasting party... that turned into a dance party.
Quinta de Espiga Vino Tinto
($20.99 at Freddie’s)
Check out the bright, approachable box on this baby! This Portuguese maker does a nice, easygoing table red that our tasters credited for its light acidity and easy drinking.
Black Box Pinot Noir
(mailed to me for free because my job is better than yours)
Black Box is everywhere, and it’s not so bad. Pinot noir is an Oregon specialty, and although we didn’t know it was a pinot while blind tasting, we could tell something wasn’t quite right. It may be a varietal that’s best to pay just a bit more for. But Black Box asked me if they could send me a sample box, and who the hell am I to say no?
Bota Box Nighthawk Black
($17.79 at Freddie’s)
I don’t know if Bota Box meant to reference hobo-favorite Night Train by naming this box Nighthawk, but damn this was a box of jam fermented into wine. The box boasts that this variety has received 49 “gold medals” (for what is unclear) and its website says that it has ALL of these tasting notes: deep berry, fig jam, dark chocolate, toasted marshmallow, AND baking spice. Go home Nighthawk, you’re drunk.
La Vieille Ferme Rouge
($24.99 at Freddie’s)
You thought you knew and loved this French wine, sold both in bottle and in box with those adorable chickens on the label. Without the visual cue, tasters just got an overly acidic tipple. (I still like their rosé just fine.)