In the world of wine, the phrase “It’s good for what it is” is not damning with faint praise, even if it sounds a bit like that. Imagine you have been invited to a romantic dinner at your date’s house. You arrive to find the place dimly lit, jazz or some British chanteuse is barely audible in the background, and the table is illuminated with candles on each side of fresh flowers.
Your date comes in from the kitchen. “Red or white?” he asks, holding aloft Franzia Chillable Red and Bota Box Pinot Grigio. The wine snob ends the date at that exact moment, begging off for unspecified symptoms of impending illness. The truth is, though, that at least one of those two wines is not bad for what it is.
We asked some certified sommeliers around Oklahoma City to recommend a boxed wine without being snarky, and to explain why it was a good consumer choice. There was a time when a certified sommelier would not have been caught on the record recommending a box wine. Those days, it seems, are over.
Adam Rott works for Thirst Wine Merchants, a brokerage in the state, but he spent a few years at Broadway Wine Merchants. During his tenure there, he pushed gallons of Arrumaco Rosé of Garnacha (Grenache). Watching people taste a box wine like Arrumaco for the first time is revelatory. It is clear that our expectations are low when we approach a box, but Arrumaco – both the rosé and the Verdejo (a light white) – destroys expectations.
“Good boxed wine offers a great financial incentive,” Rott says. “The Arrumaco is nearly four standard wine bottles, and at the $30-ish price range, that means high quality wine at about $8 a bottle.”
The three-liter box is standard for box wines, and nationwide, prices range from $16-$20 per box, so Arrumaco is clearly pricey by that standard. Compared to comparable rosés, though, which typically sell from $10-$12 per bottle, it’s a steal.
Amie Hendrickson is the sommelier at Edmond Wine Shop. She recommends the Viña Borgia from Jorge Ordoñez, one of the most respected names in the wine world.
“The Viña Borgia is a great find for those who want light, fruity, unoaked reds,” Hendrickson says. “It’s a Spanish Grenache that drinks more like a Gamay. Buy a bottle to try it out and then keep a box on hand to make sangria or mulled wine.”
Portability and convenience are two other compelling reasons to consider box wine. Having three liters in your refrigerator means fewer trips to the store, less space occupied in a rack or cabinet and the ease of pouring from a spout.
Hendrickson also recommends the La Vieille Ferme red and white, both Rhone-style blends from France. Finding box wines from France is nearly impossible, but La Vieille Ferme took a chance and it paid off. Priced a little higher than standard three-liter boxes, these wines are of exceptional quality, and if you offered wine snobs a glass of either with the box out of sight, there is zero chance they would know.
On the American side, Tyler Fender of Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club recommended Bandit from Joel Gott. There is an entire line of these wines (Fender prefers the Pinot Grigio) and the quality is virtually guaranteed, as Gott’s name already is synonymous with excellent winemaking. The boxes – Tetra Paks – are eco-friendly and picnic size.
Box wines are certainly worth a try, even if you feel like you need to hide them. A good wine shop such as Broadway Wine Merchants or Edmond Wine Shop will happily make a snark-free recommendation.