The good news that boxed wines sales are up 32.4% again in 2008 amidst a tidal wave of bad economic news hasn’t gone unnoticed by wineries that are looking for new ways to market and sell their wines. After all, boxed wines – also known as bag-in-box and wine casks – offer packaging that dispenses affordable, fresh wine for up to six weeks or more, and pouring a glass is as easy as pushing a tap. And this year interesting, tasty boxed wines are cropping up all over the U.S. More and more wineries, big and small, are launching new wines in fun, bold, and creative packaging. A “Boxed Wine Trail” is emerging across the United States.
Boxed wines come in different sizes and prices. The most well-known boxed wines are available nationally, including Black Box (3-L), Bota Box (3-L), Fish Eye (3-L), Trove (3-L), Boho (3-L), Killer Juice (3-L), Corbett Canyon (3-L), and Target’s Wine Cube (1.5-L and 3-L). They offer the popular varietals such as Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz, and Zinfandel. Prices range from under $10.00 for a 1.5-L to up to $25.00 for some 3-L boxed wines.
However, there are many smaller wineries finding success in a box. They provide a fascinating and fun way to taste wines from their regions. They often are boxing interesting blends and different wine grapes such as Riesling, Chambourcin, and even Concord. One winery chose to make boxed wines because it was the best packaging for his organic wines.
First stop on the Boxed Wine Trail: Lancaster, Pennsylvania! Tamanend Winery makes a series of boxed wines that have a refreshing sweetness. One with a delicate pink hue, an exotic nose of honeysuckle and roses, and followed by flavors of peaches and strawberries is Tamanend Winery’s Wild Wine Ladyslipper Pink. Tamanend also produces a dry red blend called Cardinalis, and three other 3-L boxed wines, also named after Pennsylvania wildflowers, called Mountain Laurel, Queen, and Honeysuckle. The wines are available for $29.95/3-liter box or for $19.95/1.5-liter box at the Red Rose Tasting Room in the Hager Arcade in Lancaster City, and at the nearby winery by appointment by calling (717) 560-9463.
Terrapin Station in Germantown, Maryland, has a playful line up of eight 1.5-L boxed wines in bright colors sporting a Diamondback Terrapin, a turtle native to Chesapeake Bay. A delightful mix of varietal and hybrid grapes, the winery currently offers 2006 Cecil White, 2007 Semi-Sweet Vidal Blanc, 2007 Dry Vidal Blanc, 2007 Cayuga, 2007 Traminette, a non-vintage Merlot; a 2005 Shiraz, and a non-vintage Syrah.
Self-proclaimed “farmers,” the owners Morris and Janet Zwick donate a portion of the sale of their wines to the Terrapin Institute to help save this endangered reptile. The winery is not yet open to the public but their wines are in good distribution in Maryland, and they attend local wine festivals, special events, and tastings. Their wines and more about them can be found at www.terrapinstationwinery.com.
Located in the beautiful rolling hills of Ohio’s Amish countryside, Breitenbach Wine Cellars, Der Marketplatz, and Café in Dover sell three lightly sweet 1.5-L boxed wines for $20.00 called Frost Fire, First Crush, and Road House Red. The winery also makes a delicious dessert wine that is available only in a box called Three Berry Blend for $22.53. All of the wines can be ordered online at www.breitenbachwine.com or by calling (330) 343-3603. The winery-café-market-B&B is well worth a trip just to see the beautiful, turreted-castle like building, or to attend their famous Breitenbach Dandelion Festival each May.
Fox Valley Wines in Oswego, Illinois, has five colorfully decorated 3-L boxed wines on their website at www.foxvalleywinery.com. Their off-dry Riesling at $25.95 is the best seller, but the Old Glory Red for $27.97, made of sweet Concord Grapes, and the White and Red Sangrias for $25.95 have loyal customers keep coming back. There is also a soft, dry 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon for $35.95. This winery is located on Route 34, and a second tasting room and the accompanying JJJitters Coffee Studio are located on Route 34 in Sandwich, Illinois. The Faltz family warmly welcomes visitors to the winery, which has a private tasting room, sitting area, two fireplaces, and a large retail store. Tours are offered on weekends.
Western Michigan is known for its famous lake effect, and Fenn Valley Vineyards (www.fennvalley.com) in Fennville, Michigan, benefits from its moderating influences. The winery produces a nice variety of 1.5-L and 3-L boxes that are sold in their tasting rooms and through select retailers in Michigan. Lakeshore Demi-Sec is their most popular wine in a fresh “German style” that is bursting with floral and apple fruit character. The wine is available at either the winery in Fennville or at their satellite tasting room in Saugatuck for $17 for the 1.5L box or $20 for the /3-L box. The Fenn Valley 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling takes its inspiration from the wines of Germany’s northern Rhine River valley with ripe, apple-like fruit impressions that is perfectly suited to seafood and spicy dishes. The winery’s 2008 Pinot Grigio is a classic dry wine with nuances of mango, peach notes, and flavors of ripe pear. Their boxed red wine is Capriccio, a big, soft, dry blend of mostly Chambourcin, with small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tefft Cellars bills itself as a “family-owned wine-country experience in the heart of Yakima County.” Located in Outlook, Washington, Tefft has had huge success with their 4-L boxes of a non-vintage Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend and a Chardonnay, both which retail for $24.95 (www.tefftcellars.com). They have a vibrant box wine club, which ships six times a year, and a guest house that is open to the public as a bed-and-breakfast inn. They have recently expanded sales to Idaho and to several retailers along the busy WA I-5 corridor in Washington.
Kennewick Washington is home to organic viticulture and winemaking pioneers Bill and Greg Powers and their two wineries Powers and the all organic Badger Mountain Vineyard. Longtime bag-in-the-box wine fans, they currently offer the Powers 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon 3-L for $22, and the Badger Mountain Vineyard 2007 NSA (No Sulfites Added) Organic Pure Red and Pure White 3-L for $24 and $22 respectively. These full-bodied and flavorful “everyday wines” are nationally distributed in 22 states. Their wines can also be ordered online at www.badgermtnvineyard.com. Organic Pure Red and Pure White are perfect for people with sensitivity to sulfites, and the Power Cabernet Sauvignon will satisfy any situation that calls for a big red wine with aromas and flavors of sweet raspberry, ripe currents, berries, and spices. Discerning Seattle restaurants frequently feature this wine as an eco-friendly wine by-the-glass.
Lodi, California, has always produced powerful wines with rich flavors, and the boxed wines at Le Cask are no exception. The Le Cask 3-L boxed wines sell for $24.99 in many of the best retail outlets in the San Francisco Bay Area. Le Cask’s Old Vine Zinfandel is made from 60-year old vines, and has an impressive display of blackberry, ripe cherry, and plum flavors. Le Cask Chardonnay is the perfect patio sipper, with flavors of ripe apple, pear, and a subtle hint of vanilla from oak aging. Black cherry, currant, and mocha make Le Cask Cabernet Sauvignon the perfect wine for grilled meats. Winemaker Ryan Sequiera is ardent about the benefits of boxed wines, and is willing to put them in blind tastings to compete with some of California’s best.
Sylvester Winery (www.sylvesterwinery.com) in Paso Robles, an up-and-coming wine region in California’s Central Coast, has a fun and unique way to present their five-liters of Chardonnay Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet-Merlot: in a real oak barrel with a stand. These 5-L wooden barrel dispensing units sell in their tasting room for $96, the 3-L barrels for $86, and they can be refilled for $19.99. Sylvester also sells “traditional” 3-L boxed wines of their 2006 Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay for $13.99 each.
In California, Sonoma County’s Red Truck Wines have just rolled out the barrel – literally a new 3-L Mini-Barrel to Sam’s Club nationally, and retails for $29.99. This cute, eco-friendly, and decidedly NOT box wine is made of a hearty blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Mourvedre from great wine producing areas through-out California. The non-vintage wine is medium-bodied and complex, with flavors of chocolate, berries, cherries, and licorice abound. This patent-pending barrel design comes complete with rings, staves, and an easy pour spout with tamper-proof protection that requires no tearing. The Red Truck Mini-Barrel will be available nationally in the second half of 2009.
The popular 3-L boxed wine contains the equivalent of four 750-mL bottles of wine, and 1.5-L boxed wines have the equal of two standard 750-mL bottles. In comparing prices between comparable-quality boxed wines and traditional wine bottles, boxed wines typically offer a savings, and that savings is even more dramatic when you factor in the freshness factor.
Wine drinkers that enjoy and occasional glass of wine or two but don’t want the pressure of drinking a whole bottle in one sitting especially appreciate boxed wines’ unique ability to keep wine fresh after opening. Boxed wines today are attractive to anyone entertaining groups on a budget, looking for a green and eco-friendly packaging (76% reduction in greenhouse waste), or that enjoys wine on outdoor excursions like camping, boating, fishing, or backpacking.
(Note: T&T do not consult for or assist any of the companies mentioned above – we just like boxed wine!)