Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Boxed vs. Bottled

I must admit that my previous post might not have been entirely accurate. I shouldn't bash boxed wines because, apparently they are the upcoming hit in the wine world. Aside from that though, I still wouldn't drink it. Why? What is so bad? Honestly, the same reason you don't go to Taco Bell for authentic Mexican food. And that's not really the best reason either. Wine is about more than fermented grapes and Paul Giamatti. However, that's a post for later. Remind me in a couple days or something to return to the sociological impact of a bottle of wine and why it's more romantic to uncork than to unscrew.

Boxed wine is getting better. Better materials, better processes, and similar things are making boxed wines of a higher quality and more cost effective nature than were previously available. But problems still exist. Even NPR, the self-acclaimed radio Mecca for sophistication has acknowledged that there's something to be said for upper, middle class - in a box. They've even changed the name. Cask wines are the new black.

However, it's also important to realize that boxed wines do not reach the same lasting quality that a bottle holds. Air still decides this battle. Boxed wine does not tend to really exist just in a box, rather it is a plastic bladder inside a pretty box. It's more like an easier way to carry a bag of wine than just schlepping it around like a water balloon that stains. Since plastic tends to be porous and therefore will let it the air (specifically oxygen), then the box doesn't really work well as a long-term storage device. It does, however, work better as short term storage.

After uncorking a bottle, oxygen is on the wine like a pack of dogs on a three-legged cat. Even if the bottle is stoppered, there's still air in it. There are ways to pump out air, but that's just kinda working too hard for a drink. Instead, the tapped box maintains that barrier against the O2 and keeps the wine inside fresh for a couple weeks or more. So, keep an eye on the expiration date and you should be okay.

Recently, the wine industry as also begun to embrace the cardboard-plastic medium (even cans have been seen) and the variety of boxed wines have expanded from the stereotypical Franzia Lonely-Night-in-a-Box. Companies are simply responding to where the money is starting to go. Black Box Wines is one of the top brands to focus on the boxed wine genre and also is attributed with the driving force behind the cubic revolution. And they sell in many stores in your area. Check out their store list for a more comprehensive list or drop by a local Meijer or Martin's Supermarket for a box of warmth in the cold days ahead.

What you lose with a cask wine is the romantisized pour from a bottle (opening a spigot doesn't really do it), the regal feel of a nice, royal blue Reisling bottle in the candlelight, the joy of finally uncorking a $40 bottle smoothly like the playboy you wish you could be... You also lose a lasting ability with the unopened bottle. Air doesn't seem through glass and a constantly wetted cork (from proper storage of a bottle tilted slightly toward the neck) like it will through plastic. You also lose a lot of choice despite the growing number of boxed wine makers. You also need to find out if you want to drink 4 bottles of the same type of wine for the following couple weeks. 3 liters is a good amount of wine.

My final conclusion and advice. If you're having a lot of friends over and you want wine, buy a box. It's like a wine keg. You get a lot, it's convenient, and you wouldn't be giving that many people really expensive wine anyway. But, remember that if you don't use it, it will eventually go bad. And there is still a stigma attached to a boxed/cask wine. Other than that, embrace the bottle. Impress the SO, live a little and please don't grab it by the neck and chug it. Enjoy the moment along with your glass. It's nice.

Posted by Ben at 9/13/2005 09:40:00 PM


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