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Apr 6, 2009 09:26 AM

ISO *good* boxed red wine in Boston

For several years now, I've kept boxed red wine around the house for cooking. It's convenient, inexpensive, and it keeps for over a month after opening, so there's a lot to like.

I would love to find a box of red wine with quality comparable to a carefully selected $10ish bottle. Has anyone found any legitimately good everyday drinkers out around town?

Two I've found that come close:

* Spirited Gourmet in Belmont has a 3L box of Cotes du Rhone called From the Tank. It's ok, but at $40/box, I can get better value by the bottle.

* Wine and Cheese Cask in Somerville carried a 3L Cotes du Rhone for about $30 that I actually liked better than the above, but it seems to have gone the way of the dodo.

For reference, a bunch I've tried that, for me, do not count as good: Black Box, Bota Box, Franzia, Washington Hills.


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  1. The French Rabbit pinot noir is acceptable. I've been known to drink a glass or two in a pinch. ;-)

    You can find it at Sav-Mor on McGrath or at Kappy's / Wellington Circle. It's about $10/L

    1 Reply
    1. re: yumyum

      Red truck now does a 3L barrel for around $30.

    2. Cambridge Liquors (aka Mall Liquors) has a 3L Cotes du Rhone box for $30, the box is red, can't remember the producer, and the wine is decent but for drinking I like it better watered down a bit from 14.5 percent (and I don't think it's $10/bottle quality). That store occasionally gets decent boxes but they come and go, from different producers. If the staff puts up a shelf talker recommending it, I'll take a chance. Itaunas, found any good Portuguese boxes?

      10 Replies
      1. re: Aromatherapy

        Unfortunately you can add the Portuguese red "baguinha" to the uninspired catagory -- real cheap (5L for $16) and drinkable, but too much residual sugar and no depth. Its a basic 10.5-11% table wine. O'Fados was serving something else out of a box which might or might not be Portuguese, but I didn't get to try any and haven't been down to the South Coast since last year (there were a couple of options at Chavez). Definitely not as good as a $10-11 Portuguese Red (or even the $8 Monte Velho from Esporao, which isn't quite my style). If you get a bottle of private reserve and give it a shoot after drinking, there are some better 5L glass reds (again at around $18.99) but its hard to do reviews on because 5L is a lot of wine especially when you buy one not so nice. My best method to taste test them is to buy a "garrafao" when I am going to make sangria (portuguese table wines can use a decent amount of tempranillo, called argonez or tinta roriz) and experiment it, but I haven't been making much sangria for a while. New England Meat Market had a couple that I have liked in the past (bottom shelf names in marker, no labels), although don't know how long they have been sitting around.

        1. re: Aromatherapy

          I was going to recommend the liquor store next to Whole Foods at Fresh Pond- can't remember if this is Cambridge Liquors. They have a wide selection of boxed wines. We're working on a box of Pinot Evil right now that I've been both drinking and cooking with. I've been keeping it in the fridge, as I usually do with leftover wine, which results in an annoying wait when I want to drink some-- does anyone know if this is necessary? I will admit we're pushing 2 months on this box and it still tastes fine once it warms up...

          1. re: Parsnipity

            Ugh. Pinot Evil. I avoid wines with animals on the labels or punny names. This one is painful. But if it's good I guess I can check it out. Do you recall how much it's going for?

            In my experience, you don't have to refrigerate boxed wine after it's open. I do put re-corked bottled wine in the fridge to hold it longer, but in my household, "leftover wine" doesn't make it very long anyway.

            1. re: Parsnipity

              They also have an organic Oregonian red. It or the Pinot Evil are both great choices for 20 bucks a box or about 5 a bottle.

              1. re: fishmanator

                I tried the organic white and didn't care for it, just flat and boring IIRC, so haven't chanced the red. The Cotes du Rhone red I referenced above is in a black and orange box, not red, and comes from Vignerons de Caractere (rooting in the recycling). Yes, next to Whole Foods.

                1. re: Aromatherapy

                  Vignerons de Caractere is the brand the Wine and Cheese Cask used to carry; awesome, Cambridge Wine is even near my house.

                  Still holding out for Italy's recently relaxed laws to bring me some boxed Rosso di Montalcino, but it's nice to see some promising options in the interim. Thanks all for your replies!

              2. re: Parsnipity

                Per YumYum's comment below. No need to refrigerate boxed wine once opened. The whole point of the box is that air can't really get into the vessel. As you use it up the bag inside the box just collapses but no air enters.

                I have a trick for keeping bottled wine fresh for a while after opening. When I am having a red wine by myself I crack the bottle and fill a small decanter immediately (a grolsch beer bottle will also do nicely) nearly to the very rim and seal quickly. The contact with air is fleeting and the wine keeps nearly as well as though it had stayed in the bottle.

                You get essentially the same effect with a vacu vin or gassing a bottle with canned nitrogen (which some liquor stores sell) but I find the results with a totally filled smaller bottle to be even better. It will keep essentially indefinitely if you do it quickly and fill to the very rim.

              3. re: Aromatherapy

                Aromatherapy, I poked around a bit and found a couple of more Portugese boxes. One is a brand I have seen as a garrafao and wasn't too thrilled, so I gave another "Adega cooperativa de Santa Marta de Penaguiao" a try. A bit cheaper than the baguinha ($15.99/5L) and an improvement: better balance of acid, more jammy tasting than fruity, not very tannic, some oak extract, and not too much residual sugar. Old world style wine, not very lively, but drinkable. Its also 12% rather than 11, so its probably a good bit drier than the other, but not fully dry. I couldn't drink it every day and there are definitely $10 (or less) Portuguese wines which are better, but then again Atlas had a Barbera and a Dolcetto on sale for $9.99 which were inferior than this (one of them even had noticeable H2S) so price isn't the best measure. Its equal to the 1L Bazzini Barbera which SavMor and Kappys sell (I think 2 for $15 at SavMor). Martin Brothers had the most in stock and they also had a white from the same company.

                1. re: itaunas

                  Thanks, that might come in handy. Funny, I think of "old style" cheap Portuguese red as almostly unpleasantly dry and unfruity. Been a while though.

                  1. re: itaunas

                    Been meaning to update this for a while. The Portuguese box wines I have found around the Boston area are Baguinho (red/white), the Adega cooperativa (red/white), Machadinho (red), Capote Velho (red), Da Nossa Aldeia (red), Real Lavrador (red in box, white bottles), and Alandra (red box, also white and maybe rose bottles). I only looked a little bit, but on the South Coast the only others I found were a couple of vihos de cheiro (made from the isabelle grape in the Azores) -- I tried the highest end one of these Cavaco from Pico, which isn't labeled a vinho de cheiro and is a bit higher in alcohol than most, but is primarily isabelle. All of these are 5L boxes, ranging from $15ish to $18.99, except the Alandra as a 3L. All are pretty standard table wine most 11 or 11.5% alcohol, one 10.5, one 12 (Alandra probably nudges up to 12.5%), the Cheiro less.

                    I don't know much about Baguinho ($15.99+) except I found it uninteresting and a touch sweet. Real Labrador is from an Alentejo cooperative and their reds are primarily castelao, I would suggest buying a 750ml or 1L bottle before trying this (under $6) and I think there are other better alentejo wines for not much more. I think they and the Machadino were among the first to get into bag/box wines. The Adega Cooperativa (16.99+) is a regional cooperative on the Duoro river (but outside the DOC), red was an improvement over the baguinho and some more substantial fruit, some oak flavor, but far from a perfect wine (maybe touch of oxidation) and I tired of it pretty quickly. Their's was the only white I tried and for that the oxidation was even more pronounced, it became cooking wine only. Da Nossa Aldeia ($16.99-$17.50) and Machadinho ($17.99?) are from Sociedade de Vinhos Victor Matos, a group which has a huge line of wines sold in various packaging (standard bottles, crown-capped, 5L, box wines). I think they are from just outside of Lisbon and most of their wines are not demarcated in any way -- they import grapes and make them in big tanks (I don't think any of these wines are DOC, but some even though table wines would qualify as "regional wines"). Machadinho I had tried in the 5L garrafao a long while ago and don't really remember what I didn't like about it, but Da nossa Aldeia (eg small town, not quite a vila) I found to be a pretty decent drinkable wine -- decent mouthfeel, better slightly chilled, nothing too exceptional about. Cavaco ($18.99) the azorean wine I picked up in Fall River was a nice surprise, it was nicely acidic, colored, and had that smell. I can't see myself ever buying another box of Vinho de Cheiro and don't recommend it, but it was a nicely made wine. Capote Velho was more expensive ($18.99+) and definitely had a lot more argonez in it (tempranillo) -- I think partly from estremadura-- whereas others had a lot of castelao, no oak. . I have had the Alandra from Esporao only in the bottle (its under $8/bottle, so essentially the same price). They are a large Alentejo producer using regional grapes, but tend toward more modern "new world" style wines -- more fruit forward, lots of american oak in some, cabernet in their reserve wines. Alandra and Monte Velho are two wines they make in a similar price point, the former with just traditional alentejo grapes and in stainless, monte velho with argonez and american oak. They are decent wines for their price point (and both are available in half bottles, although those are mostly sold to restaurants).

                    After trying a couple of these boxes, I also tried a variety of bottles of Portuguese wine I had not had before mostly from the south coast (some cheap, some more expensive) and there was a huge difference. While drinkable the box wines didn't have much of a bouquet (and I tended to prefer them a bit cooler than cellar temp, which didn't help either). There were some surprises with the bottled wines -- from different regions, some quite good in the inexpensive bottles. And I did get at least one really awful bottled wine (aged in a used sherry cask? aged in the bathtub?) and another pretty bad one. Much more of an adventure vs the same 5L of wine which is going to last a couple of weeks.

                    I still think you can do better buying bottles of Portuguese wine vs the box wines, but there are some decent drinkable (bulk) wines coming on the market -- Da Nossa Aldeira, Capote Velho (which I think is a bit of a discount over the bottle) -- this would be good for sangria, and the packaging of Alandra might be an advantage for some. On the whole these are better than most of the 4.99 and 5.99 portuguese wines you see in a store. To make the box wines you need to invest, so it seems to be either standard bulk wine suppliers or large cooperatives making that investment. I don't think you'll see excess wine from a great harvest showing up in boxes (randomly with the 5L bottles you do see something decent once and then never again). Someone did claim to me that Da Nossa Aldeia is not made every year (and its labeled with the 5L bottle label slapped on a generic box), but it has been around pretty regularly in the 5L bottles. Maybe over time, some of the regional bottled wines will be offered in boxes and we'll get some more interesting, better quality wines with some of the savings of not having bottle and cork expenses. (I also wonder if in CA some of the mobile bottling operations sometime might add support for boxed wines??)

                    For Aromatherapy, Alexander Liquors near Johnny's just outside of Haines Sq. carries Da Nossa Aldeia in Somerville (Barrios Liquors, under $17.50) and probably would bring some out if asked.

                2. Daniel Boulud's "boxed wine" is probably best in class. Haven't found it in Mass. yet, but pick it up sometimes when I go to NYC. You can email them though and see if it's available anywhere around here, or if they ship.


                  1. We like Alandra red from Portugal. We get it at Menotomy, just over the line from Somerville, in Arlington. $20/3L. For every day quaffing, it works for us.


                    1. I like Banrock Station shiraz in the box. Quite drinkable and enjoyable, with lots of fruit. Perhaps a bit over the top, but that works for me. Supreme Liquors in Central Square, Cambridge has it for $18-20 for 3 L.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: erwocky

                        Oh, I didn't know Banrock Station is available by the box! One of my favorite, everyday - as you note - fruity, too!

                        1. re: digga

                          Banrock Station is owned by the Australian winery Hardy's -- the Hardy's Stamp box wines are also perfectly drinkable.