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Mar 26, 2014 09:26 AM

ISO A Better Box... of cheap dry red.

Ok so the "good stuff" is in the cooler happily awaiting a special occasion or intentional indulgence but I like to drink wine with dinner or be able to offer a glass of wine to a guest and need some good "house wine" that is affordable, good with food and most importantly not a sugary fruit bomb.

I have been increasingly frustrated with the less expensive wines available in the 1.5L bottles from S. America and California, even Italy- they seem largely tailored to the big and sweet - Cabs that could pass for Welch's in a taste test

Recently I have gone in two directions to look for solutions - the very bottom of the shelf - Jugs, gasp I know, and the higher-end boxes two areas I hade not really explored. I found that while everything else in jug-ville was pretty much awful the Caro Rossi Burgundy was passable - dry-ish and palatable - if I was served a glass of it as "house" red I probably would not think twice one way or the other - it is stunningly cheap but alas the big jug does not last well and in boxes they only have their other wines which are undrinkable unless turned into sangria IMO

On the other end of the "value" spectrum I purchased a box of Le Ville Ferme - a Rhone red table wine from France in a 3L box. It is quite good, definitely a bargain for the quality, but not cheap at $28 or so. Different from most of the other "bargain" wines I have had it is dry, tastes like wine not juice and does not over power with fruitiness.

I feel like everything I have tried lately in the middle of the value spectrum (which I would put at the MAX $8 for 750 ml or $12 for 1.5 L or $20 box) is just way too fruit forward for my taste. I am looking for a simple dry red that will go with dinner and not overpower me with sweetness.

Is there something I over-looking? I prefer boxes for storage and flexibility (and the environment) but suggestions for inexpensive bottles are welcome too.

FYI live in the "wine desert" of Pennsylvania where the state controls our choices but do travel regularly out of state to purchase wine (Shhh!) still readily available wines are more easily obtained than obscure ones

looking for something outside the Bota-Box, Frontera rut on the cheap side and I unfortunately cant really have this conversation with the trusted staff at the specialty wine shops where I buy better stuff when occasion demands it.

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  1. I would talk with the staff at your local wine shops. They know what I like, and are very happy to steer me to less expensive options which still fit my parameters.

    And your $28 dollar box does work out to $7 per 750 mls, which is a good deal. Just sticker shock

    4 Replies
    1. re: autumm

      thanks autumm unfortunately in PA the staff are state employees in it for the pension - nice people no doubt but they know as much about wine as that nice lady asking you for a 3rd form if ID at the DMV. The excellent shop in NJ I frequent just does not deal at lower price points and at the mega wine warehouse they have big selection little info. If I want a French white to pair with a saffron laced scallop dish I know where to go and who to ask but for a cheap bottle of table red its a crap shoot

      1. re: JTPhilly

        That's a bummer! I thought MN had tough booze laws. . .

        Personally, I find Spanish reds to be a good bargain. They tend to run a bit dry for my taste (I'm a mineral rich Riesling loving gal if I get to choose) but I would say they aren't bad wines, just not my preferred style.

        I don't have the link off hand, but Serious Eats did a Bota box tasting a year or so back. Might be a helpful read for you, depending on your tasting experience.

        1. re: autumm

          Agreed the Spanish reds are generally good and good value - I have not seen as much of them on the shelves down here than I did in NY - and the prices seem to have gone up on them but yes, a good Rioja is right up my alley

          Hopefully they will privatize the wine stores but I am afraid even if they do the PLCB will still control the buying - its frustrating to say the least.

          1. re: JTPhilly

            Sounds like time for a road trip across the boarder! Whenever we go to WI to visit family, we bring back (usually beer) things we can't buy here. If MN (or Penn) want to loose my revenue, that's their problem.

    2. " I unfortunately cant really have this conversation with the trusted staff at the specialty wine shops where I buy better stuff when occasion demands it."
      Why not? If you are a legitimate customer I don't see why you cannot discuss this - even if the shop does not stock boxed wine.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kagemusha49

        because I don't seem them steering me to the competition and they generally claim that all the wine from the big retailer is junk because they store it improperly.

        1. re: JTPhilly

          Then find a new wine merchant. Good wine merchants KNOW that a) no one shops only at one single store (after all, no mater how large their selection, they simply can't carry everything!); AND b) that good advice keeps customers coming back.