What is the Best Boxed Wine? Red Wine 2017 Edition

What is the best boxed wine? We tasted seven top varieties to find out.

It’s no surprise to anyone who has ever met me that I like wine. A perfectly paired wine with a nice meal is one of the great pleasures in life. But sometimes…if you’re just sitting around the house after a nightmarish day of work, for example, or you’re craving a glass when your significant other is out of town and can’t help you finish off a whole bottle…opening a nice bottle of wine just seems kind of wasteful.

For us, at least, this is where boxed wine comes in.

Long removed from the days of Franzia frat parties, the boxed wine market has improved substantially over the last decade or so. You can now regularly get fairly decent wines, at a fraction of the prices of bottles, all delivered in a format that allows you to take a single glass at a time, without exposing the rest of the bottle to oxidation and spoilage.

Of course, not all boxed wines are created equal. Some still taste like ass. So I decided to invite my friends over for a “Battle of the Boxes” to determine, definitively, which boxed wine is the best?

I asked each of my friends to bring a different boxed red wine in order to participate in the tasting. They signed up via a spreadsheet to ensure we didn’t have any duplicates, and then as they arrived, we removed each wine “bag” from its outer box, and assigned it a number for the blind tasting.

Some of the wines after we’d removed them from their boxes, allowing for an easy way to do a blind tasting.

Each guest received a scorecard where they could write notes on each wine’s appearance, aroma, body, taste, and finish. They were also asked to score each wine between 0 and 25 points. After the scores were tallied, we had a winner of the title best boxed wine. Drumroll, please!

The Best Boxed Wine Is: Bota Box Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine scored both the highest by points total AND also received the most overall first place votes, making it the clear winner by either measure. My friends described this wine as containing “dark fruits,” being “a little sweet but not too sweet” and having a “spicy finish” that “kinda lingers”. One friend stated “this wine definitely works out 3x a week.”

Cheeses, smoked meats, crackers, and other assorted charcuterie to allow for snacking in between wines.

Cheeses, smoked meats, crackers, and other assorted charcuterie to allow for snacking in between wines.

The Worst Boxed Wine is: Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon

The last place finisher was the wine that certainly created the most conversation and disagreement. Some folks described this wine as smelling like “rotting candy,” while others described the taste as “wet, mildewing cardboard.” One friend went so far as to say “I would pour this shit down the drain…as long as there was other wine.” Yet this wine also had its fans — two friends actually scored this as their favorite wine with one individual swearing that if you let the wine open up for a considerable amount of time, it actually became incredibly complex and delightful.

Friends discussing the boxed wines as they sampled them.

Friends discussing the wines as they sampled them. (The toddler did not partake in any wine, but was a big fan of the charcuterie.)

The Rest:

  • The Bota Box Nighthawk Blend came in second place and was consistently described as “sweet” or “very sweet” with a finish that “lingers in a good way.”
  • The Owners Box Cabernet Sauvignon came in third with two different commenters calling it “unoffensive,” while one person noted “it’s a wine I could drink a lot of.” A different taster noted that it “gets really acidic as it opens up.”
  • In fourth place came the Bota Box Shiraz, which was described as “thin,” “sweet and boring,” “pleasant and easy to drink,” and “a wine that reminds me of college.”
  • The Vina Borgia Garnacha, the least expensive wine that we sampled, came in fifth place but failed to impress. Friends noted that it tasted “medicinal” and “meh,” while another friend simply wrote “gross — I poured it out.”
  • Finally, a late entrant to the tasting was the Bota Box Malbec. Because it arrived late, it wasn’t scored in the competition, but tasting notes called it “pretty sweet” and “a little syrup-y”.

To thank our friends for being our guinea pigs, we gave the couple who brought the best boxed wine an actual nice bottle of red to take home. All in all, it was a great idea for a weekend get together to drink some wine — all in the name of science, of course.

The winners with their winning bag-o-wine, the Bota Box Cabernet Sauvignon.

The winners of best boxed wine with their winning wine, the Bota Box Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tell us in the comments: what’s your favorite inexpensive wine? If you’re a home wine connoisseur, don’t forget to check out this month’s blog sponsor Winc, in the sidebar, for a great deal on wines shipped to your home.

Whitney