I Tried Every Box of Wine I Could Find — Here’s What I’ll Buy from Now On

updated Apr 6, 2021
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Boxes of wine, wine glasses on a table with cheese and olives, hand pouring some boxed wine
Credit: Sarah Crowley

When it comes to wine consumption as of late, a lot of us seem to be focusing on quantity over quality. How can I be so sure? I’m a wine buyer for a retail shop, where I’ve witnessed customers’ shopping habits shift towards purchasing less expensive wine and more of it. To be clear, I’m not judging, I’m joining in! Boxed wine for everyone!

3 Reasons You Should Give Boxed Wine a Try

While it sometimes gets a bad rap, there are lots of reasons to love boxed wine. First and foremost, it’s super economical. (The most obvious reason why it’s cheaper than most of its bottled counterparts: The price per “bottle” is a whole lot less when there’s technically no bottle.)

Another major plus? You waste less wine when you drink the boxed stuff. If you’re the kind of person who can never finish a bottle before it starts to turn, wine-in-a-bag-in-box might be the solution for you. You can have a glass or two one night, and then three nights later have another glass that still tastes good (or at least as good as it did when you opened the box). Because the wine is stored in a plastic bag, it’s not exposed to air as you tap into its contents.

And last but not least, boxed wine has a smaller carbon footprint than traditional glass bottles. This is because cardboard packaging is so much lighter than glass. While some of the components are thin plastic, which can be hard to recycle, you can, at the very least, recycle the cardboard box on the outside. 

On board with the box? Great! Now you just need to learn which ones are worth your bucks. Lucky for you, I did a legit taste test.

How I Chose the Boxed Wines for Tasting

Because casually swinging by multiple grocery stores isn’t the smartest idea right now, I chose options that were available at my local Kroger. Black Box and Dark Horse both make their rosé in three-liter bag-in-box formats, but they weren’t available at my grocery store. Instead, I tasted those same wines in their single-serve formats. I also threw in a couple of options from smaller importers that can be purchased online.

Note: Most boxes I bought denote that they last 30 days after opening, however in my experience, if you keep your box in the refrigerator, you can get closer to five or six weeks out of it.

As promised, here are my favorites in a few different categories.

Credit: Diane McMartin

The Best Boxed Rosé: Provisions Rosé Wine

My favorite in this category was Provisions Rosé Wine ($17 for 3 liters). The packaging doesn’t denote the specific part of the U.S. that this wine is produced, just the fact that it’s “American.” Because of that lack of specificity, I didn’t have high hopes. But compared to other rosés I tasted, most with an artificially sweet finish, Provisions tasted much cleaner and more refreshing. There is a hint more sweetness in this box than you’d find in, say, a traditional rosé from Provence, but it wasn’t cloying. The overall aroma and flavor reminded me of strawberry lemonade. I did the math and the price works out to $4.25 per 750 milliliters (the size of a typical bottle). That’s pretty hard to beat!

More info: Provisions Rosé Wine

Credit: Drizly

The Best Boxed Chardonnay: Bota Box California Chardonnay

Chardonnay made in what wine nerds call a “New World” style (ripe fruit, prominent oak influence, and buttery notes) is difficult to execute well on the cheap. Boxed Chardonnay isn’t made with expensive oak barrels — it’s made with “oak adjuncts,” which are oak staves or chips that are placed in a stainless steel tank of wine to give it some oak flavor. Clumsy use of oak adjuncts can make wine taste like a Yankee vanilla candle smells. Needless to say, I was nervous to try the boxed Chardonnays. But I was pleasantly surprised with one in particular.

Bota Box California Chardonnay ($20 for 3 liters) was the winner in this category. If you like a lighter-style Chardonnay — compared to richer, oaky ones — you’ll love this. Compared to the others I tried, it came across as more balanced. No one aspect (oak, alcohol, butter, fruit) jumped out in front of all the others. I’d drink definitely drink this at a cookout, and I might even have a second glass while I write this.

Buy: Bota Box California Chardonnay, $20 for 3 liters at Drizly

Credit: Diane McMartin

Best Boxed Pinot Grigio: Bota Box 2018 California Pinot Grigio

Bota Box won this category as well! Bota Box 2018 California Pinot Grigio ($19 for 3 liters) was simply great-tasting, inexpensive Pinot Grigio. It has some nice flavors of ripe pear and crisp apple, bright, refreshing acidity, and a clean finish. The best part is that it wasn’t “sticky” in the slightest, a side effect that I often get from cheaper wines. Overall, it was a perfectly pleasant pinot.

Buy: Bota Box 2018 California Pinot Grigio, $20 for 3 liters at Drizly

Credit: Diane McMartin

Best Boxed Cabernet Sauvignon: Bota Box’s California Cabernet Sauvignon

I swear I am not in cahoots with Bota Box here, but Bota Box’s California Cabernet Sauvignon ($19 for 3 liters) officially continues the streak. Of all the Cabernets I tried, this was the best option. (However, if I tasted this blind, I’d guess it was an inexpensive Zinfandel, as it’s much lighter in color than your average Cabernet.) The fruit aromas and flavors remind me of baked strawberries, and there’s a little sweet spice in here as well — probably oak adjuncts, but used by someone who knows what they’re doing. The touch of fruity sweetness in this wine works and, for me, came across as fun. This would be great with barbecue or Chinese takeout.

Buy: Bota Box’s California Cabernet Sauvignon, $20 for 3 liters at Drizly

What I Learned About Boxed Wine During This Taste Test

I honestly didn’t expect one brand to emerge as the clear winner, but Bota Box really impressed me with their consistently well-made, easy-drinking wines. As someone who has tasted wine as a retail buyer for years, I know firsthand that inexpensive wine is the hardest category to buy for. Finding a brand that’s consistently good like this is a rare and wonderful thing.

A word to the wise about this form of consumption, though: Unlike a clear bottle, the opaque box makes it hard to see how much you’ve had, which could make your Zoom happy hours more interesting than you intended!

Have you tried a boxed wine that you love? Let us know in the comments below!