I Tried 17 Boxed Wines — These Are the 7 Worth Drinking
I knew it’d happen one of these days, and by golly the future is finally here. While boxed wines have long been a clever invention for those of us bottle commitment-phobes, they don’t often get the best reputation for delivering a whole lot of nuance or dimension. But boxed wine has gone way beyond all the ones you likely cracked into during those nights (or afternoons) of “slapping the bag” at a college rager.
As a former bartender and wine-buyer myself, serving up kegged wines over the bottles we had on hand was one of my favorite tasks. I’d watch the surprise of folks drinking a plummy Argentinian Malbec that came right out of a tap, as they all slowly turned into card-carrying members of Team Boxed Wine.
Personally, I think of enjoying boxed wine in the same way I think about reading books; much like you might enjoy audiobooks, e-readers, hard covers, or paperback, there’s still plenty of fun to be had, no matter the vehicle. The same is true of wine. Amongst all the canned, keg, or, of course, traditional bottles of wine, boxed wines are just one of the many ways we can imbibe. Plus, boxed wine is way better for the environment, as the vacuum-sealed bags of wine stay fresh between 45 to 60 days. Of course, they’re plenty delicious, too.
All in all, I sampled 17 boxes of wine (I could basically build a boxed wine fort), and these are the seven I’ll gladly crack into again.
The Best Boxed Wines
- Best Pinot Grigio: Black Box Pinot Grigio
- Best Sauvignon Blanc: Really Good Boxed Wine Sauvignon Blanc
- Best Orange: Juliet Orange
- Best Rosé: Nomadica Rosé
- Best Chillable Red: Big Naturals Grenache
- Best Splurge: Big Naturals Picpoul
- Best Budget: Bota Box Nighthawk Black Bourbon Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon
Best Pinot Grigio: Black Box Pinot Grigio
Truth be told, Black Box was the boxed wine that had me fully convinced that the boxed wine life was for me. What really solidified it? How great this Pinot Grigio box is — especially as someone who errs on the redder side of the wine spectrum.
Dry, fruity, and infinitely drinkable, this bargain of a box feels like crunching into a fresh-picked green apple that became besties with a sliver of melon. Black Box even nailed a bit of salinity here, too, adding a touch of complexity I wasn’t expecting. (It also assured me how great this box goes with a round of mussels and fries.)
Buy: Black Box Pinot Grigio, $18.99 for 3 liters at Total Wine
Best Sauvignon Blanc: Really Good Boxed Wine Sauvignon Blanc
If there’s a boxed wine varietal I’m going to be very persnickety about, it is going to be Sauvignon Blanc. On any odd Tuesday evening, I’ll most likely be sipping on a cheeky little glass of “Sauvy-B” while catching up with RHONY, and the Really Good Boxed Wine (RGBW) box will be my co-pilot from here on out. It’s especially shocking because I usually stick with New Zealand’s citrus-y, melon-laced Sauvignon Blancs.
Sourced from California’s Russian River Valley, RGBW’s Sauvignon Blanc is delightfully light and dry, with a twinge of lime-y, grassy elements that are 100% why this varietal is so incredibly drinkable. It even has me daydreaming that I’m cooling down from a hot day at the beach with a little sunburn on my nose.
Buy: Really Good Boxed Wine Sauvignon Blanc, $60 for 3 liters at Really Good Boxed Wine
Best Orange: Juliet Orange
Boxed wine already makes me excited, but when the selection expands ever wider? I’m over the moon. Or perhaps I’m just buzzed? Either way, it’s all thanks to Juliet’s newest boxed orange wine, which is about as cute as it is easy-drinking.
This is the ultimate entry point into boxed wine, with its aromatic hit of floral, honeyed apricots and the slightest bit of “funk” that’ll win over any of your “natural wine” friends. If you like your white wines with a bit of body, this subtly tannic wine (the orange hue is due to the grapeskin contact made during the winemaking process) is for you. I highly recommend grabbing this adorable box right by its rope handle and skipping your way to the nearest picnic.
Buy: Juliet Orange, $35 for 1.5 liters at Juliet
Best Rosé: Nomadica Rosé
I love when wine nerds get into the boxed wine game, because we all win. Nomadica’s boxed and canned wines could totally take the world series of wine. So it’s no surprise that this rosé — started by sommelier Kristin Olszewski — is just another jewel in Nomadica’s crown (err, ring).
The blend of Grenache, Gamay, and Merlot grapes yields an herbal, peppy wine that tastes like an overflowing summer farmers market basket in a glass. If you bring this box to a friend’s party, heed my warning: You will not be getting it back! It will disappear immediately — just completely slurped down in a cartoonish fashion.
Buy: Nomadica Rosé, $49.99 for 3 liters (launching later this fall)
Best Chillable Red: Big Naturals Grenache
Along with the boom of amazing boxed wines, I’m also glad we are all finally openly chilling our reds. In the dead of summer (or winter, let’s be honest), a chillable red is the ultimate treat. I nearly tripped over myself when I got to try Big Naturals’ Grenache, which, so far, has made the experience of takeout Thai and a round of “night cheese” into a total event.
Light and strawberry-juicy in that way that makes you have to eat that container of berries over a sink, this Grenache is charmingly unfiltered, and slightly tannic. It’s great for those nights where you want something red with a bit of body, but don’t want to get bowled over by something too heady and oaky. Let’s just say that if you, too, dream of your house turning into the next cool natural wine bar, this box will take you there.
Buy: Big Naturals Grenache, $60 for 3 liters at Big Naturals
Best Splurge: Big Naturals Picpoul
If you’ve yet to meet one of my favorite wine friends, Picpoul, let’s get acquainted! As fun as it is to say as it is to drink, Picpoul is a French white wine variety that, to me, tastes like if you could eat the word “zap” (“pique-poul” literally translates to “stings the lip”). While that might sound like it’s difficult to drink, I think you’ll find your lips happy to get acquainted with Big Natural’s Picpoul.
One of my favorite less-pretentious flavor notes to use with wine is Sour Patch Kids, and that’s absolutely what this box nails, alternating between that tartness with bits of orange blossoms, sea salt, and a hint of pink lemonade Popsicles. If you typically opt for a post-work margarita or a crisp sour beer at an outdoor concert, it’s high time to make the switch to Picpoul.
Buy: Big Naturals Picpoul , $60 for 3 liters at Big Naturals
Best Budget: Bota Box Nighthawk Black Bourbon Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon
If there’s one boxed wine that immediately made me go “Whoa,” it’s Bota Box’s Nighthawk Black Bourbon Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon (a mouthful in more ways than one). If you’re wary of big, bold Cabernets, don’t be! This box is an amazing entry-level Cab (still with plenty of spicy, rich backbone), without any bit of “artificial oak taste #45” that usually plagues the bold-for-the-sake-of-bold Cabs out there.
Truth be told, I’d even rank this better than one of the $30 bourbon-aged Cabernet Sauvignons I have currently on my wine shelf. Bonus: At under $20 for three liters (four bottles of wine), the “girl math” here basically says this is free.
Buy: Bota Box Nighthawk Black Bourbon Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon, $18.99 for 3 liters at Total Wine
How I Tested Boxed Wines
In all cases, I tasted these boxed wines in hopes that they’d match or even out-test their bottled counterparts. I focused primarily on complexity and depth of flavor across the varietals.
- Complexity: Does the body, dryness, and alcohol level match what you’d find in a bottled version of the same varietal?
- Depth of flavor: Did it taste “boxed” (i.e., overly sweet, flat, artificially flavored) in any way? If this was poured into a glass, would anyone be able to tell it came from a box? “No, and no.” Then, it’s a hard “yes” for me.
- Varietals: Sadly, there’s not a boxed version of all the fun varietals out there (still holding out for Malvasia, Vouvray, and Nero d’Avola), nor will you find something delicate like a sparkling wine, so I focused on varietals that had plentiful options found in most major grocery or online retailers (like rosé, red and red blends, orange, and whites).
Did your favorite boxed wine make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below.