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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Box Wines & Bad Imitations



Leave it to those crazy Ozzies who refuse to concern themselves about tradition, to figure out box wines can be very, very good, especially if they have a collapsible bladder. 

To extol their virtues… box wines…

  1. weigh less than bottles.  For cruisers, especially those of us backpacking and dinghy-ing our groceries, lightweights rule.
  2. wine doesn’t oxidize as the bladders within the box reduce along with the wine, so what’s still in the bladder is not exposed to air.
  3. no worries about the cork breaking up or going bad.
  4. no worries about breaking a glass bottle.
  5. can take up far less room, as the “box” can be chucked.
  6. flexible bladder can slide into all sorts of irregular spaces
  7. use less costly packaging materials and at least some of those savings seem to be passed on to the consumer.

Cute, but undrinkable,in my. book.  About $13 USD
for the equivalent of 7 750 ml bottles
Box wine quality, just like bottled, can vary widely.  Price is not a reliable indicator of quality, so beware.  Either try before you buy, do your homework, or be willing to toss it if it’s at least not good enough for adding to beef stew.

Beware as well of packaging wanna-bees. 

Wayne was so proud of the plastic barrel, about seven 750 ml bottles worth, for ~$13USD (cheaper than Trader Joe’s two-buck-chuck range which these days is $2.99/bottle) at a Carrefour subsidiary in Pointe A Pitre, Guadaloupe. 

“How quick do you plan to drink the whole thing?” I asked, mildly horrified when he brought it aboard.  “It will most likely oxidize as soon as you open it.   Treat it like a wine ‘kegger’ for a some big party, after you make sure it’s drink-able, okay?” I pleaded.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Wayne replied.  “But it was a killer deal.”

Lili and Tomaz, fellow cruisers and good friends.
Eventually curiosity and inviting our Lily and Tomaz over for a pasta dinner conspired.  We had no wine except ‘the kegger.’  “Try it before they get here.  If it’s really, really bad, I do not want to put them in position of trying and drinking it out of an obligation to be polite,” I implored.  “They are, after all, our friends.”

Wayne tried it.  “I dunno.  I kind of like it.  What do you think?”

Ugh!  It tasted like vinegar and splinters.  Not good.  Not at all.  Not even a little bit.

Wayne used it to make our fake sangria, 50/50 cola and wine, called a kalimotxo in Spain, where it’s a bona fide club drink.  He offered me a taste.  “I think it’s good,” he said.

I thought it tasted like wet, moldy socks.  “No.”

A bit of it in the pasta sauce didn’t ruin the sauce; I made sure to boil it down well, nearly evaporating it before adding the tomato sauce, herbs and meatballs.  The rest, Wayne is drinking, all by himself.

“Do you really like it?  Or is it growing on you?  Or are you just being stubborn about it?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, and took another sip.