Bring out the prawn cocktails! The naff Seventies wine box is back – and now it's the height of good taste
23:49 GMT, 26 October 2012
Box is the new bottle: Boxed wine is making a comeback after falling out of favour in the Seventies (picture posed by model)
Not so long ago, serving up wine in a box at a dinner party would have been social suicide on a par with feeding guests boil-in-the-bag curry followed by tinned fruit cocktail.
But now boxed wine, once the subject of so much mockery, is no longer naff and enjoying something of a revival.
No wonder. Far more economical than the bottled stuff and, once opened, it can be used for weeks because oxygen can’t get to the contents, meaning there’s no temptation to have that extra glass just to finish the bottle.
While there will always be wine snobs
who wouldn’t dream of swapping the delicious pop of a cork for the less
satisfying turn of a plastic tap, there is no doubting that boxed wine
can taste every bit as good as bottled.
in a plastic pouch within a cardboard carton it may not look very
pretty but, unlike some wine boxes in the Seventies, the modern-day
version does not have any of its flavour tainted by its packaging.
disadvantages are that you can’t easily judge how much you have left
and, while new varieties are being added all the time, there is still
nowhere near the array of choice that’s available in bottled wine.
as with all vino, it all comes down to taste. So here, after sampling
two reds and two whites from each of our leading supermarkets, I can
reveal which boxed wines are the toast of the town and which should be
left firmly on the shelf.
White Signature Pinot Grigio Catarrato, 11.99 for 2.25 litres (equal to 3.99 per bottle)
I don't like the box. It’s too high to fit easily in the fridge, so chilling will be a problem. The wine is a Sicilian non-vintage blend of the Pinot Grigio grapes (which we are all familiar with) and the lesser-known Catarrato grape.
It should be refreshing with a lovely clean finish, but this is mediocre with no finesse. I’d expect slightly better for the price.
The test: Asda's Pinot Grigio was among the best whites from the supermarket chain
J. P. Chenet Colombard Chardonnay, 11.99 for three litres (equal to 3 per bottle)
This blend of Colombard and Chardonnay grapes from J. P. Chenet, one of the biggest wine manufacturers in France, is dirt cheap — and it shows. The flavour’s cloyingly sweet and lifeless.
No love’s gone into the packaging either. The box is the tallest of all that we tested. Trying to chill this monster would be a nightmare.
Red Signature Merlot, 17.59 for 2.25 litres (equal to 5.80 per bottle)
The rich, inky colour of this 2011 Spanish Merlot is spot on. One sip and I know that this is a quality wine — there is a velvety mixture of black cherry fruit with hints of spice. This is a great all-purpose red and it’s staggering value. Wine this good proves no one should be snobbish about boxes.
Banrock Station Shiraz Mataro, 17.79 for three litres (equal to 4.45 per bottle)
A decent vintage Australian Shiraz. What it lacks in class, it makes up in oomph. Robust and butch with nice liquorice notes. I’d serve it with a hearty winter stew.
White Australian white wine, 14.48 for three litres (equal to 3.62 per bottle)
The dull, functional box doesn’t fill me with much hope, but the wine is surprisingly good. And there’s no reason why wine shouldn’t taste just as good out of a box as from a bottle.
The packaging makes no difference. It’s the wine inside that counts. The Aussie sunshine gives it a rich, full flavour. It’s probably too heavy for an aperitif, but great served with a meal.
2011 Garganega/Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, Italy, 10 for 1.5 litres (equal to 5 per bottle)
This is a simple but satisfying Italian wine made from Garganega (the grape that makes Soave) blended with the more familiar grape Pinot Grigio. It has gentle apple and pear notes and a truly summery palate. I like the refreshing finish, but it’s a little short on aftertaste. A good aperitif style.
Red Australian red wine: 14.48 for three litres (equal to 3.62 per bottle)
The non-vintage mishmash of grapes makes it a reasonable party plonk, but I wouldn’t want to serve this with a meal. The 14 per cent alcohol content seems high and bullish on the palate.
Expensive: Waitrose's Chat En Oeuf failed to hit the high notes and was marked down for its cost
Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, 10 for 1.5 litres (equal to 5 per bottle)
This lovely Shiraz has a bright cherry and strawberry fruit aroma. It’s a jolly and uplifting flavour and not that heavy. It may be a bit of a glugger, but it’s smooth and a real crowd-pleaser. Well done.
White Simply Australian Chardonnay, 14.99 for three litres (equal to 3.75 per bottle)
This non-vintage Chardonnay from south-eastern Australia is unexciting, but perfectly acceptable. Pleasant melon and mandarin notes on the nose and palate.
Lateral Sauvignon Blanc, 16.49 for three litres (equal to 4.12 per bottle)
Fresh from Chile’s Central Valley, this is a perfectly good aperitif white. It has nice gooseberry and fresh herb notes and a lovely, light citrusy flavour. The over-tall, ugly box is a letdown, though.
Red Simply Cotes du Rhone, 14.99 for three litres (equal to 3.75 per bottle)
It may not be a vintage wine, but this is a really decent red from France’s famous Rhone Valley. At this price, I wasn’t expecting anything sophisticated, but what you get is an unapologetically earthy, classic French vin de table — and I’d be happy to have this one on my table.
Lateral Shiraz, 16.49 for three litres (equal to 4.12 per bottle)
This Chilean 2011 vintage Shiraz has glorious bright plum and mulberry notes on the nose and palate. The flavours are balanced and the wine is slippery smooth. It’s a great wine to serve with main courses such as lamb or beef.
Bottom of the pile: Kiwi Cuvee's Sauvignon Blanc, available in Waitrose propped up table of boxed wines with a measly two out of 10
White House Pinot Grigio, 12.79 for 2.25 litres (equal to 4.26 per bottle)
Great box — just right to fit into the fridge door. And the wine, from vineyards around Venice, is seriously classy. Crisp with a mildly tropical nose and more flavour than many more expensive PGs. I’d serve this at a dinner party and no one would be disappointed.
House Soave, 10.99 for 2.25 litres (equal to 2.75 per bottle)
At this price, I’m not expecting anything fantastic. And bog standard is what I get. The fruit notes are a little mean and weedy and the flavour’s disappointingly short. It’s fairly refreshing, but definitely nothing to get excited about. On the plus side, the box is a convenient size for keeping in the fridge.
Red House Cotes du Rhone, 11.95 for 2.25 litres (equal to 2.99 per bottle)
I don't like this non-vintage French red from the very first sniff. It has an unpleasant nose and a hollow, boring taste. It’s very cheap, but, for a little more money, I know I can get a lot better.
House Shiraz, 11.99 for 2.25 litres (equal to 2.99 per bottle)
This Shiraz from south-eastern Australia punches way above its weight. It’s bright plum and mulberry notes are fantastic and I love the slippery smooth palate.
White Il Bello Garganega/Pinot Grigio, 15.49 for 2.25 litres (equal to 5.16 per bottle)
Crisp and refreshing, with nice neutral fruit and a snap of acidity on the finish, this is an all-purpose, citrus-scented wine from Italy’s Venezie region. It has a broad food and wine-matching repertoire.
Kiwi Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc, 15.99 for 2.25 litres (equal to 5.33 per bottle)
One of the most expensive whites — and the least palatable. The flavour’s unbalanced with an unpleasant chemical-tasting finish. A good Sauvignon has juicy fruity notes. Here, the notes are stinging nettles and green pepper.
Fancy a tipple: Whites and reds from the box can be just as good as those from the bottle according to Matthew Jukes
Red Il Bello Sangiovese, 15.49 for 2.25 litres (equal to 5.16 per bottle)
A delicious red fruit-driven concoction that is surprisingly light on the palate considering it’s from Puglia, in Italy’s warm south. This is a safe and satisfying wine.
Chat-en-Oeuf, 15.99 for 2.25 litres (equal to 5.33 per bottle)
From southern France, a reasonably well-made blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes. It’s a happy-go-lucky, easy-drinking red with delicious mouth-filling notes of red and black fruit. Not sophisticated, but it’s not pretending to be. However, I feel it’s a few pounds too expensive.
White Pinot Grigio Garganega, 11.99 for 1.5 litres (equal to 6 per bottle)
A bland and boring Pinot from the Venetian vineyards. There’s a touch of apple and pear notes on the palate, but this could be so much bolder and more exciting.
Gaston de Veau, 10.99 for 1.5 litres (equal to 5.50 per bottle)
I like the easy-to-carry pouch, which chills the wine really quickly. This is a 2011 vintage French wine with a neutral palate and lovely long finish. Very classy for the price.
Red Lost Sheep Merlot, 11.99 for 1.5 litres (equal to 6 per bottle)
A fairly rich Merlot from south-eastern Australian wine maker Mark Zeppel. It slips down a treat. I like the touch of mint on the nose and the deep, plummy palate. It would be great with heavy stews.
Gaston de Veau, 10.99 for 1.5 litres (equal to 5.50 per bottle)
This French red is pleasant with strawberry and blueberry notes, but there’s nothing to get excited about.