Tag Archives: boxed wine

Bota Box rose and the pink wine revolution

bota box roseWhy does the maker of the $5 Bota Box understand rose while so many others don’t?

The Bota Box rose, which costs the equivalent of $5 a bottle, is as good a cheap rose as there is on the market. How is this possible, given all the evidence that no one wants to buy $5 wine any more, as well as the fact that so much $5 wine is so terrible? And that so much rose, whether from Big Wine or “artisan” producers and targeted at the rose boom, is overpriced, not well made, or not especially rose-like?

Somehow, Delicato, the Big Wine house behind the Bota box rose ($18 for a 3-liter box, sample, 11.5%) has created a cheap dry rose that is exactly that. It’s light, crisp, and refreshing, with watermelon and strawberry fruit. Yes, it’s a little thin in the back and there’s an almost bitter tannic thing lurking in the finish, but neither of those should stop anyone from drinking it. Buy it, chill it in the refrigerator, and enjoy it.

In this, the Bota Box rose is so much better than I thought it would that I’m embarrassed to admit it. I didn’t expect it to be dry, and it was, as dry as any high-end Provencal pink. I didn’t expect it to taste like rose, and it did – even more than those pricey California roses made to taste like red wine, with tannins and 14.5 percent alcohol. I didn’t expect to like it, and I really did – so much that the more I drank, the more I started thinking about it as a Hall of Fame wine.

So what does Delicato understand that so many others don’t?

• There is still a market for quality cheap wine, and that premiumization is a much more sophisticated concept than most producers are willing to admit – or even understand. I’m convinced premiumization may not be as much about price as it is about quality, where consumers want better wine and not just more expensive wine.

• Big Wine is putting more effort into boxed wine, where it sees an opportunity to use its trademark cheap grapes even more efficiently. The Bota Box rose is made with zinfandel, petite sirah, and what Delicato calls floral varietals, so white grapes. That’s hardly a classic combination, and I don’t think I want to know the winemaking that went on to make it taste like rose. But it works.

• Someone at Delicato, at least for this vintage, cares about rose. The company could have made a less sweet white zinfandel knockoff, and who would have have noticed? Hopefully, that approach will continue next vintage.

Winebits 484: Boxed wine, wine crime, wine foolishness

boxed wineThis week’s wine news: Sound advice about boxed wine, more wine crime, and why people who don’t understand wine shouldn’t write about it

Bring on the box: Americans, for whatever reason, still don’t think much about boxed wine. Thls post, from the Lifehacker site, explains why that’s not a very progressive attitude. “… while boxed wines have long been associated with poor quality, they’re just like traditional cork and bottled wines—there are good ones and there are bad ones.” Which, of course, is true for wine no matter what it comes in and no matter what it costs. Lifehacker comes in for a lot of criticism on the blog for its wine posts, but this is not one of those posts. Yes, there is a bizarre reference to the wine and arsenic scare as well as the implication that Two-buck Chuck comes in boxes, but the boxed wines it recommends are mostly worth buying and the advice is spot on.

A wine scam: One day I need to write a post about wine crime, and why so many people are taken in by grifters who have a smooth line of wine patter. As, for example, the various English men and women who gave a long-time villain £104,000 (about US$129,000) to pay for fake wine packages. The criminal posed as a multi-millionaire wine dealer named Lars Petraeus, fleecing his victims, including what the story describes as a prominent food blogger.

No, no no: As noted in the item above, people who don’t write much about wine too often don’t do a very good job of it. Case in point is this line, from a website called Digital Trends that is shilling for a wine purifier: The gadget helps in “removing sulfites and restoring its natural taste.” Which is patently untrue, since sulfites occur naturally in wine and are part of its natural taste, whatever that is. Or how about this one? “Sulfites tend to give wine an unpleasantly bitter taste,” which also seems odd, since tannins (as well as bad grapes and bad winemaking) give wine a bitter taste. My guess is that the writer cut and pasted the news release for the gizmo, accepting as gospel whatever the release said. Which is bad form, regardless of whether you are writing about wine or politics or whatever.

The future of wine packaging

wine packagingCan the idea that canned wine is the next big thing in wine packaging

People who are supposed to know these things insist that wine packaging is about to undergo a revolution – specifically, that canned wine is the next big thing and will sooner rather than later compete with bottles as the package of choice.

In this, they are wrong. Wine packaging has remained the same for centuries – a bottle with a cork – and there is absolutely no reason to believe that canned wine’s future is any different than screwcaps or boxes. It will occupy a niche, and lots of people will like it. But most of us won’t even notice it. The wine business in the U.S. has spent almost 100 years teaching us that we have to buy wine in a 750 ml bottle with a cork, and you don’t undo that overnight.

Or, as one of the more clear-sighted analysts wrote: “In most countries, that packaging (whether it’s a $5 or $5,000 wine) is going to be a glass bottle, even though any number of containers can be used.”

So why the enthusiasm for canned wine? First, because it has grown exponentially over the past couple of years, up 125 percent in the year through the middle of 2016. Second, it’s something that should appeal to the two generations of wine drinkers younger than the Baby Boomers, who grew up on canned soft drinks and juice boxes and who aren’t supposed to be as fussy about bottles as the rest of us. Third, because the people who do trend analysis wouldn’t have anything to write about if they didn’t find a trend, and it isn’t easy to find trends in an industry as old-fashioned as wine.

In fact, here’s what the prognosticators don’t tell you about canned wine:

• “After years of packaging innovations, the traditional 750 ml wine bottle is more important to the domestic wine industry than ever.” The number of 750ml bottles sold increased 41 percent from 2010 to 2014, which is the same period that overall wine sales in the U.S., as measured by bottles sold, was up just 11 percent. This is premiumization’s work; who is going to pay $25 for a bottle of wine in can or box? Meanwhile, sales have fallen dramatically for the very cheapest wines, which lend themselves best to cans.

• That 125 percent growth was from a very tiny base. All told, canned wine accounted for $6.4 million in a $55 billion business, or about one-tenth of one percent.

• Retailers don’t like canned wine. Store shelves are designed to sell 750 ml bottles, and canned wine doesn’t fit on the shelves. That’s what happened to boxed wine, which was supposed to be the next big thing a decade ago. Retailers could never figure out how to display it, and so they shoved it to the back of the store.

Canned wine hasn’t solved the value/price problem. Much of it is more expensive than bottled wine, since we’re paying for convenience. But the quality of the wine usually isn’t worth the added cost. Much of the canned wine I’ve tasted was junk that would cost $4 or $5 for a 25-ounce bottle, not $5 for a 12-ounce can. Compare this to boxed wine, which has improved in quality and does offer value – and still remains a small part of the market, about three percent.

In the end, know that screw caps, which offer as much convenience as a can without any added cost to the consumer, have been around for decades. And they still account for just 20 percent of the market. How are cans going to do better than that?

Image courtesy of Whitney Anderson, using a Creative Commons license

Wine of the week: Yellow + Blue Torrontes 2011


Yellw + Blue TorrontesYellow + Blue makes some of the finest cheap wine in the world, and I ?ve waxed poetic about almost every one of the company ?s releases. The torrontes ($13 for a 1-liter box, purchased) is no exception.

So why does this review come with the availability caution? Because retailers still haven ?t figured out a way to successfully sell wine, like Yellow + Blue, that comes in a 1-liter box. Most store shelves and racks are made to take standard-sized wine bottles, so anything that isn ?t a standard-sized bottle gets stuffed in a corner. And if a product is stuffed in a corner, it won ?t sell as well as a product that ?s prominently displayed, regardless of quality. After all, when ?s the last time you got on your hands and knees to look for wine?

Hence retailers are wary of carrying something that they know they ?ll have trouble selling. Which means the Yellow + Blue wines are harder to find than they should be. Which is too bad, because they ?re well worth the effort ? hands and knees even, which is almost what I had to do for this one.

Torrontes is a white Argentine grape that has been made so badly for so long ? sweet and sticky ? that I ?m surprised there ?s still a market for it. The Yellow + Blue, though, shows just enough sweetness to be torrontes, but is in no way cloying. Look for peach fruit and even a tiny bit of lime zest as well as a very pleasant floral aroma and a peach pit finish.

Serve chilled as summer comes to an end, and pair it with the usual summer and spicy fare. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2013 $10 Hall of Fame (since 1 liter is about one-third more than a standard bottle, making the price about $10 a bottle).