If you’re like us here at realfoodtraveler.com, you appreciate good wine and, how it can, when properly paired, enhance the flavors of foods. But most drinkable wines these days are selling for $15 or more per bottle at retailers or, worse, $8-12/glass at bars and restaurants. If we buy a bottle of wine at these prices, how do we keep from wasting wine we’ve opened? Enter Black Box Wines, the first brand in the U.S. to put premium wine in a box that keeps wine fresh and enjoyable for weeks.
For those of you who remember the 1970s-80s when boxed wine tasted, well, really bad, banish those memories from your mind. What I fondly recall about those bad box wine days was the convenience of always having access to fresh wine by the glass in my refrigerator, whether for a quick glass or wine for a sauce or other dish.
And that’s exactly what Black Box offers: fresh wine by the glass. They use collapsible bag wine technology to keep the wine fresh for four to six weeks–only this wine is highly drinkable. In fact, when paired side-by-side with bottled wines in a number of blind tastings, Black Box has emerged as a winner.
“We care more about what’s in the box than the aesthetics of the box,” Constellation Brands Public Relations Manager Katie Vandermause says.
Smart Technology, Value Pricing
The box technology is important. Black Box packages their varietal wines in vacuum-sealed bags with a dripless spout. As the wine is used, the bag collapses, keeping the air out and the wine fresh. The cardboard black box that surrounds the bag keeps the bag upright and easy to access.
This technology is not only smart for keeping wine fresh, it’s also portable. The company produces the wine in both 3-liter boxes and smaller 500 milliliter Tetra Pak cartons. If you’re going on a picnic, hike, or even backpacking, you can take along the 500 ML carton or slip the larger 3L bag out of the box and pop it into your cooler or backpack. No more carrying heavy bottles of wine.
The company insists that the box packaging is greener too, enabling them to use fewer resources. Both the box and the #7 bag are recyclable (your area may or may not recycle this type of plastic).
Okay, Black Box wine may be convenient and portable, but the proof is in the tasting. At a recent event at Mountain Springs Lodge just outside of Leavenworth, WA, RFT Editor Anne Weaver and I had the opportunity to sample five Black Box varietal wines and we were impressed with their distinctive flavors and how well they paired with dishes prepared by the lodge’s chef, Thomas Obregon.
Black Box, part of the Constellation Brands family that makes well-known Mexican beers Corona, Modelo and Pacifica, produces 10 different varietal wines and we sampled five: California Chardonnay, Valle Central Chile Sauvignon Blanc, California Merlot, California Pinot Noir, and Columbia Valley Riesling. Their winemaking facilities are located in the Central Valley of California, but not all their grapes come from there. During a time when hyper-localism is all the rage, Black Box has taken a different tact: they source grapes from the places where each grape grows best. The question for Black Box is always the same—where can they find THE place where a particular grape varietal grows the best and can be purchased for a price that enables them to produce wine at value prices for the consumer.
And price is important. Black Box’s sleek 3L boxes, the equivalent of four bottles of wine, sell for a mere $24.99 or just a shade over $6/bottle. Now that’s value-pricing.
Food Pairing with Black Box
To see how Black Box pairs with food, we were invited to a private dinner at Mountain Springs Lodge. We began our tasting with Black Box California Chardonnay paired with individual vegetarian pizzas topped with pesto, onion, feta, pepperoncini, Parmesan, and artichoke hearts. This thin-crusted pizza offered artichoke-forward flavor with a spicy background provided by the onions and pepperoncini. This Black Box Chardonnay isn’t overly dry or overly-oaked and the wine’s fruity notes countered the pizza’s acids perfectly.
Local house-smoked salmon brined with allspice and ginger came next. It was served cold in a puff pastry shell and topped with crème fraiche. While this dish would have been better served warm, the coldness of this dish matched the chilly temperature of Black Box’s Valle Central Chile Sauvignon Blanc. The cold flattened the flavors of both. However, as the salmon dish warmed, we could discern the delicate saltiness of the fish and the creamy lightness of the crème fraiche with its notes of fresh dill. As the Sauvignon Blanc warmed, it became a different wine—clean-tasting with a depth and subtle herbal flavor that was quite pleasing.
Correct serving temperature is something to pay attention to with white wines. If whites are served too cold, it masks their real character and that was apparent with the Black Box wines. When serving Black Box white (or other) white wines, we suggest decanting the wine (like you would with red wine) or taking the wine box out of the refrigerator to allow it to warm up a bit before serving. White wines should be served cool, not cold.
Black Box California Merlot is a soft red with notes of cherry and subtle flavors of leather. Merlot is usually not of our favorites—it’s often too assertive. However, Black Box Merlot is satisfyingly rich without being heavy. It went well with without overpowering the creamy veggie gratin, thin slices of yellow and zucchini squash, melty cheese and rough chopped tomatoes (tomato concasse).
California Pinot Noir is Black Box’s newest wine and it’s a winner. They mix it with a little Syrah for a richer and deeper flavor and color. This was a wine we really loved, especially when it was paired with perfectly cooked beef tri tip with a Pinot Noir reduction that offered a subtle sweetness and echoes of the wine’s flavor. It easy stood up to this beefy dish, highlighting both the flavor of the meat and its sauce.
Curiously, the chef chose to pair this lovely dish with a pork rice and beans side that was hot, hot, hot. It not only didn’t complement the beef entrée, it completely overpowered the wine (and our taste buds). Judging from the amount of this side dish left on everyone’s plates, this was not a good choice.
The meal ended on a high note, however, with a puff pastry pear tart with almond paste that was drizzled with caramel sauce. Black Box’s Columbia Valley Riesling is not a sweet wine. Instead, it offers floral notes and a genuine sense of the Riesling grape. It both countered and complimented the sweetness of pears, the almond paste, and the caramel sauce and made a perfect end to a satisfying meal.
Real Bottom Line: Forget everything you thought you knew about boxed wines. Black Box puts wine, good wine, into boxes that keep the wine fresh for four to six weeks. You can take this wine anywhere with you. In both 500 ML boxes (three glasses) and 3 L (four bottles), the wine is easy to pack without having to carry heavy glass wine bottles. And with Black Box’s tasty, convenient premium wine selling at an easy-on-the wallet price, Black Box are wines we think you’ll like. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor