Duca Garganega/Pinot Grigio
Duca Garganega/Pinot Grigio

Several weeks ago a woman who recognized me as "the wine guy" tapped me on the shoulder in a CVS store and asked if I had ever tried wine in a box.

I replied that I hadn't. She seemed disappointed. She said she was at a beach party when the hosts brought out a box wine from a cooler, she tried some, and it was great. What she liked most was that the wine box fit so compactly in the cooler and was easy to lift and handle.

"It would be great to take to the beach, where you don't have to worry about breaking glass or having police take your bottle away from you," she said, breaking into a broad smile.

I got to thinking: Box wines are a convenience for picnics, deck parties, the beach and other venues where you worry about dropping bottles and dealing with corks that break (although screwcaps take care of this). Plus, they're easy to pack. You can't stack bottles on top of each other like you can boxes.

The question comes down to this: Is what's in the box any good?

The answer is "yes."

Of course, the days of putting age-worthy wines like Barolo and Bordeaux in a box is unthinkable. Yet as consumer demands change and product functionality improves, it is conceivable that expensive wines may get a box of their own in the not-so-distant future.

Box wines presently on the market are made to be consumed fresh upon release.


Recently, Kate Corcoran of Creative Palate Communications sent me several box wine samples to evaluate on their quality and taste. Quite honestly, I was impressed. Once the wine was in the glass, I could detect no difference if it came from a bottle or a box. In fact, the white wine I tried, a 2013 Duca Garganega/Pinot Grigio blend from Italy's Veneto region, was quite expressive in apple and garden flower aromas. The taste was clean, crisp and balanced, a cool delight on a humid summer day on the deck.

What struck me the most, though, was its freshness. The fruit flavors were concentrated and true, and allayed any fears of tasting cardboard on the palate. But I shouldn't have been concerned. Cantina di Soave, the producers of Duca del Frassino, have brought box packaging to a new scientific level -- or so it seems -- by placing the liquid in an eco-friendly, collapsible, vacuum-packed bag that is placed inside the sturdy box wrapper. As the wine is consumed, the bag contracts to keep out oxygen that rapidly deteriorates the wine's flavors. Once opened, the box wine stays fresh for up to four weeks, according to Duca's promotional sheet.

The Cantina di Soave boxed wine handbag
The Cantina di Soave boxed wine handbag

Bottled wine has no collapsible feature to protect against oxydation. You can purchase a vacuum pump for about $10, but you'll have to do the work. Or you can spray nitrogen into the bottle and then cap it. Either way, the opened bottle won't stay fresh for four weeks.

The Duca Pinot Grigio comes in a 3-liter bottle and costs about $20. It's a great value in price and convenience. You're basically getting 3 1/2 full bottles of premium wine for what it would cost to purchase two bottles (750 mls.) The quality is maintained without paying for the bottle.

Now, as if the Italians haven't contributed enough to world fashion already, Cantina di Soave has designed a distinctive boxed wine handbag under the Viama label. It's "wine couture" as they say on Rome's Via Nazionale. (The colors are eye-popping, from basic black to rich, firehouse red, and stylishly presented.)

Viama produces both red and white blends in 1.5-liter boxes costing $15 each. The box contains a vacuum-packed pouch to keep the contents fresh. I tried the 2012 Viama Rosso Delle Venezie IGT and it's fine for a simple pasta dish, antipasto and cheeses.

A Viama wine purse on the arm of a dinner host or hostess will definitely be the life of the party.

Now if only I can find one in violet for the Wine Goddess.

Email comments to jcampanini@lowellsun.com.