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Is Boxed Wine Bad?

December 11, 2015

If I’m at a gathering and I see the wine I’m being served is coming from a box, I wince a little. I don’t mean to: It’s an unconscious reaction. But, it’s exactly this sort of reaction that is keeping boxed wine from achieving its potential.

Photo by Emily Vikre

Why Boxed Wine is a Good Idea

1. It's better for people who go through wine slowly.

Boxed wine is, in fact, quite a brilliant idea. Wine often needs a bit of oxidation to soften its tannins and smooth its flavor, but once a bottle is opened, oxidation happens at light speed, and an open bottle of wine is really only good for a few days. Even if you seal the bottle well, the increased airspace vacated by the wine that has been consumed speeds oxidation, preventing your open bottle from lasting.

On the other hand, in the case of boxed wine, the wine is usually inside a vacuum sealed bag that squooshes down as it is emptied, and the tap on the bag prevents any new air from coming in, allowing a boxed wine to last for a month, or even longer in the refrigerator. This is great! And it solves one of the biggest problems with wine. Boxed wine has the potential to be the perfect set-up for a person, or a couple of people, who want to have one glass of wine in an evening and not feel like they’re wasting the remainder of a bottle because they’re not plowing through the whole bottle before it oxidizes the next day.

Is this boxed wine? We'll never know... Photo by Mark Weinberg, Mark Weinberg

2. It's more affordable.

The packaging materials of boxed wines are also much more affordable for winemakers (quality glass is incredibly expensive). That means that if these costs can be saved by the winemaker, they can then pass these savings on to the wine buyer. This makes it possible for boxed wine to be significantly more affordable by volume than the equivalent bottled wine. Imagine how nice it would be to belong to one the types of wine clubs run by vineyards where they send you a case of wine each month, BUT instead of receiving a case of a particular wine, you got two boxes: same volume, same quality of wine, a fraction of the cost.

3. Plus, boxed wine packaging is generally considered more eco-friendly than glass bottles.

Boxed wine looks much fancier when you serve it from a decanter. Photo by Emily Vikre

4. It's perfectly suitable for the vast majority of wines.

There is no reason high-quality wine cannot go into a box. A box is not good packaging for a wine that needs to age, but the fact of the matter is that wine experts estimate that the vast majority of wines available (some even say 99%) are not really suitable for aging anyway.

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In markets outside of the U.S. where boxed wine doesn’t have a stigma, many lovely wines we're familiar with in bottles are also available by the box. Some of our good friends in Sweden always serve nice boxed wines at parties—they just decant them first to create an elegant look!

A selection of boxed wines. Photo by Emily Vikre

Why It Hasn't Caught On in the U.S.

In the U.S., boxed wine is plagued by associations with Franzia and college drinking games; when the technology first came out, cheap brands seized upon the budget vessel and filled it with contents that fully deserved the terrible reputation they gained. And the reputation has stuck.

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Top Comment:
“We are quite happy with Bota Box wines and Black Box wines. We haven't tried many others. That's pretty much all we buy these days because they last so well.”
— Sunni

Though better wines are appearing in boxes these days, many wine drinkers are still too skittish to give them the benefit of the doubt. I spoke to a wine consultant at one of my favorite wine stores in Minneapolis who, when I asked him about boxed wine, lowered his voice and said that “wine snobbery, for lack of a better word, is kind of to blame,” for how hard it can be to find a really delicious, memorable boxed wine.

People see packaging as a symbol of quality (we can’t help it), and boxes aren’t seen as quality. He told me that a couple of years ago, Black Box had tried putting out a couple higher-quality, more expensive boxed wines out on the market in several test states. But they hadn’t seen anywhere near the numbers they had hoped for, so they pulled these nicer boxes.

Boxed wine is a catch-22: People in the U.S. still won’t buy boxed wine because they assume it is poor quality, and because they won’t buy it, few winemakers will put higher-quality wine in a box because they know it won’t be bought. And so the wine in boxes continues to be largely un-noteworthy, and thus the buyers’ expectation that boxed wines aren’t great wines are confirmed. And so on and so forth.

Photo by Emily Vikre

Which Boxed Wines You Should Try

Though there is not a surfeit of excellent wines available in boxes, it's, happily, not entirely a hopeless cause.

A few brands that are on the high-quality side and pretty widely available include: Wineberry, La Petite Frog, Maison Cubi, La Vieille Ferme, and Pepperwood Grove.

Not all brands of boxed wines are available everywhere, of course. As a more general rule for considering boxed wines, know that in boxes, wines from U.S.-based producers tend to skew extremely towards the fruit-forward side of the flavor spectrum. On the other hand, the nice, drier, more balanced boxed wines come predominantly from Europe and South America.

As the number of high-quality wine producers choosing to box their wines grows, it may finally be time to think inside the box.

Do you drink boxed wine? Are you proud or ashamed of the fact? Tell us in the comments!


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Sunni
  • FJT
  • Jenny Behr
    Jenny Behr
  • Margaret
  • Jen Kitt Urbano
    Jen Kitt Urbano
I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (, where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.


Sunni December 12, 2015
We are quite happy with Bota Box wines and Black Box wines. We haven't tried many others. That's pretty much all we buy these days because they last so well.
FJT December 11, 2015
I've drunk plenty of reasonable box wines in Europe, but the idea that I'll just have one glass never works and, because I can't see how much is left in the box, I don't feel guilty about however many I've had and consequently drink more than I intended. Bottles are better because I feel guilty when I see how much I've drunk and when someone sees me hauling all the empties down to the recycling bin in the basement!!
Jenny B. December 11, 2015
I also enjoy Bota Box. Have you seen the Bota Brick? It is the equivalent to 1.5 bottles of wine.
Margaret December 11, 2015
We're Black Box fans, but usually the malbec. We aren't going to go through a bottle all that quickly and it's nice to have on hand.
Jen K. December 11, 2015
Big House Red. I always have some on hand.
KellyBcooks December 11, 2015
I also like the Bota box and never see it on these type of lists! I like to have the Pinot Grigio in the fridge during the summer. I'm skeptical of most boxed wines, stigma, but try and find good ones. Would love to try some of the suggested ones, but most likely won't find them in the store.
Corin P. December 11, 2015
How is cardboard more ecological friendly than an equally recyclable glass bottle?
amysarah December 11, 2015
Here's a piece explaining - it has to do with carbon emissions from transporting glass vs lighter weight cardboard packaging:
Corin P. December 11, 2015
thank you for the explanation, now that I read it, it makes so much sense :)
Mlanterman December 11, 2015
I love the Bota Box, and these days I feel like most people I know keep a box of it around the house... but I feel like I never see it on these lists! I am by no means a wine connoisseur, however, so maybe it's terrible.
Kerry December 19, 2015
i also like bota box but it is odd that it's never on these lists.