All Boxed Up

Mom I love you and I am not singling you out, but I’ve got to tell this little story.

I’d been a home wine maker for several years, and now that I had my own vineyard, special emphasis was put on my zinfandel. I planted and head prune trained about 200 plants right around the house with the idea that I’d use these for my own homebrew. These were the last to be picked since for the weeks prior I was in a whirlwind of activity picking the merlot, syrah and cabernet. By the time I got around to the zin, their sugar content was way up there, 26 or 28 brix. The clusters were spotted with raisins and the berries had taken on an exceptionally deep color.

I mention this particular year because I had some outside expert help with the malactic fermentation. Not only that, but Dante Dusi helped me bottle it the next year ( I was dating his daughter and he couldn’t resist my request; oh, Dante had been growing zin on the Central Coast for 65 years).

Dear Mom, no matter any of the wines I’d made, pinot grigio, chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot, she’d always say “Oh honey, keep trying this just tastes a little funny”. Admittedly some were better than others and some just got thrown out, but most had very positive comments from my friends and others in the wine business. I had suspicions it wasn’t the wine. She had prejudged it before it hit her lips.

So did I fix her, yes I played a nasty little trick on her. At a dinner party at my place with plenty of wine industry people there, I poured some of my wine into another locally famous zin producers bottle. And when Mom tried my wine, she of course said the expected, “ this just tastes a little funny”. But then she said, “I’ll try some of that one, I see you’ve got it opened”. “Oh that’s much better, keep trying dear”, and I had her right where I wanted her. Mom they’re both my wine from the same barrel I exclaimed in victory. All she could say was “what’s for dessert”?

Well my point is made. So much of how a wine tastes to us is built into this preconceived notion of its quality by the design of the label and price we paid. As Pirsig so carefully explains in his master work “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, there are really two aspects of quality, Classical

and Romantic. It’s easy to understand when talking about automobiles. Classical quality gets you from point A to B safely, on-time, without mechanical breakdown. The Romantic quality is the leather versus vinyl upholstery, wood dash versus metal, red versus basic black.

These aspects of quality apply to wine as well. When we drink a zin we expect to taste the fruit, pepper and complexities unique to that varietal. But before we catch a hint of its “nose” or let it slip over our lips, caress the tongue and come alive in our mouth, if it came in a 750ml green glass bottle with a natural cork and million dollar designer label, you’re already expecting it to taste great! Now let’s put that some wine in a BOX.

I talked to a wine sales rep today at Costco. His company’s wine is sold exclusively at Costco. He told me the owner goes around the world buying up surplus bulk wine which he then bottles, slaps on a fancy label and shoves in a natural cork and charges us $14 to $18. Isn’t this exactly what Charles Shaw does for $1.99? Charles Shaw is a master of marketing and understands the consumer’s weakness to Romantic quality. There are thousands and thousands of gallons of great wine sitting in bulk waiting to be bought and marketed.

So a like-minded and sophisticated wine expert friend turned me onto Botabox Wine. They are doing the exact same thing as this Costco guy and many others, buying premium bulk wines, except they are doing the totally right thing, packaging to the best Classical quality methods. Putting wine in a mylar bag with a spigot and then in a recyclable cardboard box. This preserves the wine from your very first glass to the last drop up to 45 days later without ever exposing it to oxygen. This method has been around for years, but now some brave wine enthusiasts are going the extra mile and putting premium quality wines in a box, god I love it! I pray these “Green” entrepreneurs make a go of it and lead the way for others to follow.

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free Dec. 5, 2008 @ 1:42 p.m.

you pray these "Green" entrepreneurs make a go and blah, blah, blah... are you kidding me... you're kidding me right


Givemewine Dec. 5, 2008 @ 9:15 p.m.

I see you're still mired in thinking a natural cork is only good enough for you. Decant your favorite Romantically packaged wine and a Botabox of the same varietal and tell me what your blind folded guests think. Then we'll talk further. Or if you've some statistics of the "Green" worthiness of a bottled and naturally corked wine versus a boxed wine, I am all ears. Convince me. Just Givemewine


SDaniels Aug. 4, 2009 @ 1:21 p.m.

Givemewine wrote: "Isn’t this exactly what Charles Shaw does for $1.99? Charles Shaw is a master of marketing and understands the consumer’s weakness to Romantic quality."

You can see an article a few months back in the New Yorker:

Charles Shaw, apparently, is not a master of anything--rather, he is a broke IT worker in Chicago. Everyone in Napa knows and hates Fred Franzia, master of the boxed wine, and relative of the Gallos, who bought up Charles Shaw's bankrupt label like so many others, to produce the execrable and inconsistent "Two-buck Upchuck" in partnership with Trader Joe's. He buys bad and good surplus grapes alike, and dumps them together to blend and bottle under labels like "Forest Ridge" and "Salmon Creek." They are often 'corked,' (tainted), and have a musty, sour taste, but decent restaurants still buy and mark them up thrice, for the consumer of "romance," as you put it.


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