If you lug out a box of wine at your next party, you're likely to get a few eyebrow raises and maybe even a few snide jokes from your guests. That's simply because boxed wine has a reputation for tasting, at best, entirely inferior to wine in a bottle. And at worst? Completely vile.
But is this reputation actually deserved? We pitted boxed wine and bottled wine against each other in a blind taste test to find out if people could actually tell the difference between the two. And let's just say, the results may shock you ...
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Here's how we structured the taste test. We picked two reds of similar varietal, region, and price (remember, boxes contain anywhere from two to four bottles of wine) -- one in a box and one in a bottle:
Box: 2010 Black Box Malbec, Mendoza Argentina, $21.99
Bottle: 2009 Navarro Correas Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, $11.99
We did the same with two whites:
Box: 2009 Octavin A Mano Pinot Grigio, Italy, $19.99
Bottle: 2010 Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio, Italy, $10.99
We then had 10 tasters blindly compare first the reds, then the whites to see if they could identify which came from a box and which from the bottle. Of course, we guessed that we'd be able to immediately and definitively differentiate between the "repulsive" boxes and the "tasty" bottles -- but, boy, were we ever wrong in our predictions.
In actuality, all the tasters struggled to differentiate between the boxed and bottled wines. Many, in fact, described both the boxed wines as having a superior taste when compared with the bottles; therefore, they were certain that they came from a bottle (follow that?). Ultimately, only one of the 10 tasters was able to correctly identify which wine came from a box and a bottle for both the reds and the whites -- and he specifically noted on his tasting sheet that "this was hard work!"
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Now, that's not to say that just because most people thought the boxed wine came from a bottle, they actually liked the boxed wine across the board. The boxed white in particular got negative reviews for its taste and smell. But given that the bottled white got some equally unflattering comments, I'd say our tasters don't enjoy inexpensive wine; whether it comes from a box or bottle is beside the point.
Bottom-line: If you're going to serve inexpensive wine, you might save some cash by opting for the box, which tends to be slightly cheaper, is easy to transport to and from the store, and can last for a while if you don't drink it all. Your guests won't be able to tell the difference (and they may be unhappy regardless of what you choose).
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