Monday, August 20, 2012

Boxed Chardonnay Adventure

Like most industries, the wine industry is works hard on research and development. In addition to seeking out new and better ways to make wine, they are also looking at better ways to package wine. Glass bottles are expensive to produce and heavy to transport, so much work has gone into developing other forms of packaging, and working on the much maligned option: boxed wine. 

One of the big selling points for  boxed wine, for the casual wine drinker, is that it provides a better seal. Once opened, wine in glass bottles begin to oxidize and lose flavors. Boxed wine should remain protected from oxygen, thereby remaining fresh longer. We decided to compare a boxed wine to a standard bottle, to see what differences we could find, and see how each held up over the course of several days.

We selected two Californian Chardonnays, trying to keep as close as possible to region and vintage.
  1. Bottled: US, CA, Napa, Double T Chardonnay 2009
  2. Boxed: US, CA, CalNaturale Chardonnay 2009
On an interesting note, CalNaturale only offers boxed wine. In a blind comparison, we preferred the bottled wine a bit more, finding it brighter upon opening. From there, we sealed each and stored them in the fridge, trying them both over the course of five days:

Day 1:
Double T: Crisp, with apple and vanilla. Balanced. In a blind test, we both preferred this one.
CalNaturale: Crisp, but dulled edges.

Day 2:
Double T: Fruitier. Less bright, but still crisp
CalNaturale: Tart Fruits came forward. Dull, but with more oak notes.

Day 3:
Double T: Something slightly off with the nose. Still crisp, but butter notes starting to come forward.
CalNaturale: Flavor was about the same, but no real crisp attack anymore.

Day 4:
Sat in fridge, no tasting!

Day 5:
Double T: Lost all of its bright acidity. No real fruit flavors anymore
CalNaturale: About the same as day 3.

Over time, our preference changed from the Double T wine to the CalNaturale. It seemed to retain more of its flavor. It may be in part because of the nature of the two wines, as the CalNaturale lacked the initial bright flavors, so it had a little less to lose to oxidation. And this didn't really test the more complicated seals available for some boxed wines, as it was just a screw-cap instead of a spigot, but it did show that with some of these technologies, a bottle of white wine can last several days in the fridge, and still be acceptable. 

We do not attest to the veracity of our test: we would have preferred the same wine packaged two ways, but this was indeed an interesting experiment. The boxed wine held up better over time, although pouring from glass seems more "wine experience" than the box.

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