Vinoteca: Italian Boxed Wines That Are Actually Good
With Vinoteca, you might have to rethink boxed wine
Why can’t fine Italian wine come in a box? That’s the idea behind Vinoteca. The company was founded twenty years ago in Treviso, Italy, with the purpose of making quality Italian wines more accessible to the public. Today, they work with wineries across the country and package 25 different varieties of wine in kegs and boxes.
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Yes, I know what you’re thinking. If it’s boxed wine, how can it be good? Indeed, boxed wine is still considered cheap booze, good for college drinking games. Adults, instead, are supposed to pour wine from a bottle, while chatting over the dinner table or in front of the fireplace…Right?
While many box wines on the market deserve their bad reputation, it is not always the case. In this video, for example, an award-winning sommelier tasted and graded five boxed wines. Some were absolutely awful, but some, much to his surprise, were actually good.
In fact, we have already discussed why boxed wine actually makes sense. One of the biggest advantages is that, unlike with bottled wine, you don’t have to worry that the wine will oxidize quickly. You can be more “casual” about opening a box than you would be with a bottle, knowing that it will be good for several weeks.
Vinoteca vs rest of the world: A blind taste test
So what about Vinoteca wines? As Italians, we were (are?) also prejudiced against boxed wine. Back in Italy, it’s easy to find good wines at very reasonable prices. When you see that boxed wines are even cheaper, you start to suspect that what’s inside is grape juice, or worse.
To find out, we set up a little blind tasting. Vinoteca offers two white wines, Chardonnay and Pecorino, and two red wines, a Merlot and a Sardinian red blend. We went for their Chardonnay from Friuli Venezia Giulia, a region in Northeastern Italy that produces excellent white wines (an example? Collio Bianco). The three liter box, corresponding to four 750ml bottles, is sold at $24.99 ($.8.33/liter).
For comparison, we picked two domestic Chardonnays at different price points. One was the (in)famous Franzia, which, despite claims of being “The World’s Most Popular Wine,” has actually a pretty terrible reputation. We bought a five-liter box from the supermarket for $14.99, meaning—wait for it—$3 per liter.
Next, we walked into one of our favorite wine stores and asked the owner to recommend us a good California Chardonnay. We settled for a 2012 Varner Foxglove Chardonnay from Central Coast, which various online sources also seem to appreciate (see here and here). One bottle costs the same as the 5-liter Franzia box, so the price goes up to $20 per liter.
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Back home, we poured, we swirled, and we tasted. All without looking at the labels or the containers. Here’s what we found:
- Franzia Chardonnay. Somewhat tart as first, but not as terrible as you might think. The most disappointing part is the finish, almost non-existent.
- Foxglove Chardonnay. Lean, crisp, smooth, and well-balanced. The fruity notes make it very pleasant. Definitely an accessible wine that everyone would enjoy.
- Vinoteca Chardonnay. A very different style of Chardonnay. Dry, full-bodied, and mineral, with a remarkable aromatic persistence.
All in all, Vinoteca fared very well. Depending on whether you are more into fruity or dry, you might prefer Foxglove (or similar styles of Chardonnay). However, considering the price, Vinoteca is a great deal. For less than half the price, you get to enjoy a nice Italian Chardonnay over the course of a few weeks.
The point is, think both inside and outside the box when buying your wine! You wouldn’t buy a wine only based on how pretty the label is, right? By the same token, don’t let the packaging mislead you. Now that you can find such good deals on Italian wine, it would be a shame to let those boxes sit on the shelves.
Disclaimer: Vinoteca contacted us and offered a sample box to review. Foodiamo paid for the other wines in the test.