Box Wine Is Fine
Review of the To Life L’Chaim Kosher Wine Box, Premium White Wine Blend and Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week September 3, 2015
Storing and shipping wine in bottles is a relatively new concept. For centuries wine was stored in numerous different types of containers including open pots, earthenware jugs, wood barrels and wax-lined ceramic vessels called amphorae. It wasn’t until the 17th century that glass bottles and cork stoppers became the norm with the shape changing from short necked and squat to the now familiar long neck and thin body by the early 1800s.
Over the centuries the goals for wine storage have remained unchanged. The primary considerations are that the container is air-tight to prevent oxygen from interacting with the liquid, break resistant, easily transportable, easily made and inexpensive to (mass-) produce. While bottles have served admirably for hundreds of years, there is another option that has been making a slow but steady increase in appearance on the shelves.
Wine in boxes is not a new phenomenon. Unfortunately the earliest examples suffered from poor technology that led to spoilage, as well as poor quality. Changes in configuration, technique and an overall improvement of the quality of wines offered have now made boxed wines more attractive for consumers. Boxed wine produced by Black Box, Big House, Franzia, The Naked Grape and others now account for over 18% of all sales in the US, for example, and that market share is likely to continue to grow as premium brands migrate to the format, and as wine buyers become more cognizant of its advantages.
Besides containing increasingly very drinkable wine, boxed wine offers remarkable values. The customary 3 liter container is the equivalent of 4 bottles, but typically priced much better—often as much as 40% below the equivalent volume of bottled wine. The container is more durable and break resistant, making it well suited for picnics and other social events. And because the wine is held within an inert, tasteless bladder it can remain fresh for weeks as compared to a few days in a bottle. Especially useful for those who enjoy a glass here or there, or wish to cook with wine, but wouldn’t otherwise finish the bottle before it might start to turn bad.
A recent arrival is a kosher boxed Italian white wine marketed by the folks who produce L’Chaim Kosher Vodka. A surprisingly aromatic and tasty Italian blend of Trebbiano and Chardonnay, the “To Life L’Chaim Kosher Wine Box, Premium White Wine Blend” ($25-$30) displays floral aromas and stone fruit flavors with a touch of honey and minerals. Value-priced and exceedingly drinkable, this Italian white is an ideal wine to consider for the holiday dinner crowd (OU certified; non mevushal). While it does not require refrigeration and will stay fresh for a month if kept in a comfortable, cool temperature, we recommend just leaving it in the fridge to stay chilled.
Spirits-wise, our attentions were drawn back this week to Bourbon, specifically to the Four Roses Distillery in Kentucky. Back on July 1st, Four Roses Distillery’s CEO and President, Satoko Yoshida, announced the retirement of long-time Master Distiller Jim Rutledge, effective September 1, 2015. After 49 years in the business working with Seagram and Four Roses, and serving as Master Distiller at Four Roses for more than 20 years, Rutledge has earned it.
For those who haven’t heard us sing his praises before, Rutledge was inducted into the inaugural class of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2001, was given a “Lifetime Achievement Award” by Malt Advocate Magazine in 2007, and was named “Whisky Ambassador of the Year – American Whiskies” in 2008 by Whisky Magazine. In 2012, Whisky Magazine also named him to their prestigious Icons of Whisky Hall of Fame, for global whiskies—he was only the 2nd American to be so honored. You get the picture. He’s a serious whiskey dude.
So to toast him in deep appreciation for all he has done, we raise a tumbler of the classic Four Roses small batch bourbon:
Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (45 percent abv; $30): a lovely, soft, delicate, sweet yet multilayered bourbon. With aromas of sweet vanilla, honey, citrus and a little spice (adding water introduces some floral notes too), and somewhat luscious yet nicely integrated flavors of burnt sugar, fruit, candied ginger, a little mint, rye grain, white pepper, nutmeg, fresh coconut, mild toffee and caramel, and with vanilla and spice reappearing on the light but pleasantly lengthy finish. Delicious! L’Chaim!