Best Boxed Wine – Red


bota-box-wineBoxed wine is an inevitable part of any cruiser’s life. We came to terms with that fact early on in our journey and decided we’d try as many as we could get our hands on. This here post is the result of our selfless trials, our list of Best Boxed Red Wine. Boxed wine gets a bad rep, and we hope our “research” helps you think differently of this magnificent invention. Not only does boxed wine eliminate extra glass on board, but each box is equal to 4 bottles of wine! Yes you read that right, four bottles! Boxed wine isn’t just a cost saving advantage (which is really important to us), it is also a space saving advantage (even more important to us) as they pack really easily and don’t require extra padding to ensure we don’t have broken glass everywhere and a red wine covered bilge. Apparently the stuff lasts up to a month after it is opened, but we can’t exactly verify the truth in that statement as we tend to finish our boxed wine way before the expiration is even a question.

All boxed wine is most certainly not created equally. While the Franzia varieties that originally gave boxed wine a bad name are still around, there are many other varieties that could fool even the most advanced wine drinker that they were sipping on a much pricier variety.

I will say that our judging may have been done by someone who traditionally buys wine by the label design, and our evaluation criteria included categories such as “severity of headache the next morning” as opposed to “robustness of grape,” but our Best Boxed Wine list has been helping cruisers enjoy their sundowners with a little peace of mind.

Our contenders were the Bota Box Old Vine Zinfandel, Bota Box Shiraz, Bota Box Red Blend, Black Box Cabernet and Corbett Canyon Malbec. While we still have a lot of boxes to try, these were selected based on recommendations and availability. Now, for the results:

5. Black Box Cabernet – I bought this one thinking it was the variety recommended, but in fact I was supposed to buy the Merlot. However, this was available at Walmart and I was eager to get my trials started. This box had the worst next morning headache (even with just one glass!) that seamed to lessen the longer the box was open. Give this box a pass.

4. Bota Box RedVolution – This is one of the least recommended Bota Boxes out there, just after their cabernet. I thought it was tolerable, but Jason thought it was awful. If you are going to buy a Bota, I’d recommend getting a different variety. I think it gave me a slight headache the first morning. Not a hangover headache, but just an “I really need to drink a gallon of water” headache.

3. Bota Box Old Vine Zinfandel – This is the Bota variety that has won all the awards and seems to be recommended by everyone. Yet, it wasn’t our favorite. While there was no morning headache we felt this variety was just better than OK. That said, we may bring a box our two on the boat for variety when we provision.

2. Corbett Canyon Malbec – I love a good malbec so I was excited when this one turned out to be so delicious. As the cheapest contender, $12, this one really delivered. It was smooth and the flavor was consistent throughout the box’s life. I would absolutely buy this one again.

1. Bota Box Shiraz – Now this Bota is where it is at. It is very flavorful and makes me think I am drinking a much fancier wine that a $17 box. This one will definitely be stocked on the boat. Give this one a shot.

Updated 1/2014 – We’ve also found that Big House Zinfandel to be quite good and one of our new favorites. However, it is a bit pricier for a boxed wine coming in as the highest price per box of any of the wines we tested. I think it ran about $19. This was very smooth and left no trace of a hangover the next morning.

If you happen to stumble upon a less than stellar box, leave it for a week or so and give it another shot. I found that the worst wines on the list improved after a few days of being open. Also, some of the Bota varieties come in little juice box sizes (about 3 glasses) if you are going on a picnic or hike and want something easy to carry.

If you do decide to do your own trials because you think my ranking is crap (I wouldn’t be offended because I really don’t know much about wine) share your findings with us! We’re always eager to try new boxed wines and even add to our Best Boxed Wine list!

Bottoms up!


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  1. I would just like to second the report that the Black Box Cab gives you really nasty ‘next-day’ headaches. I tried the same box on two different occasions and both times had headaches for the next day. The first try gave me a nasty headache for TWO days – a first for me. Give this one a big pass.

    • The WORST. We recently tried the Black Box Pinot Grigio and I am sad to report it has the same results. NO BUENO.

  2. I tried the Bota Box RedVolution, and I have to agree–not good. It was tolerable and better after being chilled, but I found it on the harsh side. To make matters worse, I got a horrible migraine within an hour of finishing just 1 glass. I didn’t make the connection, and a few days later, I had another glass (just got the little juice box 3-4 glass size) and within an hour, I started getting a headache and upset stomach just like a few days before. I immediately took some Tylenol and rested my eyes and fortunately avoided getting a full on migraine.

    A few weeks prior, I tried a Black Box, but I can’t remember which variety, probably merlot since there wasn’t a whole lot of selection for the small sizes for me to try before committing to a whole box. I really didn’t like that one and ended up dumping the rest of the box. I’m not a huge merlot fan, though, so that’s not saying a whole lot!