21 May 2010

Octavin Boxed Wines

I usually skip boxed wines, even with samples, but these octagonal prisms from Octavin caught my attention. For one thing, they actually list vintages, regions, and named winemakers. For another, some of these are also available in traditional bottles. I think the latter is ultimately going to be what helps the market in alternative packaging. Not only will customers feel like it's more of a "real" product, but they also have the chance to try it in 750mL format before purchasing the big box.

2008 Big House Red
Central Coast of California
$24/3L box, 13.5% abv
Light start with a very mild cherry aroma. More cherry on the palate, with a touch of tea and spice. Low oak, but a bigger tannic finish.

It's a blend of 13 grapes: 23% Syrah, 14% Petite Sirah, 9% Grenache, 9% Montepulciano, 6% Mourvedre, 6% Sangiovese, 6% Aglianico, 6% Tannat, 5% Nero d'Avola, 4% Sagrantino, 3% Touriga, 3% Barbera, 3% Petit Verdot. The only one of those that's new to me is Sagrantino, a grape from Umbria in central Italy. With any blend like this it gets difficult to pick out anything specific.

Silly side note: this design takes advantage of the orange/blue contrast, a color arrangement that shows up on tons of movie posters. One of those many things that once seen, can't be unseen.

2008 Monthaven Chardonnay
Central Coast of California
$24/3L box, 13.5% abv
Yellow apple, pears, and just a touch of honey. Big round fruit flavor, followed by a tart finish. Partially oaked, but it doesn't stand out. It's a pretty standard Chardonnay.

While this isn't spectacular, it's quite good at the price. Most inexpensive Chardonnay (and particularly that which ends up in boxes) has a rough, sour aroma. You've all had it at a party or a wedding reception, that stuff that smells like spoiled orange juice and goes down like battery acid. The Monthaven is nothing like that, rather it is smooth and balanced out. This would also be great for wine-based punches like white sangria, or for cooking purposes. In the bag it's supposed to last for six weeks with proper refrigeration, not bad when you need a cup here and there to add to a sauce or soup.

So let's talk about the packaging, known as the Octavin Home Wine Bar.

The box is 14 cm/5.5in across, 28cm/11in tall, a bit shorter than a standard wine bottle (regular Burgundy-style bottle shown above for comparison). At $24 per 3 litres, you're looking at the equivalent of four $6 bottles. I think the form factor is better than your standard boxed wine. The footprint is similar to that of a magnum, it should fit easily in a fridge, and I think they look more attractive sitting on a store shelf.

This is also interesting because a traditional line of boxed wines is made by, say, Franzia and comes in several varieties. Here, you've got wines that are made by six different producers in different countries, and Octavin is the packaging and marketing. I think it's a step in the right direction toward mainstream acceptance. For instance, good literature can still be published in paperback, and we don't automatically assume that the contents of a paperback are inferior to those of a hardback.

Note: These were received as samples from Octavin.


B8wine said...

The blend of the Big House is scary. Is the box made of Tetrapack?

Benito said...


The blend is odd, but I did have a wine once that was made up of 50 different varietal grapes, most of which were experimental hybrids only grown by the winemaker. I thought that one should have been called "Frankenstein".

The box is just a regular cardboard shell, no plastic or aluminum layer like with Tetrapak. The bag inside is plastic, as is the spout. Not sure about how recyclable it is, but I think the main draw here is the savings in shipping costs vs. glass.


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