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I Tried 9 Cheap Boxed Wines & One Blew the Others Out of the Park

There's one wine that you'd never be able to tell came from a box.
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Boxed wine has gone through an intense makeover in the last few years. What was once limited to only a couple of watered-down, lackluster options has now blossomed into a full-blown trend with companies specializing in affordable, flavorful boxed wines that even wine lovers can enjoy.

The appeal of boxed wines has to do with a couple of factors. For one, these wines are usually cheaper, providing more volume for a lower price point. And because of the vacuum seal of the bags inside the box, boxed wines also last longer than a bottle once they're opened.

But can boxed wines truly break out of their old reputation and find a place on the shelves of wine enthusiasts? As a lover of wine myself, I wanted to find out. To throw together an evening of wine tasting, I ordered nine different boxed wines from popular brands, and enlisted the help of a few key people in my life:

My Mom: Wine has always been a big part of my mom's social life. Growing up I remember her always bringing a bottle of wine on the back porch to share with her sisters and friends, and once I was old enough to partake, she shared all of her favorites with me. I attribute my love of wine to my mom.

My friend Sydney: Sydney has worked in the coffee and food industry for years, so she has quite a developed palate. When it comes to both coffee and wine, she believes the more interesting the flavor, the better.

My friend Linzi: Linzi doesn't drink a ton of alcohol, but when she does, she often goes for a glass of red wine. She also works in marketing and graphic design, so I was excited to have her professional opinion on the branding of these boxed wines.

After a night of carefully tasting and taking notes on each wine, and some far-too-heavy pours that resulted in mild hangovers the next day, all four of us agreed that among the nine choices, there were some we wouldn't buy, a few we'd buy again, and one clear winner that blew the other options out of the park.

Read on, and for more, check out the 10 Best Costco Wines, According to Sommeliers.

Our least favorite boxed wines

We aren't saying these wines are bad by any means, but these are the boxed wines that taste like boxed wines. They are probably best for those who don't normally drink wine, or for those who just need a lot of liquid at an affordable price.

Franzia Merlot

Franzia Merlot
Samantha Boesch

Price: 5-liter box (34 glasses) for $17.48

The Franzia Merlot is how I'd think of boxed wine before boxed wine got a makeover. It doesn't taste terrible, but it doesn't taste like much of anything at all. It's quite watery and bland, and it's not something I'd enjoy drinking.

Sydney was turned off by the box itself, saying "If it didn't have the wine on the front, I'd think it was a small box of dog food."

Linzi then informed us that this was the boxed wine brand they used to float down the river with during her days in Ohio, a term she confidently called "slappin' the bag."

A wine you drink while floating down a river is probably not the same wine you're going to bring to a dinner party, but if you need a larger volume at an affordable price point, you can't beat the price of $17 for a 5-liter box of wine.

Franzia Pinot Grigio

Franzia Pinot Grigio
Samantha Boesch

Price: 5-liter box (34 glasses) for $18.99

The Franzia Pinot Grigio looks and tastes more like water than wine. After one sip, Sydney said without hesitation, "There may be five bottles of wine mixed in here but it tastes like one of those bottles was just water."

One major perk of the Franzia boxes is that you get 34 glasses of wine out of each one, making it the most cost-effective on the list. But when those glasses of wine taste more like water than Pinot Grigio, it may not be worth the price for those wanting to actually sip on wine.

For those just wanting to "slap the bag," however, this box will do just fine.

 12 Cheap White Wines That Taste Expensive, According to Sommeliers

Black Box Pinot Noir

Black Box Pinot
Samantha Boesch

Price: 3-liter box (4 bottles of wine) for $17.99

The Black Box Pinot Noir is certainly a step above the Franzia when it comes to body and flavor, but all of us taste testers agreed that there was still nothing special about it.

More flavors came through than I expected, and I could taste both the strawberry and cherry notes that were mentioned on the box. I also appreciated how easy it was to drink, and even though I didn't think it was super interesting overall, I think it could be appealing to those who don't drink wine regularly.

Linzi said that it was sweet and had a nice cherry taste, and said "It's not bad, but I wouldn't choose it." She also added that it's easy to drink and may be perfect for new wine drinkers.

Sydney agreed that it was just okay, and said, simply put, "It tastes like a boxed wine."

After tasting all of the wines on this list, there are a handful of other options that I'd choose to buy over this one, but I certainly wouldn't say no if it was offered to me.

Bota Box Chardonnay

Bota Box chardonnay
Samantha Boesch

Price: 3-liters (4 bottles of wine) for $18.47

I was excited to dig into the chardonnay options with my mom because chardonnay has been the family's wine of choice for as long as I can remember.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much to talk about with the chardonnay from Bota Box. All four of us tasters tried it at the same time, and the first sip left us shrugging our shoulders and letting out a simultaneous "ehh."

My mom appreciated the citrusy notes at the end, but ultimately said "It's a good 'hang around wine,' but it's not very interesting."

Linzi, our resident marketer and designer, couldn't get over how unappealing the box itself was. "I just don't think I'd want to show up to a picnic or party with this."

Even though there wasn't much excitement with this chardonnay, I still think there's a place for it. The price point is really impressive, as you get four bottles of wine for under $19. It may not be packed with flavor, but it's light and easy to drink, so I do think it would be a great option for a warm spring or hot summer event where you need to please a crowd without breaking the bank.

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The boxed wines that got us talking

These wines weren't the number one favorite, but they could all be considered "runners up." They were enjoyable and interesting enough to get us talking, and I could see myself buying them again.

Black Box Sauvignon Blanc

Black Box Sauv
Samantha Boesch

Price: 3 liters (4 bottles of wine) for $17.99

This may have been one of the more surprising wines for me personally. When it comes to white wine, I rarely choose a Sauvignon Blanc because I often find it a bit too light and boring, and because of this, I wasn't expecting much from a boxed Sauv Blanc. But I have to say, nothing is boring about this wine from Black Box.

Sydney and I both agreed that the strongest flavor note here is the apple, and there's a satisfying crispness that comes from both the flavor aromas and the mouthfeel itself. Sydney also added that she was getting a lot of earthiness in hers, whereas I was feeling more of a sweetness.

Either way, this one got all of us talking, and we all agreed that we'd buy this one for a park hang in Brooklyn or a girl's night in.

Juliet Cabernat Sauvignon

Juliet Cab
Samantha Boesch

Price: 1.5 liters (2 bottles of wine) for $35 

Right off the bat, the first thing all of us noticed about the Juliet Boxed Wine was its packaging. Linzi was impressed with the branding itself, and I couldn't stop talking about how cute—and practical—the rope handle is. We all agreed that we'd feel cool showing up to any event with this box in tow.

As far as the taste itself, this is a solid red wine. My mom liked that it wasn't too dry and that it's easy to drink, and Sydney said "It's a red wine you can drink in the summer."

It's easy enough to drink that I'm confident you'd be able to bring this anywhere and make most people happy with it. The only potential negative to the Juliet wine is its price point. For $35 you're getting only two bottles of wine, making it the least cost-effective brand on the list, so if your goal with a boxed wine is to save money, you may want to go with another option.

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Juliet Chardonnay

Juliet Chardonnay
Samantha Boesch

Price: 1.5 liters (2 bottles of wine) for $35

The Juliet Chardonnay was even more enjoyable than the Cabernet Sauvignon because the flavors in this wine really stood out. So much so, that this was the second favorite for both Linzi and the chardonnay enthusiast herself—my mom. Linzi liked how refreshing and lemony it was, while my mom said she could see her and my aunt happily sipping on this while gossiping on the back porch.

This was the third favorite for me and Sydney, but we both agreed that we'd bring this to a party. What I really appreciated about the Juliet Chardonnay is that it's light and easy to drink, but the flavors aren't lost in the same way that we saw with the other boxed white wines on the list.

Again, my one complaint about the Juliet wines is the price. I think because of the pleasing flavors and trendy packaging, I'd buy this one for an event or keep it in my fridge since I know it would last longer, but I'd also be tempted to just pick up two bottles of wine for the same price.

Sandy Giovese Vino Rosso

Sandy Giovese
Samantha Boesch

Price: 3 liters (4 bottles of wine) for $34.99

Impressive both in taste and packaging, the Sandy Giovesse Vino Rosso was a second favorite for both me and Sydney.

I loved the fun, flirty branding, and practicality of the cloth handle, and I thought it tasted better than what I'd expect from a boxed wine. Sydney loved how dry and tangy it was, and after a few sips, she exclaimed "I love funky wines, and I love this one."

Linzi and my mom loved the playfulness of the design, but when it came down to the taste, the Sandy Giovesse was a bit too dry for their liking.

However, all four of us agreed that this was one of the most interesting boxed wines on the list, and regardless of our preferences, it got all of us talking about it for a long time.

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The boxed wine that blew the others out of the park

All four of us easily chose this as the number one winner, and this wine is miles ahead of the others we tried.

Bota Box Nighthawk Black Cabernet Sauvignon

Nitehawk Black
Samantha Boesch

Price: 3 liters (4 bottles of wine) for $16.99

We tried this wine nearly a week ago, and it's still a daily topic of conversation around the apartment. The Nighthawk Black Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon by Bota Box is a clear winner out of the wines we sampled, and it's the one option I could easily say tastes nothing like what you'd expect from boxed wine.

While the Bota Box Chardonnay elicited an "ehh" from all four of us, the Bota Box Nighthawk Black got an enthusiastic "ohhh!" from us all.  It's sweet but not too sweet, and it's full-bodied in a way that none of the other boxed wines were.

Linzi and my mom both commented on the warmth they felt as it went down, and Sydney said she wanted to sip on this while she cooked over an open campfire. I'd be happy sipping on this in any setting, which is why I plan on keeping a box of this around the house on a regular basis.

The experience of this wine for the price point is unmatched. All four of us agreed it doesn't taste like a boxed wine, but the shocking part is that you get the equivalent of four bottles for only $17. Whether I'm bringing it on a camping trip, to a dinner party, or stocking up on some for my next holiday movie night, I'm buying this wine without hesitation.

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha