Festi-wine – no glass, quantity over quality: the time and place for a wine box.

I’ve just realised that we’re less than two weeks away from heading off to a UK music festival for 5 days. Whereas last year on the run up (I was on maternity leave) I started preparing months in advance, this year, I’ve only just started to think about what we need to take, particularly what food and drink we might take to keep the cost down when we’re there.

To be honest, I’m not in the habit of drinking wine at a festival. In fact, it’s no place for fine wine or taking along anything that needs to be kept cold – totally unnecessary, unless of course you either have a camper van and therefore a fridge to hand or are too important to erect your own tent (jealous of glampers? Me? Yeah, very much so 😉  ). Festivals are for drinking real ale, lager and cider. Oh, and you won’t hear me say this very often, but they are also the only acceptable time, along with making mulled wine, and place for a…wait for it…yes, a BOX of wine.

Taking a box of wine to a festival is genius. No glass to worry about and you can even remove it from its box and tuck into a bag, trolley or buggy and have your own little mobile wine bar – perfect for when the queues to the bar are looking a little tedious and you’ve spent your day’s budget on flower garlands and face painting.

It’s safe to say that most will be perfectly drinkable under circumstances in which I won’t have showered within an acceptable time limit and will be drinking from a red cup, as seen in every house party scene in an american teen flick, however, surely some must be better than others. So, I’ve done a little research as to which box of wine to choose – all from supermarkets, all red, all 3 litres (so the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine). Just so you know, I’m recommending blind here (except for the Tesco Cotes du Rhone) – sorry, there’s no way I’m going to buy more than one of these babies. The wine is going to be cheap, mass produced plonk and averaging at around £16, I can think of better ways to spend my pocket money, so here we go, broken down by shop – skip to the summary if you want a quick answer.

Tesco;  Nice big boxes at comparable prices.
Tesco had 11 boxes on offer ranging from £15-22. Weirdly it appears that all seem to be cheaper per litre if bought by the bottle. I short-listed the two Tesco ‘Simply’ boxes as I shy away from any of the big brands, one an Tesco Simply Australian Shiraz at £15.99, the other a Tesco Simply Cotes du Rhone at £16.99 . You may well know, I have an aversion to cheap Australian wine and a slight love of good value French wine, even so I tried to make a fair trial of it;

It turns out that that the Australian Shiraz is from “one of the largest wineries in Australia, offering a 135,000 tonne capacity”. The product details on the Tesco website take it one step further with “South-Eastern Australia, rather than being a wine region in the standard sense, is officially classified as a viticultural ‘super zone’. It covers the entire south-eastern third of Australia, a vast area whose western boundary measures some 1250 miles (2000 km) and reaches from the Pacific coast in Queensland to the Indian Ocean coast in South Australia.”

This pretty much sums up my distaste for S-Eastern Australia full stop, but in the circumstances, although this reminder proved to seal the fate of choosing the French, all is forgiven, I am buying wine by the box at the end of the day. Of course, the French had much more secretive product details on the website that reveal little more than the producer – ‘Les Grands Chais de France’. This GCF Group is enormous, so not many brownie points up on the Aussie wine quite frankly but still, at least it’s not from an area the size of Europe and I do love a Cotes du Rhone.

Please let it stay dry! It’ll take more than Cote du Rhone to save us.

Sainsbury’s: Smaller boxes, more good-value variety.

And just as I thought I was going to have to admit defeat and was kicking myself that I should’ve shopped around, I see that Sainsbury’s boxes are a whole bottle of wine smaller! Their Cotes du Rhone is £12.50 for 225cl which is slightly better value than the Tesco but they lose points on the size (we are afterall talking quality over quantity). They also have a wider range of own-brand bog standard boxes, so if you’re more of a Merlot/ Cab Sauvignon lover or only drink Italian wine, head to Sainsbury’s.

Waitrose: Disappointingly too posh for wine boxes.

Only offering three online, all well known, cheap brands, all 225ml between £14 and 16. Nothing to report.

Asda: Wider range

At last, we’re back up to 3l boxes, with boxes in total 17 on offer! However, there’s little to make me wish I’d held off on my Tesco purchase. Le Cuvier at £15.50 is branded as European Community wine – erk – the equivalent but so much worse sounding than South Eastern Australia. Plus some of the branded boxes were cheaper at Tesco. Perhaps, as a cheaper alternative to the Tesco Shiraz, the non-descript Asda Australian Red Wine for £15 could tempt me, on price point alone, now I’m over my mass-production in a box.

Summary: I can conclude that out of all of them, I picked the Tesco Simply Cotes du Rhone  through personal preference and size of the box and am pleased with my purchase. I just read the small print on the box and it can be open for 6 weeks, so I’ve just had a taste and can confirm it’s not bad; smooth and fruity as it says on the tin, I’ve had MUCH worse in the past and most importantly, I like it.  The Sainsbury’s Cotes du Rhone  or one of their own brand offerings would be my second choice.

In all honesty, like I’m going to care once I’m presented with the cider tent in a field full of merry adults and their offspring all having the time of their lives – unless it’s raining of course, then I’ll be trying to crash the glamping field with my bottle opener!


Filed under Australia, Beer and Cider, Eating/ Drinking In, France, Seasonal

5 responses to “Festi-wine – no glass, quantity over quality: the time and place for a wine box.

  1. I love a box of wine every once in a while! Wine drinking shouldn’t always be so classy 😛

  2. when I first started drinking wine several millenia ago, I used to buy Barramundi Australian Chardonnay and Shiraz boxes. I have no idea if/where these are still available but I always thought they looked festive and they tasted good enough to my untrained early 20s palate. (for picture see link below). They’re from the heaviliy industrialised and irrigated Riverina region. Who knows what I’d think of them now… I’ve noticed that Waitrose (although not stocking bag in box) do have some “milk carton” style wines from South Africa – I am intrigued, but so far haven’t tried them… http://www.verpackungsrundschau.de/web/archiv/hefte/beverage/1998/pdf/wine.pdf

  3. what’s the equivalent of corked for boxes? dented?

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