Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thinking INSIDE The Box!

Box wines have gotten a bad rap mainly because of wines like Franzia that are, well, they just aren't that great.  I do have to admit though, I HAVE bought Franzia, usually the white zinfandel.  I would buy it for my daughter's birthday party when we lived in CT.  Several family members like white zinfandel so, it made sense.  And I'll admit, I would have a sip or 2.  It's not AWFUL but it's not something I would want to drink on a regular basis.

Over the last couple of years, a few higher end box wines have emerged.  Box wines are a bit more acceptable in Europe mainly because of the eco-friendliness of it and people in the U.S. began to wonder "Why not here?" 

I'll admit, the first time I tried one of these box wines, I was apprehensive.  And hubby looked at me like I was out of my mind.  But, budget friendly drinker that I am, I thought it was a great value.  I tend to drink more white wine during the summer so I thought it was a good way to cut some of the cost.  I was living in CT at the time but bought the box at a liquor store in MA where we bought most of our stuff. I think it was around $15 for the 3L box which is equivalent to 4 bottles of wine. Not too shabby!  The brand was Fish Eye and I had tried several of their bottles wines.  I bought the pinot grigio and was pleasantly surprised. 

With that purchase under my belt, I decided to try a different brand....Black Box.  I bought the sauvignon blanc.  Depending on where you get it, the price can be anywhere from $16 to $18.  Again, I was pleasantly surprised.  If you've read here before, you know sauvignon blanc is my FAVORITE variety so to find it in a box and have it taste good was a huge bonus.  Since then I have also tried the chardonnay and the pinot grigio, both of which were very good.

On my next trip to one of the bigger liquor warehouses, also in MA, I saw third brand called Bota Box.  I usually find there for around $18, sometimes a little less.  Now, this one really impressed me.  I've blogged about eco-friendly wines before and this one is exceptionally eco-friendly.  The boxes are made from 100% post-consumer fiber with soy inks and a BPA-free plastic bag.  Sadly, they don't make a sauvignon blanc but they may a darn good pinot grigio which is my runner up.  Their chardonnay is good too.  I've heard good things about their Old Vine Zinfandel so I need to try that too.

A friend has sung the praises of the Target wine cubes.  I haven't tried them yet but they are on my list.  With the weather warming up here, I think box wines will be my go to's from now on.  Even hubby is starting to come around.  He asked last week if they make red wines in boxes.  I told they did indeed and they keep for up to 6 weeks.  He prefers red wine so he may be coming around to the box side of things too.

So, forget the stigma of box wines and give some of these a try.  With summer coming, they're great to bring to a picnic or barbecue and chances are, you'll get other people hooked too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What's In A Name?

I am not easily offended. I swear like a sailor and unless something obscene is directed at ME, I usually do not get offended by it. So, when I saw a line of wines called Fat Bastard, well, I think it goes without saying that I had to try it. The cute little hippo on the label may have helped a bit too.

Fat Bastard Wines was started in the South of France by two men. Thierry Boudinaud is a renowned winemaker and Guy Anderson is a friend of Thierry’s from London. One day, Guy arrived to visit Thierry in his wine cellar to sample his most recent vintages. After sampling several, they thought they were good but nothing really blew them away. The next day, Thierry decided to let Guy try an experimental wine he had in the back of his cellar. Thierry explained to Guy that they had left the wine on the lees (yeast cells). After trying this experimental wine, the two knew they had a winner. The wine was a beautiful color with a rich, round palate. After a few minutes, Thierry exclaimed, “Now that is what you call a fat bastard!” Fat bastard was a term Thierry often used to describe something that is great. Both men agree this wine needed to be shared and there was no question about what to name it…Fat Bastard.

The two men proceeded slowly when it came to distributing the wine. The first vintage consisted of only 5,000 cases of which 2,000 went to an American friend of Guy’s named Peter Click. Even with the small distribution it was clear that people in the U.S. and Europe loved the wine. Many bought it because of the name and liked it so much, they returned to buy it by the case. It seems both the name and wine were home runs. Who knew a lot of people buy wine because of the name? Some retailers in the U.S. were reluctant to carry the wine in the early 1990s but it seems they got over that fairly quickly.

Fat Bastard carries several varietals. I have only tried two so far. Both wines retailed for around $10. The first one I tried was the 2009 Chardonnay. This wine is fermented in both oak barrels and steel tanks. The wine was a pale gold color. The aroma carried hints of vanilla and a bit of toast. The taste was full bodied with vanilla carrying over. I also detected an almost floral taste. I drank it paired with grilled chicken and barley risotto but Fat Bastard recommends pairing it with cheese, poultry and cream sauced pastas. I liked it a lot and will definitely be purchasing it again.

The second variety I tried was the 2009 Pinot Noir, a variety I do not drink enough. The wine was a beautiful ruby color. Upon pouring, I detected a floral tone as well as a hint summer berries. The berries carried over to the taste and were joined by cherries. The taste was smooth with a nice finish. My husband and I drank it with grilled flank steak. Recommended pairings are white meats like chicken, veal and pork as well as fresh fish and salads. I think I’ll buy another bottle this week and try it with grilled pork tenderloin. I also look forward to trying the other varietals and maybe buying some merchandise from their online store…I can’t resist that little hippo! In my opinion, Fat Bastard is a winner and not many bastards can claim that!