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Black Box Wines

By Michael Hepworth

By all accounts, wines in a box, is one of the fastest growing trends in the wine industry.  Leading the way are BLACK BOX WINES, a company started as recently as 2002 by Ryan Sproule, a former sales consultant and engineer from Alberta, Canada.  Now based in Sacramento, he spotted a gap in the market, and all he had to do was come up with the packaging concept, contract out the wine to a major distributor and watch sales grow. Part of the success comes in the packaging itself, a sleek looking black box with an elegant design. It is also the first boxed wine with an appellation that was an American Viticultural Area (AVA).

He started out with a 2001 Napa Valley Chardonnay, and to the dismay of many wine purists, the wine won a silver medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. First year in business they sold 40,000 cases, and in 2004 that increased to 265,000 cases. The growth has continued with 450,000 cases in 2005 and then 575,000 cases in 2006.  Each box contains the equivalent of four 750ml bottles of wine, and the obvious consumer of choice is the camper, hiker, boating and concertgoer. Another plus abut the wine is that it stays fresh for four weeks after opening, and at the price of $19-$24 per box, that is the equivalent of about $6 per bottle.

Now for the kicker-how about the wine. Current wines are the Napa Valley Chardonnay, Sonoma County Merlot, California Merlot, Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey County Chardonnay, Barossa Valley Shiraz and a California Pinot Grigio.  I tried the Cabernet and the Merlot, and found them very easy on the palate, quite light and full of fruit.  Some of the global facts about boxed wines is quite amazing, with 52% of the wine sold in Australia is in the box, and about 45% of sales in Scandinavia as well.

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