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No Bag Thrills

March 10, 1994|DAN BERGER

The quality of bag-in-box wines is, in general, better than a decade ago, mainly because of better technology and better grapes. But most of these wines still are little more than simple jug wine dispensed from a bag instead of a bottle.

The first thing one must deal with is the spigot. Getting it out of the carton isn't easy. First you punch out a cardboard disc, peel back a flap, find the rubber spigot, and then try to grasp it--easier said than done. Once the spigot is out, the flap may be pushed back into place. To pour the wine, you lift up on the small lever inside the spigot while holding a glass underneath.

One maddening problem is drip. Spigots are not perfectly tight; most of them drip. Every one we tried did and a few even waited until we had taken the glass away from the spigot to begin. On occasion, I held my glass under the spigot a full five seconds after releasing the lever, only to have a drip hit the floor.

Another problem: The only practical way to get a bag-in-box wine cold is to put it in the refrigerator for many hours. Unlike bottles, boxed wine can't be immersed in ice. (I tried it; the cardboard got wet and collapsed. I was left with a formless bag that was even more difficult to dispense.)

As for the wines, there was nothing particularly thrilling about any of them. The best was probably the Franzia Chardonnay ($10.99 for five liters), which didn't taste much like Chardonnay but was a decent drink. Muscat was the main aroma of the wine, and in spite of its soft, quaffable taste, the wine offered good balance.

Also tasty, though softer and slightly sweeter, was Franzia French Colombard ($8.88), with a light floral, melon aroma and a very soft, sweet aftertaste. (Served very cold, the wine wasn't bad.)

I had hoped the Franzia Sauvignon Blanc ($10.99) would be better, but it had a candied aroma and a dull taste, lacking any varietal character.

Of the White Grenache wines, the Franzia was tolerable, with an orange peel aroma and some Muscat notes. The Peter Vella from Gallo was far too sweet and cloying.

None of the red wines in the box did very well at all, most of them being too raisin-y in aroma, too sweet, and too tannic for the kind of wines they are supposed to be.

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