During the holidays, I’m in full-on entertaning mode. Between the dinners, the cookies and all the decorating, I like to give myself a bit of a break with big batch beverages, like these holiday punches. But some occasions, like a festive Christmas Eve dinner, call for something just a bit fancier than punch—red wine comes to mind for me!
For big families and big events, a bottle of two of red won’t cut it. I’d be uncorking all night! That’s when I like to rely on a boxed wine for ease and cost. (Though, a box of wine is great for one-off glasses and cooking, too. No need to finish that bottle of red before it goes bad!) Recently, though, it seems like the boxed wine section of my liquor shop has expanded. With so many options to choose from, I rounded up a few of my favorite tasting pals to compare five different red blends in blind taste test.
Here are the wines we tried: Big House Wine Co. Prohibition Red Blend, Black Box Red Blend, Bota Box RedVolution, Franzia Dark Red Blend and The Naked Grape Harvest Red Blend.
While we did sip these in a blind test, we did peek at the end at pricing. Now see what our top three picks will make it to our holiday parties this year!
Best Crowd-Pleaser: Bota Box RedVolution Red Blend
“This is definitely an easy-drinking wine.”
When it comes to red blend wines, you can never be exactly sure what you’ll get. Red wines, after all, run from quite sweet (think of some Zinfandels) to very dry Cabernets. This blend from Bota Box fell on the sweeter side, which in my opinion gave it a broader appeal. It struck the right balance of being a touch sweet (perfect for us Pinot Grigio-lovers) but also having that red-wine richness.
Diving in deep with this wine, we found it had a strong fruity aroma that made us eager to take a sip (or two or three). Taste-wise, we found that this blend had a bold flavor. We immediately picked up on tart cherry and cranberry notes—perfect flavors for the holidays. While bold, this wine was still very smooth and utterly drinkable. We definitely would go back for a second glass, and we suspected most of our guests would, too.
Cost for 3L box (20 glasses): $21.49
Cost per glass: $1.07
Best for Red Wine Fanatics: Black Box Red Blend
“Fancy! There’s definitely some complexity to this.”
Crowd-pleasing picks aside, the red wine-lovers in our tasting group preferred this blend from Black Box. Pouring ourselves a small sample, we picked up on an assertive aroma. A wine with a bold bouquet certainly had to have an impactful taste, right?
Absolutely right! Taking a sip of Black Box’s red blend, we found it to be pleasantly powerful. Considering the spectrum of sweet to dry, this wine was right in the middle, making it a joy to sip on its own. While sampling, we all commented on how this wine was a bit more complex than the others we tried. It took us some time (and a few sips) to parse out the individual flavors, but in the end we picked up notes of plum, berries, vanilla and a little spice (sounds like an amazing dessert!). The finish of this wine was long allowing us to savor those subtle flavors.
Cost for 3L box (20 glasses): $24.99
Cost per glass: $1.25
Best Value: Franzia Dark Red Blend
“This smells like the holidays.”
When you think of boxed wine, who doesn’t think of Franzia? This classic brand got high marks for its value. A five-liter box (most boxed wines are only three liters) costs less than $20 – that comes out to $0.59 per glass! But outside of the amazing price, Franzia’s Dark Red Blend also impressed us with its rich bouquet.
Slightly dry, this red blend also gave us some earthier flavors accompanied by subtle notes of currants. During our blind sampling, a few tasters commented on how this wine stood out as being more festive than the others. Something about those dark fruit flavors and a touch of spice had us thinking fruitcake (in a good way!). Sipping this wine, we definitely envisioned ourselves enjoying a glass with friends during a holiday party.
Cost for 5L box (34 glasses): $19.99
Cost per glass: $0.59
Taste testing can be tricky business. It’s rare that our panel ever comes to any unanimous decisions, however tasting these wines, we all were in agreement about our top three picks. Overall, we’d happily sip any of these delish boxed wines – Bota Box, Black Box or Franzia – at the next holiday hoopla. As for me, I’ll be snagging a box of Bota Box to share with company over the coming weeks.
Red wine and chocolate make for a perfect pair. Why not couple a holiday favorite along with a favorite red for a special treat?
This sweet Italian wine deserves to be paired with a sweet Italian dessert. A refreshing white wine brings out some of the subtle flavors of this delicate cookie.
Zinfandel is one of our favorite sweet red wines. Its subtle fruity notes are a perfect match for delectable Cherry Kiss Cookies.
A delicious, buttery shortbread tastes better when paired with a buttery wine like Chardonnay. It can also bring out some of the warm vanilla notes in the shortbread.
Light and airy cookies like meringues are a great match for a sweet, easy-drinking rosé.
Licorice-like anise is what gives pfeffernuesse their signature flavor. An assertive cookie like this needs a strong, bold wine like Pinot Noir to make it sing.
Who doesn’t love a glass of bubbly? Try it alongside sweet sugar cookies for a fun and festive Christmas treat.
A strong flavor like peppermint can easily overwhelm subtly flavored wines. For a good pairing, try minty cookies with a full-bodied red like Cabernet. While red wines typically do well with chocolate, they are a good match for herbal mint flavors, too.
Slightly sweet with a clean finish, a light, dry Riesling is the perfect partner for this all-time favorite Christmas cookie. These two simple (yet delicious) treats are a match made in heaven.
This red wine’s jammy flavors marry so well with raspberry filling. Plus, red wine and chocolate are always a winning combination, making this pair a real treat.
On Christmas we might sing about figgy pudding, but these cookies are more our style! Shiraz wines typically have bold fruity flavors with a few spicy notes that marry perfectly with the figs in these cookies. Shriraz and Syrah also go well with oatmeal raisin cookies for your post-holiday pairings.
Sauvignon Blanc is a light and refreshing wine, but its slightly drier taste is what compliments the spice so well. We think it’s only natural to try it with one of our favorite cinnamon cookies!
Moscato is known for it’s crisp, sweet taste, which makes it an excellent dessert wine—no matter which cookie you serve. But it’s bright bouquet really works well with fruit-filled treats like these rugelach.
We love sweet sherry and how it pairs so well with many flavors. However its sugary and honey notes work great with spicy gingerbread. We think sherry would be great with molasses cookies, too!
We love sweet and citrusy lemon spritz. We love them even more paired with a rich wine like Sancerre. This white wine helps to cut this cookie’s sweetness while accentuating that beautiful lemon flavor.
Madeira wine has a slight nutty taste to it which makes it a perfect match for this classic pecan cookie. Also, as a red wine, it can help cut a little bit of the sweetness.
A German Wine with a German cookie–this pairing is almost too obvious! But Gewürztraminer’s light, aromatic taste makes it a terrific match for fruit-filled Linzers.