Big house red-thumb-321x531-77133Most of us have some pretty strong pre-conceived notions of what boxed wines taste like, with the very thought conjuring up images of Franzia dancing in our heads. Personally, most of my boxed wine experience has featured shockingly un-wine like offerings, but I have been excited to try some of the more recent offerings in this category lately.

I really like the idea of boxed wine in a lot of ways. There are great environmental arguments to be made in favor of some of these new packaging types, you have the ability to spread out the consumption of the wine over longer periods of time, and the value can be insane when you take into account the amount of wine that comes in each package. Still, you can only really call it a value if the wine is drinkable, a trait that I have not found in most of the boxed wines I've tried. Given my past experiences, my heart has really gone out to my friend Josh from Wine(Explored), as he worked his way through the boxed wine jungle in a recent series on his blog.

As I started contemplating making a foray into the world of cardboard encased wine, I became intrigued by the display for the Octavin line of wines at my local grocery store. The display featured wines that I had actually heard of, and I'll admit, I was taken in by the visually pleasing packaging. These wines didn't seem to scream "wine-like substance" to me the way that most boxed wines do. We all know that looks can certainly be deceiving, but I was cautiously optimistic about finding a decent boxed wine when I received an industry sample of the Octavin Big House Red blend.

For those who aren't familiar with Big House Red, the pedigree of this wine goes back to wine and marketing impresario Randall Grahm. Grahm's Bonny Doon Vineyard owned the label until 2006, when it was sold in an attempt at streamlining the Bonny Doon brand. Big House Red is a blend made up of 13 different varieties, which should make for some interesting work on the ol' Wine Century list. The varieties are 23% Syrah, 14% Petite Sirah, 9%
Grenache, 9% Montepuliciano, 6% Mourvedre, 6% Algianico, 6% Tannat, 6% Sangiovese, 3% Barbera, 5% Nero D’Avola, 4% Sargentino (update - As Benito points out below, I believe that this is actually Sagrantino), 3% Touriga,
and 3% Petit Verdot, and the rest is the kitchen sink. The alcohol rings in at 13.5%, and I have seen this wine in area stores for about $20, which comes out to roughly $5 a bottle. I like the octagonal packaging, as it fits pretty well into a small space.

The color in the glass is a purplish red, with emphasis on the purple. The nose on this wine has some earth and spice, as well as some cherry. On the palate I find the Big House surprisingly light, with spicy fruit notes of red berries and plums. I find the best overall description of the wine to be "mild", which isn't to say that it is not pleasant. The acidity is mild, there are mild fruit flavors, mild earthiness.

This wine definitely tastes like wine, which is significantly more than I can say for the majority of boxed offerings that I have had. I think I would prefer to drink this wine with food than as an every day sipper. The good news is that you can get a lot of meal mileage for your money out of this wine. I wouldn't have any problem recommending this wine to friends, and I certainly think that some of the Franzia people should jump ship and try it out.

Just the facts -

Wine Color: Red
Sweet/Dry: Dry
Balanced? Well balanced, with alcohol, acidity, and 13 grape varieties playing nicely with each other.
Alcohol: 13.5%
Primary flavors/aromas: Earth, spice, and mild fruit
Price: $21.99 for 3 liters

This Red Blend allowed me to check off Algianico, Tannat, Sargentino, and Touriga for
my Wine
Century Challenge
.  I now have reviewed 32 of 100 varieties, and
only have 68 to go!

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review