The Wine Idiot Reviews: Trader Joe's Block Red Wine, Shiraz (Boxed) $10.99
Ladies and gentlemen, you can stop your snarking. This isn't Franzia. Look, the first time I saw someone drinking out of one of these cardboard boxes, I was judge-y. I mean, Trader Joe's has PLENTY of cheap wine options. Why slum it with a box??
Then, I started adding up just how much money I was spending on wine every week. So the next time I was in my local Trader Joe's, I sought out the cardboard box. They carry THREE varieties now--this shiraz (syrah), chardonnay, and most recently cabernet sauvignon. And it is A BETTER DEAL THAN TWO BUCK CHUCK. You read that right--you get the equivalent of four bottles of wine for $10.99. And the best part is that the nozzle/box situation is airtight, meaning this box of wine will last for a month! So the first time I put it in my cart, I crossed my fingers HARD that it would be at least drinkable. (Protip: Trader Joe's famously lax return policy means that if you hate this bad boy, you can return it no questions asked.)
Is it my favorite red wine in the world? Not by a long shot. It's in between a full-bodied red (like a Tempranillo) and a lighter red like a Pinot Noir. I don't find it overly sweet, but it's not peppery/spicy either. It's a little sharp, which I think is the "tannins." It's like it's almost just a mellow, middle-of-the-road red, but then there's a bit of a kick in the finish. Probably not a wine I would drink alone, but I have paired this with both spaghetti & meatballs and pizza and it was great. The food balances out the less-stellar parts of the wine.
I recently brought it over to my friend Mike Rotman's house when we recorded a podcast episode with Colin Willkie (more info soon!). They were not so forgiving. Mike declared that it tastes like manischewitz wine with "a little bit of an aftertaste," while Colin alternately described it as "strawberries everywhere," "sugar and cheapness," and "strippers with boozy strawberry-vanilla cake."
Colin kinda gets a pass because he works in a beer-and-wine bar so he probably has zero tolerance for crap wine. I, however, do not have the luxury of drinking the best stuff in the house on the house. Therefore, I am pretty pleased with this Australian shiraz in a box.
What the box says: "Ripe blackberry and black currant aromas, coupled with hints of fig on the palate, followed by moderate oak characteristics."
What the Wine Idiot says: See, I would agree with everything the box says, though it doesn't taste QUITE as good as that phrasing makes it sound.
Who's responsible for this? Well...see here's the thing...I threw the box out, and didn't take pics of all the sides. So I actually can't answer this today. But I do know it's from Australia?
Do I need a corkscrew? No! But you DO need to be able to follow directions--getting the spout working right is a little like origami.
What do smarter people say about it? Dennis Mayer at Parched No More says: "The Block shiraz isn’t a complex wine, but it’s drinkable. It has some overly sweet, bright fruit flavors — plum and blackcurrant, like the nose, with some mild floral touches on the finish. This wine’s smooth, at least; there aren’t any tannins, and the alcohol flavors are very mild. Overall, the shiraz fits the profile of a typical box wine; simple, but it’s good enough for an everyday table wine. And thanks to the vacuum-sealed bag, this shiraz would keep long enough to supply a glass or two of wine for you and your favorite everyday wine-drinking partner for a couple of weeks. (If you pour a standard five-ounce glass of wine, the Block Red Shiraz box should yield just over 20 glasses.)"
Should I bring it to a friend's house? This is ABSOLUTELY the wine you should bring to a large house party, or maybe a watching party (like if you're all getting together to, oh I don't know, watch the debates). I would not bring it to a dinner party, because even though your hosts will realize your genius a week later when they're still drinking that not-bad wine you brought, when you first present it they will look at you like you're handing them roadkill. Some people, I swear...