New study shows that boxed wine is more vulnerable to warmer temperatures and aging
During the frantic holiday season, you may find yourself reaching for boxed wine to serve your wine-hungry guests at the party. (After all, we know the bag-in-a-box better satiates the crowd!) But a new study shows that boxed wine is tricky to store and keep cool.
The University of California, Davis studied boxed wine (rough life) and found that chilling boxed wines is crucial for serving. Why? When wine is stored at higher temperatures (about 64 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit), it loses its freshness and begins to age. When the researchers tested the freshness of boxed wine, synthetic corked wine, and natural corked wine, the boxed wines "aged significantly faster" than their bottled counterparts. The boxed wine became "darker and developed sherry-like, dried fruit-like, and vinegar-like attributes," said the researchers.
So what's the ideal serving temperature for boxed wine: about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. But it turns out all wines aged better when kept cool — all the more reason to pop your wine (boxed or bottled) in the fridge.
Frozen Sangria Slushies Are the Ultimate Summer Treat
Deliciously cold summer treats come in many forms, from classic ice cream and milkshakes to snow cones and ice pops. Most adults don’t outgrow the taste for something refreshing and sweet, but when the temperature rises, we may desire something a little more sophisticated than snowballs—and if it has alcohol in it, all the better. There’s a whole word of frozen cocktails to explore, but if your heart belongs to wine, you’ll want to get familiar with frozen sangria slushies, the ideal way to stay cool and relaxed through even the hottest months.
There are two basic ways to make sangria slush:
With a Blender
For near-instant gratification, simply whirl up your wine with frozen fruit and additional ingredients like brandy, citrus juice, and simple syrup. Use well-chilled wine if possible, since that will help the slushy stay cold and, well, slushy. If you want to drink it right away (and who could blame you?) but the texture’s not quite icy enough for your liking, blend in a few ice cubes—it’s just like a smoothie, but with booze! Ice cubes also come in handy if you’re using fresh, unfrozen fruit.
Vitamix A2300 Series Ascent Blender, $449.95 from Williams Sonoma
Any blender will work, but a famously high-powered model will work even faster.
If you’re planning ahead, blend up multiple batches and store them in the freezer (use gallon-size plastic bags for the easiest clean-up and least amount of hassle trying to fit them in among the other frozen food), then take them out a few minutes before you want to serve so they soften up a bit, and squish the bags to help break the sangria slush back down to the proper texture before portioning it into glasses.
100 Reusable Drink Pouches, $19.99 from Amazon
Or freeze individual servings to stash in your cooler or kitchen.
Without a Blender
If you don’t have a blender, the most convenient route is to mix your wine and other ingredients in a large bowl—to help break down the fruit, use a potato masher, pastry blender, or whatever kitchen tool you have that’s best fit for the job crushing it with your bare hands will do in a pinch—then pour it all into gallon-size zip-top bags and pop them in the freezer for a few hours until they reach the slushy consistency you’re after. Take them out, squeeze them to break up any large chunks if need be, and portion the sangria into glasses…or don’t. If you’re in the mood for a jumbo-sized, frozen adult Capri Sun of sorts, just stick a straw in there and go to town.
Stasher Silicone Storage Bags, $9.99-$19.99 from The Container Store
These reusable silicone bags are freezer safe.
If you’ve got more time on your hands (and the necessary equipment), try making frozen wine pops too! Both vino delivery systems are delightful, but frozen sangria is definitely a bit more laid-back, and will probably be a repeat guest at all your summer shindigs—and welcomed on plenty of random sweltering Saturday nights too.
How to Chill Wine
Advance Planning. This rule applies to most everything in life. Stick reds and whites in the fridge and remove them an hour or two before dinner. The ideal temperature for a fridge is between 35°F and 40°F. If you’ve got cold spots that always freeze your lettuce, at least they’ll chill your wine a bit faster. Chilling bottles in the door won’t make a difference as far as time, but if you open it frequently, stick bottles further back on a shelf or in the crisper bins.
The Freezer. We’ve all done it. Loaded bottles into the icemaker as friends grew ambitious with their consumption, only to forget them and find an icy explosion the next morning. While quality may not diminish at such extreme temperatures, the risk of a mess rises. When the water in wine freezes, it expands and can push the cork out in part or full, or even crack the bottle. This allows the egress of oxygen, which starts the clock on oxidation. If you use the freezer, set a timer for 30 minutes.
The Best Way to Chill Wine Quickly. Slip the bottle into an icy salt bath. No, don’t nab grandma’s Epsom salts. The table version will do. Grab a bucket or container, and add salt, water and ice. Ice absorbs heat from the water, which brings the temperature down. The salt brings the freezing point of water below 32˚F. Translation: brined ice water can chill rosé in 15 minutes or less.
Other Chilling Methods. If you’re on the go, carry an insulated tote that holds 2–4 bottles. For singles, a sleeve kept in the freezer will chill a 750 ml bottle. At home, pour a glass of wine and put it in the fridge. It takes less time to chill than an entire bottle, due to its smaller mass.
Reusable ice cubes are also great to chill a single glass, but once they warm up, you’ll have to freeze them again. Of course, you can also keep enough in the freezer for multiple glasses.
What Not to Do. Unlike a thick frosty mug, a chilled stem glass doesn’t have enough mass or surface area to bring down the temperature of your wine. While ice cubes do chill, they also dilute the taste, which is fine if you’re looking for a spritzer-like experience. Finally, the internet will suggest that you pour wine into a resealable plastic bag and drop it into ice water. It will reach 50°F in about 2 minutes, but we’re getting a bit desperate now, no?
Basic Red Wine Sangria
Sangria is a wine cocktail with roots in Spain. It delivers some serious party punch with a squeeze of fresh citrus and your favorite budget-friendly wine. Following a basic sangria recipe gives you room to improvise with your own tasty touch. Love berries? Throw some in. Tropical fruit fan? Add some pineapple to the pitcher. Prefer bourbon to brandy? Go ahead and substitute.
A crowd-pleasing sangria recipe generally calls for a bottle of red wine, brandy, citrus fruits, sugar, and soda for sparkle. You can use white, rose, or even sparkling wines if you prefer. Feel free to pick up an inexpensive wine since you don't need to draw out specific character components in the wine itself. Just make sure the wine tastes good enough to enjoy on its own.
While you can serve sangria right away (use chilled wine and pour it over plenty of ice), it tastes even better after the flavors meld together in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Plan ahead and you will have a fantastic sangria ready to share with guests.
In the recipe below, I used a blend of spearmint and regular peppermint. Use whatever mints you have! I can imagine the lovely twist that could happen if you used chocolate mint, apple mint, or pineapple mint!
This recipe and procedure assume that you have the basic equipment and knowledge for how to brew a gallon of wine or mead. Need help? I have a few great reference books on brewing listed here, and a guide to brewing here.
Here’s the basic recipe and technique for one gallon of Mint Wine:
- 1 gallon of good, clean water (I try to use filtered water instead of tap water)
- 4 cups of fresh mint leaves (rinsed and removed from the stem)
- 3 cups of sugar
- 1/2 packet of yeast (a sweet wine or mead yeast is nice, but even baking yeast works in a pinch!)
- 1/8 cup of raisins (or a small handful), chopped.
How to make Mint Wine:
1. Boil most of the water in a large pot. While that is happening, sanitize your gallon jug, funnel, strainer, and your airlock and bung. (Don’t know what those are? Click here.)
2. Remove the pot from heat and get ready to add the mint leaves and raisins. Crumple the leaves to bruise them and release their essential oils as you add them to the pot. Cover the pot and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes.
3. Pour the sugar into the warm mint tea and stir to dissolve.
4. Once the pot is cool enough to handle and the liquid safe to pour, strain the mint tea into the carboy and top it off with the rest of the filtered water to the neck. Add the bung and airlock to the jug. Toss the leaves in your compost bin.
5. When the carboy is cool (a few hours later), sprinkle in the packet of yeast and give it a shake. Within a day or two, the jug should be bubbling happily. It should be happy to sit and bubble for a month or so.
6. When the bubbles stop and the liquid is clear, it is time to bottle!
This golden brew already tasted great at bottling time, and it only became more and more delicious as it aged throughout the year. The longer it ages, the more minty it becomes.
Here’s another intrepid brewing explorer who tried mint wine! Check out their recipe over at Little Fall Creek.
Have a good main dish planned and need a nonperishable side?
The easiest option is mashed potatoes. Dehydrated mashed potatoes taste great and take all of 60 seconds to prepare.
Living in Brazil for the last nine months, I’ve also grown fond of polenta. Cornmeal doesn’t really go bad if stored properly. On the simplest level, you just simmer it with a bit of water on the stove, stirring and adding water occasionally to reach a smooth, thick, and creamy texture. You can get the recipe at Food Network.
I serve mine with plenty of salt, pepper, and caramelized onions topped with melted blue cheese. It pairs perfectly with filet mignon (or any good steak).
You can also quickly sauté frozen vegetables to accompany any meal. Err on the side of undercooking.
Finally, consider boxed stuffing. While most Americans forget about stuffing for 11 months of the year, the holiday favorite preserves well in boxes, making it a reliable side if you can’t get to the store.
5. Bring Some Lemon to the Party
Lemon is one of the best ways for improving most desserts, so it's no surprise that it goes so well with cake mix. Avoid adding lemon to chocolate cakes, but add lots to a yellow cake. You can add lemon juice or lemon zest (or both!) the tartness will help cut the inherent sweetness of the mix, while the lemon flavor will shine through and add new flavor to your cake.
5 Better Ways to Drink Boxed Wine
Summertime means some grade-A R&R while grilling out all weekend. It’s as good a time as any to bust out your favorite boxed wines for no-fuss sipping.
If you’re feeling creative, take the inexpensive, widely available Tetra Paks to the next level with these Pinterest-worthy wine hacks and earn your rightful place as Life of the Party.
1. Make big-batch Sangria.
Sangria is a simple, delicious way to use boxed wine. Our Anatomy of Sangria guide will help you trick out your big batches.
You can also freeze leftover wine (ha!) in ice cube trays. Add a few cubes to your summery drinks for a flavor boost as they melt.
2. Use it in a cocktail.
An icon of Basque drinking, the kalimotxo (cal-ee-mo-cho) is often lambasted as “the poor man’s sangria,” and what’s wrong with that? Pouring equal parts cola and red wine over ice yields a tasty sip reminiscent of sangria, sans all that fancy chopped fruit. Feel free to add a squeeze of orange or lemon, if you’re feeling precious.
3. Frozen treats.
Take a cue from Sicily and turn that three-liter box into a party-perfect serving of refreshing, boozy granita. Not as smooth as sorbet, it’s basically flavored ice with an air of elegance, and is incredibly easy. To make, mix ½ cup of simple syrup with 3 cups of wine (rosé or white are our favorites). Pour into a baking dish and cover in plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for 3 hours using a fork, you’ll scrape the mixture and break up ice chunks every 30 minutes, until it is slushy. Serve in sorbet cups and enjoy. Of course, you can always mix up popsicles.
4. Make dessert.
Wine-poached pears (or any firm, poached fruit, for that matter) are a perfect accompaniment for ice cream or gelato. One of our favorites utilizes a dry red wine, though you can easily substitute it for white or rosé. Get the crowd-pleasing recipe >>>
Box to Try: French Rabbit 2011 Pinot Noir (France)
5. Cook with it.
There’s an old adage about not cooking with wine you wouldn’t drink, but with the improved quality of boxed wine, you don’t have to fear screwing up your meal. New World reds are a perfect great braise for short ribs, while cooking mussels in a white wine broth is a classic preparation worth trying. The best part? You have the perfect pairing already on hand.
Oh my gosh. This lavender white wine sangria is going to be your signature summer drink!
This is going to be a problem. I have so many great drinks lined up for thirsty Thursday that every single week, I’m going to be telling you that “this is your new drink for summer.”
And while I totally LOVE the idea of a signature drink, I can’t do that. It’s like picking my favorite movie or song or food or color or show or outfit. Completely depends on my mood. When friends ask “well what do you usually order” and they are talking cocktails, I’m like “umm… whatever I feel like at the moment?”
I wish I was cool and could have a signature drink but my brain won’t allow it. I’m not cool enough. Or chill enough.
Inside my head is a constant swirl of ideas and I’m so easily distracted by fun! delicious! bright! neon! sparkly! things. Worst kind of millennial, right here.
It’s also why I could never have a niche on this blog. Or a theme on instagram that makes everyone want to follow me. My brain is churning all the time and I constantly want to CHANGE things. Do you get this?
I know I’ve been a bit overzealous with the lavender. Those lavender cupcakes from last week are INSANE. So freaking good.
And I know that I keep saying it’s crazy because I don’t love floral flavors! Two exceptions though. If there is sugar involved? And vanilla? I’m all over it.
And the second exception… if there is booze? I’m in. Not because it’s booze. No, shockingly no. But because
I love the floral scents and flavors in cocktails. Not only is it pretty, it’s fun and delicious and so perfect for summer!
The base for this sangria is a chilled pinot grigio. Whatever your favorite brand is. I really love La Crema.
The most important part? The lavender simple syrup! If you have a lavender liqueur of some sort, that would work too. And if you do have a lavender liqueur, tell me all about it! I need one.
Next comes a bit of brandy and some grand marnier. Both work great with the lavender flavors.
I brought back my favorite way of icing down big pitchers of cocktails from last year: frozen peaches!
Not only are they cheaper, you can actually find them, they will be great quality and… they are frozen! No ice to water down your drink.
I threw some strawberries in there too because what is sangria without boozy fruit? Of course you can add whatever you’d like – citrus, apples, berries – anything that may soak up the wine.
Can I just say how much I LOVE these pitcher cocktails for warm summer nights? They also work great for pool days, dinner parties – so many options! I think I’m going to make this for Memorial Day weekend. Or on Sunday. Just because.
Pour 3L of the white goon of your choice and 3L of soda water. Crush a handful of mint leaves in your hand and drop them into the mix. Slice the limes and squeeze them into the dispenser before dropping them in. Add a few big splashes of lime juice. Taste the punch at this stage if you prefer a stronger tasting mix, add more lime juice.
So next time you have a (or another) wedding, engagement party, baby shower, birthday party or any other celebration – think about catering it with a cask wine punch. Actually do more than think about it, do it! You cheapskate!